Supreme Court: Equal pay must be for equal work of equal value.

The Supreme Court recently held that the Pay Commissions may be justified in advising different pay scales for similar post if the classification of such posts have a reasonable nexus with the objective or purpose sought to be achieved and the State accepts this pay scale and further recommends it is also considered reasonable and the Court will not interfere. [Union of India v. Indian Navy Civilian Design Officers Association and Another]

Facts of the case

The Appellant (Union of India) challenged the judgement, an order dated 2nd August 2010 passed by the Delhi High Court that dismissed the Writ Petition filed by them and did not quash the judgement dated 8th June 2007, passed by Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT).

The Respondent (Indian Navy Civilian Design Officers Association) approached the CAT seeking equality in pay scale to the Junior Design Officers (JDO). They stated that it should be at par with Civilian Technical Officers (CTO) i.e., Rs. 7500/- to 12,000/-.

The Respondent revealed that pay scales of all the disciplines and all grades were the same, however, after the recommendation of the Fifth Central Pay Commission the pay scale fixed for CTOs was Rs. 7500/- to 12,000/- whereas for JDOs was at Rs. 7,450/- to 11,500/-. The CAT asked the Ministry of Finance, Government of India to reconsider the request for a pay scale but they rejected it. Upon this, the Respondents once again approached the CAT, which allowed the application. As a result, the Appellant filed a Writ petition before the Delhi High Court which later dismissed their appeal. As they were aggrieved by the said order, they further approached the Apex Court.

Appellant’s Side

Mr. R. Bala Subramanyam, the learned Senior Advocated represented the Appellant. He placed his reliance upon the decision of the Finance Ministry dated 7th April 2006. He stated that:

  1. The posts of JDOs and CTOs are governed by two different sets of rules and the qualification for recruitment/promotion for CTOs is higher than, that of the JDOs.
  2. The probation period is longer in the case of CTOs compared to JDOs.
  3. CTOs have to face more challenging and varied responsibilities as compared to the JDOs.
  4. The post of CTOs exists in other streams as well and cannot be given a lower pay scale of Rs. 7,450 to Rs. 11,500/-.
  5. CTOs post can be found in Naval Armament Inspection Organization where the pay scale is higher than, the one mentioned above.

The pay scale was fixed based on specific recommendations of the Fifth Central Pay Commission and therefore both the Tribunal and High Court committed an error by interfering and upgrading the JDOs pay scale at par with the CTOs.

Respondent’s Side

Mr. Salman Khurshid, the learned Senior Advocate appeared on the Respondent’s behalf. His submission before the bench was:

  1. The posts of JDOs and CTOs carried an equal pay scale due to having the same duties and responsibilities, this fact was ignored by the Central Pay Commission.
  2. The JDOs were granted the pay scale provided for the Post of Senior Foreman.
  3. The Department on 16th April 2005 had strongly supported the recommendation of upgrading the pay scale of the JDOs and putting them at par with the CTOs.
  4. Up to the Fourth Pay Commission, both posts carried the same pay scale.
  5. There would not have been any effect if the pay scale of JDOs was upgraded as the post does not exist in other streams or organizations.
  6. The essential qualifications for CTO and JDO were more or less similar along with the same promotional avenues.

Observations by Supreme Court

The Supreme Court raised a question of whether the Tribunal and High Court’s consideration for an equal pay scale for a similar post are justified or not. A division bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and Bela M Trivedi said that even if the nature of work appears to be similar, the Pay Commission can still recommend different pay scales. The Court further noted that the power of Judicial Review is limited when determining the classification of posts and pay scales. Hence, the decision is best left in the hands of the experts. Therefore, the Court allowed the appeal and quashed the orders passed by the CAT and High Court.

Source: LiveLaw and Bar and Bench.

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