23 Feb 2121

State should provide equal wage for equal work and if not provided, it would constitute an act of exploitative enslavement - Gauhati High Court

Case : Sanjib Das and 50 others v. The Assam Power Distribution Company Ltd and 3 Ors. WP(C)/1351/2020

Court : Gauhati High Court

Bench : Justice Achintya Malla Bujor Barua

Decided on : 23 Feb 2121

The Relevant Statutes

Article 21 of the Constitution of India

Brief facts of the Case

1. An advertisement dated 14th August 2018 was issued by APDCL inviting applications from candidates who either don’t have any experience in APDCL or having some experience in the power sector to fill certain posts of Office cum Field Assistant, Sahayak, Mali. In an advertisement, it was also mentioned that 1000 posts are in consideration for Office cum Field Assistant, 872 for Sahayak and further 60 posts for Assistant Accounts Officer, 25 for Light Vehicle Driver and 2 for Gardener or Mali.

2. Advertisement also stated breakup of vacancies applying the law of reservation. The recruitment process was for fresh candidates as well as for those who already worked in APDCL/AEGCL/APGCL or any other power sector PSU where they worked as Meter Reader, Sahayak etc. The educational qualifications required for those who don’t have experience in APDCL for the recruitment process will be higher as compared to those who have experience in APDCL but they should have rendered their service at least for 5 years.

3. The petitioners participated in the selection process of APDCL and shortlisted candidates were published on 10th February 2020 and petitioners names appeared much below as per their merit and they were not offered an appointment. So, they filed a writ petition before the court.

The Issue of the Case

Whether APDCL was correct in not offering appointments to the petitioners?

The Observations of the Court

1. The Honourable Gauhati High Court opined that no averments were found regarding the selection process being vitiated and no reasonable reasons were provided before the court regarding why names of petitioners should be on top in the shortlisted candidates. As petitioners were demanding regularization but no averments were shown regarding irregularity in their appointment and they continued to work for 10 years in that condition without the aid of the court.

2. The Honourable Gauhati High Court relied on the judgment of Secretary, State of Karnataka vs. Uma Devi and Ors. reported in (2006) 4 SCC 1, in this case, it was held that employees who have worked for more than 10 years are entitled to be regularized. This judgment is precedent of State of Punjab vs. Jagjit Singh reported in (2017) 1 SCC 148, Nihal Singh and Ors vs. State of Punjab and Ors. reported in (2013) 14 SCC 65 and Official Liquidator vs. Dayanand and Ors. reported in (2008) in these cases it was held that employees working on daily wage are entitled to equal wage as compared to regular employees working against vacant sanctioned posts as their work is of same nature and the same quantity. A state cannot compel the daily wage worker to work on lesser wage as it would infringe their right under article 21 of the constitution of India and it would also constitute exploitative enslavement.

3. The Honourable Gauhati High Court opined that the employees themselves agreed to work at lower wages and with their will they are working against sanctioned posts. So, they are not entitled to a regular pay scale and regularization is not acceptable. 

The Decision held by the Court

1. APDCL is directed to consider the cases of individual petitioners and those found to be working for more than 10 years against vacant sanctioned posts without the aid of court till Uma Devi’s case i.e., up to 10th April 2006  are entitled to the benefit of at least minimum pay scale which is equivalent to regularly appointed employee and it should be consistent with the direction of Division Bench of this Court in the judgment dated in 8th July 2017 which was passed in Writ Appeal 45/2014.

2. The petitioners who didn’t satisfy the requirement of working for 10 years, then APDCL can consider their case and find out a suitable economic package for them as per their acceptability.

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