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SC: Employee Can’t Ask for Equal Pay, Merely Due to Similarity of Designation or Quantum of Work

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Supreme Court Advocates LAW INSIDER

Debangana Ray

Published on July 9, 2022 at 19:51 IST

The apex court recently  held that an employee cannot claim parity of pay scale with another due to mere similarity of quantum of work or similarity of designation.

Justices Indira Banerjee and JK Maheshwari further observed that, “The doctrine of equal pay for equal work could only be invoked when the employees were similarly circumstanced in every way.”

“Mere similarity of designation or similarity or quantum of work was not determinative of equality in the matter of pay scales.”

“The Court had to consider all the relevant factors such as the mode of recruitment, qualifications for the post, the nature of work, the value of work, responsibilities involved and various other factors”, the Court observed.

It was observed that fixation of pay scales is a matter of policy that can be interfered by the courts only in exceptional cases where there is discrimination between two sets of employees appointed by the same authority, in the same manner, where the eligibility criteria is the same and the duties are identical.

The sitting bench further observed that, “This Court cannot interfere with the policy decision taken by the Government merely because it feels that another decision would have been fairer; or wiser as held by this Court in State of Madhya Pradesh vs. Narmada Bachao Andolan reported and relied upon and re-affirmed in Sudhir Budakoti & Ors.”

With this observation, the Top Court allowed the appeal assailing Madhya Pradesh High Court’s order of directing the State Authorities to pay UGC scale of pay as paid to the Librarians of colleges under the Higher Education Department to a Librarian who had claimed the said relief.

In the present matter, Seema Sharma, who was appointed as Librarian-cum-Museum Assistant, Government Dhanvantri Ayurvedic College, Ujjain, after completion of 8 years of service, had claimed the UGC scale of pay as paid to the persons in the senior scale of Librarian in colleges under the Higher Education Department.

Since her request was not acceded to by the State Authorities, she had approached the High Court claiming the said relief under the Madhya Pradesh Education Service (Collegiate Branch), Recruitment Rules, 1990 (“1990 Rules”).

While granting her the relief, the Madhya Pradesh High Court directed for paying Sharma, UGC scale of pay as paid to the Librarians of colleges under the Higher Education Department.

Since the State Authority’s intra-court appeal filed by the Appellants was dismissed, the authorities approached the apex court.

It was urged before the Top Court by the State that the 1990 Rules were never applicable to the Respondent.

The 1990 Rules were applicable to institutions under the Higher Education Department and that the college where Sharma was appointed was not under the Higher Education Department, but under the Ayush Department of the Government of Madhya Pradesh.

It was also submitted that the Rules applicable to institutions under the Ayush Department do not contain any provision that makes the UGC scale of pay applicable to the employees of institutions under the Ayush Department.

Referring to the fact that the Court also observed that, “eligibility criteria for appointment of Museum Assistant-cum- Librarian under the 1987 Rules was different from the eligibility criteria of appointment of Librarian under the 1990 Rules.”

“It is also well settled that there can be no equality to a wrong and/or illegality. Just because a librarian may have been erroneously granted the UG pay scale, that would not entitle others to claim the UGC pay scale, if not applicable under the Rules.”

Hence, the bench allowed the State’s appeal and set aside High Court’s order.