BY Adarsh Patel and Sangeeta Sharma
Allahabad, Oct 12 (ILNS) Shocked at the government attitude, the Allahabad High Court recently said it is unable to fathom how State can continue the exploitation of Class-IV post employees for about 20 years on the strength of Government Order,that a payment of Rs 450 per month to an employee was being paid as wages, which is less than the minimum wages as prescribed in the State, is clearly a form of forced labour and is violative of Article 23 of the Constitution.
A Single Bench of Justice Pankaj Bhatia while hearing a petition filed by Tufail Ahmad Ansari said, If the stand of the Standing Counsel is accepted, the Court would also be guilty of ignoring the plight of ClassIV persons who are being exploited by the State for so long”, the Court noted.
The Petition has been filed alleging that the petitioner was employed with the respondents on June 15, 2001, on a Class-IV post and is being paid wages at the rate of Rs. 450/- per month since his initial engagement.
It is also stated that despite the petitioner being entitled to be considered for regularization in terms of 2016 Rules, the case of the petitioner is not being considered.
Standing Counsel was called upon to obtain instructions, He produced instructions dated October 01, 2021 stating that in terms of the Government Order dated January 09, 1986, minimum wages were fixed at Rs.350/- per month.
Subsequently, Government Order dated July 01, 1992, the wages of ‘Kahar’ were increased from Rs. 400/- to Rs. 500/- per month which is being paid to the petitioner.
In respect of the claim of the petitioner for regularization, the instructions are that the petitioner had earlier also filed a representation raising the issues which were decided on May 08, 2015, whereby his request was rejected as such the same cannot be considered now.
The Counsel for the Petitioner argued that payment of Rs. 450/- per month as wages for a continuous period of about 20 years is nothing but other forms of forced labour and strictly prohibited under Article 23 of the Constitution of India.
The Court observed that the question of “other forms of Forced Labour” as finds a place in Article 23 of the Constitution of India came up for consideration before the Supreme Court for the first time in the case of People’s Union For Democratic Rights and Others v. Union of India and Others; (1982) 3 SCC 235, wherein in the form of Public Interest Litigation, the plight of the workers engaged in the construction for the Asian Games, was highlighted before the Supreme Court. The contention before the Supreme Court was that the workers employed for constructions were being paid wages that were less than the minimum wages prescribed.
On the question as to whether a person is said to be providing Forced Labour if he is paid less than the minimum wages, in PUCL case, the Apex court had held, “We are therefore of the view that where a person provides labour or service to another for remuneration which is less than the minimum wage, the labour or service provided by him clearly falls within the scope and ambit of the words “forced labour” under Article 23. Such a person would be entitled to come to the court for enforcement of his fundamental right under Article 23 by asking the court to direct payment of the minimum wage to him so that the labour or service provided by him ceases to be “forced labour” and the breach of Article 23 is remedied”.
“In the instructions, it is admitted that the wages of Rs. 450/- per month is paid to the petitioner are not the minimum wages prescribed in the State of Uttar Pradesh.
The Court is unable to fathom how State can continue the exploitation of Class-IV post employees for about 20 years on the strength of Government Order, which has been relied upon by the Standing Counsel in support of his contention. If the stand of the Standing Counsel is accepted, the Court would also be guilty of ignoring the plight of ClassIV persons who are being exploited by the State for so long”, the Court noted.
The Court held that, in view of the law laid down by the Supreme Court as recorded above, the prescription of Rs. 450/- per month as wages Government Order dated July 01, 1992, is clearly an “other form of forced labour” and is in violation of Article 23 of the Constitution of India.
Thus, the petition with regard to the first prayer is allowed with directions to the respondents to pay the minimum wages as prescribed in the State of Uttar Pradesh from the date of the initial appointment of the petitioner from June 15, 2001, after deducting the amounts paid to him. The amount as directed above shall be paid to the petitioner within a period of four months from the date of filing of a copy of this order before the respondents, the Court ordered.
The Court further noted that, As regards the second prayer of the petitioner, the Rules of regularization known as “The Uttar Pradesh Regularisation of Persons Working on Daily Wages or on Work Charge or on Contract in Government Departments on Group ‘C’ and Group ‘D’ Posts (outside the Purview of the Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission Rules, 2016’ have been framed in pursuance of the directions of the Supreme Court in the case of State of Karnataka vs. Umadevi, (3) 2006 (4) SCC 1: 2006 SCC (L & S) 753 and are binding upon the State. In terms of the said Rules, all the persons employed prior to December 31, 2001, are entitled to be considered for regularisation and as the petitioner is working on ‘daily wages’ as defined under the Rules of 2016, the petitioner is clearly entitled to regularization in terms of the said rules.
“As such, with regard to the second relief, writ petition deserves to be allowed with a direction upon the respondents to pass orders in respect of regularization of the petitioner as claimed by him. The said orders shall also be passed within a period of four months from the date of filing of a copy of the order. The petition stands allowed for both the grounds as argued”, the order reads./ILNS/AP/SNG/