The Madras High Court has frowned upon the State government and its instrumentalities, such as municipal corporations, for exploiting their workforce by denying them their rightful wages. It has complained of coming across various incidents, on a daily basis, “in which the government is found guilty of exploiting its own citizens.”
Dismissing a 2018 State appeal, Justices R. Subramanian and Sathi Kumar Sukumara Kurup wrote, “At the outset, we must point out that this is another case of exploitation by the State. Though the petitioners were appointed as sanitary workers, they were made to do the work of drivers, which admittedly has a higher pay scale.”
They went on to state, “We have been coming across incidents, on a daily basis, where the government is found guilty of exploiting its own citizens. This practice has to stop. The persons who are in charge of recruitment and administration must realise that the government should act as a model employer.”
Authoring the verdict, Justice Subramanian further said, “At the least, the government is expected to act fairly. When there are several statutes which protect the workers in private establishments, they are made inapplicable to the government as the State is expected to desist from adopting unfair labour practices.”
“Such exemptions were implanted in the statutes with a hope that the government will not indulge in exploitation. But the experience has been otherwise. We therefore have no hesitation in confirming the order of the writ court. The writ appeal is dismissed. The appellants are directed to comply with orders of the writ court within two months,” he said.
The Municipal Administration Department and the Coimbatore Corporation had preferred the appeal in 2018 against an order passed by a single judge of the High Court in 2017 to regularise the services of seven writ petitioners as drivers from the day when their services had been regularised as sanitary workers in 2007.
The court pointed out that many individuals were appointed as sanitary workers on a Non Muster Roll (NMR) basis by the Corporation in 1997 and their services were regularised in time scale of pay in 2007 in the same post though they were actually serving as drivers, which called for payment of a higher salary.
Aggrieved over denial of regularisation in the post of driver on the ground that they had passed only Class VIII, whereas the post of driver required a minimum qualification of a pass in Class X, they had filed a writ petition in 2007 and obtained an order to consider their request for regularisation on the basis of a government order granting exemption from minimum qualification.
Thereafter, select individuals were given the benefit of exemption and the petitioners were discriminated against, forcing them to file another writ petition in 2014. Justice V. Parthiban (since retired) allowed the writ petition in 2017 and his order had been put to challenge by the State in the present appeal.