Lesser wages for equal work is violation of human dignity: SC

Terming the denial of equal pay for equal work to daily wagers, temporary, casual and contractual employees “exploitative enslavement,” the Supreme Court has held that they should be paid at par with regular employees doing the same job as them.

The Supreme Court called the various “fallacious” terms used by employers to classify and discriminate their employees as “artificial parameters to deny fruits of labour.”

Such classifications resulting in disparity and denial of the principle of “equal pay for equal work” is nothing short of “oppressive, suppressive and coercive” conduct by employers which is antithetical to the ideal of a Welfare State, a Bench of Justices J.S. Khehar and S.A. Bobde said in a judgment.

“An employee engaged for the same work cannot be paid less than another who performs the same duties and responsibilities. Certainly not in a Welfare State. Such an action besides being demeaning, strikes at the very foundation of human dignity,” the apex court held.

‘Involuntary subjugation’

The court stripped the layers of artificiality to expose how discrimination in pay affected the basic human dignity of an employee and amounted to “involuntary subjugation” to the will of the employer.

“Anyone who is compelled to work at a lesser wage does not do so voluntarily,” Justice Khehar, who authored the verdict for the Bench, observed.

“He does so to provide food and shelter to his family, at the cost of his self-respect and dignity, at the cost of his self-worth and at the cost of his integrity ... For, he knows that his dependants would suffer immensely if he does not accept the lesser wage,” the Supreme Court empathised with the condition of a helpless employee.

Citing that India has been a signatory for the past 37 years to Article 7 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966, the Supreme Court observed that “any act of paying less wages, as compared to others similarly situated, constitutes an act of exploitative enslavement, emerging out of a domineering position.”

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2020 1:55:27 AM |

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