High court upbraids Gujarat government on low employee wages


Gandhinagar: Hearing a petition challenging fixed wages for government employees, including the police force, the Gujarat High Court Monday came down heavily on the state government for its “double standards” on paying employees who do the same nature of work with the same accountability.

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The first bench of the court pulled up the government. The issue took a turn as the administrative arm of the high court raised objection over fixed wages offered to the court staff in the state judiciary. The registry of the high court has filed an application seeking it to join as a party to the case.

Shalin Mehta, standing counsel for the high court, stated in the application that the high court has judicial and administrative control over all the courts in the state.

He stated, it was found that class III and IV employees working in labour courts, industrial courts, family courts in Rajkot, Banaskantha and other districts were getting salary less then even minimum wages.

When the case came up for hearing Monday, Chief Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya questioned the government upon the discrimination in paying wages and how would the employees survive on such meagre wages.

The chief justice asked: “How can the government expect that a police constable will move from Surat to Kutch on a salary of Rs.2,500?” He further questioned as to why someone should join a government job. “Is the government encouraging illegal ways of earning,” he asked while commenting on corrupt practices that may be adopted by such
employees who are not paid well.

He said: “There can be no discrimination among the employees who have similar duties as well as accountability. The permanent employee gets all benefits whereas employees having fixed wages have to work on the same amount for five years.”

Citing an example of discrimination, Justice Mukhopadhaya stated, “Even my Chopdar (a designated court employee) is getting Rs.19,000 per month against Rs.3,000 offered to an under secretary of the Gujarat State Legal Services Authority.”

Yogkshem Foundation, an NGO, filed a petition challenging government policy of fixed wages on the ground that the government can not offer wages way below the minimum wages. The government was offering Rs.2,500 to Rs.3,500 to employees taken on fixed pay.

Earlier the government gave assurance to the court that it will make permanent those fixed wage employees who have completed three years in service. However, it sought two months to comply with its assurance. The government has now claimed that it would go by its earlier policy.

The bench has now been considering this petition as Public Interest Litigation as it affects large number of people in the state. The matter has now been posted for May 5.