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February 9, 2022

Supreme Court: Equal Pay For Equal Work is not A Fundamental Right

by Mahesh Mara in Legal Court Judgement

Supreme Court: Equal Pay For Equal Work is not A Fundamental Right

Fact and Issue of the case

The R.D. SHARMA (the petitioner before the High Court) retired from the post of PCCF on 31st December, 2001. On 2nd April, 2011, the respondent no. 1 made a representation to the Government of India requesting it to revise his pension from Rs.37,750/- (50% of HAG Scale 75000-80000) to Rs. 40,000/- (50% of apex scale 80000) as per the Indian Forests Service (Pay) Second Amendment Rules, 2008. The said representation came to be rejected by the Government of India, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Department of Pension and Pensioners Welfare vide the order dated 24th June, 2011.

The aggrieved respondent filed an O.A. being No. 1142/2011 before the Central Administrative Tribunal (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Tribunal’), Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh on 27th November, 2011. The said O.A. came to be dismissed by the Tribunal vide the order dated 17th May, 2013. However, the Writ Petition being No.14940 of 2013 filed by the respondent challenging the said order passed by the Tribunal, came to be allowed by the High Court of Madhya Pradesh, Jabalpur vide the order dated 24th August, 2013. The High Court by the said order held that the respondent no. 1 was eligible to get the benefit of Rs. 40,000/- as pension at par with the other officers, as per the Rules of 2008. The aggrieved appellant-State of MP challenged the said order passed by the High Court before this Court by filing the special leave petition.

In the instant appeals, the question that falls for consideration before this court is, whether the High Court while exercising its powers of superintendence under Article 227 of Constitution of India, had misdirected itself by applying the principle of “equal pay for equal work” to the case of respondent no. 1 who had already retired as the PCCF on 31.12.2001, for the purpose of granting him the benefit of the apex scale fixed for the upgraded post of Head of the Forest Force, MP Cadre, as per the Amended Rules of 2008 which came into effect from 27the September 2008 and fixing his pension accordingly?

Observation of the Court

In order to appreciate the rival contentions raised by the learned counsel appearing for the parties, it would be beneficial to reproduce the relevant Amended Rules of 2008 which came into effect from 27th September, 2008. From the said rules, it is abundantly clear that one existing post of PCCF was to be upgraded as the Head of Forest Force in each State cadre, fixing the apex scale at Rs. 80,000/- w.e.f. the date of the issue of Notification of the said Amended Rules i.e. 27th September, 2008, and that the said post of PCCF in the apex scale was to be filled up by selection from amongst the officers holding the post of PCCF in the State cadre in the HAG + scale of Rs.75,500/- (annual increment @ 3%) – 80,000/-.

Since the respondent no. 1 had retired as the PCCF in the year 2001 that is much prior to the coming into force of the Amended Rules, 2008, his claim to get the benefit of the apex scale as per the said rules was thoroughly misconceived. The apex scale of Rs. 80,000/- was fixed for the upgraded post designated as the Head of Forest Force w.e.f. 27th September, 2008 and was to be filled up by way of selection and not as a matter of course. It is needless to say that filling up a post by selection would always require a process of screening the eligible employees, and cannot be automatic on the basis of seniority. The contention raised by Mr. Gupta for the respondent no. 1 that even prior to the amendment in the rules in the year 2008, the officers working on the post of PCCF were the Head of the Forest Force and the respondent no. 1 was also working as such, cannot be accepted, for the simple reason that if all the officers working on the post of PCCF were also working as the Head of the Forest Force, there was no need to upgrade one existing post of PCCF in the apex scale of Rs. 80,000/- and designate it as the Head of the Forest Force, w.e.f. 27th September, 2008, as specifically provided in Sub-Rule 1 of Rule 3 of the Amended Rules of 2008. Rule 11 of the said Amended Rules of 2008 also specifically reiterates the said position about upgradation and designation of the post of PCCF as the Head of Forest Force in the State of Madhya Pradesh, as in other States and Union Territories.

The High Court in the impugned orders passed in Writ Petition as well as in the Review Petition had thoroughly misdirected itself by applying the principle of “equal pay for equal work” placing reliance on the decision of this court in case of State of Punjab and Ors. Vs. Jagjit Singh and Ors. 2017 SCC 148, which had no application to the facts of the present case. It may be noted that this court has consistently held that the equation of post and determination of pay scales is the primary function of the executive and not the judiciary and therefore ordinarily courts will not enter upon the task of job evaluation which is generally left to the expert bodies like the Pay Commissions. This is because such job evaluation exercise may include various factors including the relevant data and scales for evaluating performances of different groups of employees, and such evaluation would be both difficult and time consuming, apart from carrying financial implications. Therefore, it has always been held to be more prudent to leave such task of equation of post and determination of pay scales to be best left to an expert body. Unless there is cogent material on record to come to a firm conclusion that a grave error had crept in while fixing the pay scale for a given post, and that the court’s interference was absolutely necessary to undo the injustice, the courts would not interfere with such complex issues. A beneficial reference of the observations made in this regard in case of Secretary, Finance Department Vs. West Bengal Registration Service Associations and Ors. 1993 Supl. 1 SCC 153 be made. As held in State of Haryana and Anr. Vs. Haryana Civil Secretariat Personal Staff Association 2002 (06) SCC 72 “equal pay for equal work” is not a fundamental right vested in any employee, though it is a constitutional goal to be achieved by the Government.

Pertinently the Administrative Tribunal after considering the relevant factual and legal aspects had rightly rejected the claim of the respondent no. 1 for granting the apex scale on the basis of “equal pay for equal work” in the O.A. filed by him. The said well-considered, just and proper order of the Tribunal was wrongly set aside by the High Court on extraneous grounds applying the principle of “equal pay for equal work”, while exercising the power of superintendence under Article 227 of the Constitution of India. It is well-settled legal position that the power under Article 227 is intended to be used sparingly and only in appropriate cases for the purpose of keeping the subordinate courts and tribunals within the bounds of their authority and not for correcting mere errors. In the instant case, the Tribunal had not committed any jurisdictional error, nor any failure of justice had occasioned, and hence the interference of the High Court in order passed by the Tribunal was absolutely unwarranted.

Conclusion

The court has disposed off the petition and ruled in favour of the petitioner.

Read the full order from below

Supreme-Court-Equal-Pay-For-Equal-Work-is-not-A-Fundamental-Right

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