Asia & Australia

November 07, 2017

Industries which do not pay minimum salary should discontinue: Delhi HC

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The Delhi High Court had ridiculed the practice of non-payment of minimum wages to workmen and rebuked the heavy industries by saying that they have no right to continue.

Justice C. Hari Shankar was hearing a petition filed by Geetam Singh, who challenged an order passed in July, 2004 by the Labor Court, wherein the Central Secretariat Club was directed to pay Singh, for a period of three years.

During the hearing, the court observed, “In any event, there can be no dispute that ’sweated labor’ is an anathema to any civilized society and is a harkback to the gladiatorial era when slavery and bonded labor were the order of the day. The dignity of the working-class (or labor, as some would like to call it) has to be assiduously protected and preserved at all costs; for all other classes depend on it for survival and sustenance.”

Singh in his plea alleged that he was being paid less than what he was entitled to, under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948.

Contesting his claim, the management of the club claimed that the club was not an ‘industry’ under the Minimum Wages Act and that Singh’s claim was filed belatedly.

Adding further, the court said, “Payment of minimum wages is, therefore, an essential characteristic of humanity. Extraction of labor without payment of minimum wages, per corollary, would reflect an attitude which is inhuman. Non-payment of minimum wages, to a workman is, therefore, unconscionable and unpardonable in law. It strikes at the very root of our constitutional framework and unpardonable in law. It strikes at the very root of our constitutional framework, and belies the aspirations set out in the preamble thereto.”

Agreeing with Singh’s arguments, the court also modified the Labor Court’s order, directing the club to pay him for 6 years instead of 3 years.

Justice Shankar said, “An employee, who obtains work, from a workman, while denying him minimum wages, is, in my view, absolutely disentitled from calling, into service, the doctrine of laches, when the employee moves the competent legal forum, seeking only minimum wages for the period during which he has served the employer.”

“In that view of the matter, I am of the opinion that there was no justification for the Labor Court to restrict the relief awarded to Geetam Singh to the period October 1992 to September 1995. Geetam Singh has admittedly worked with the period 1st September 1989 to September, 1995 and cannot, therefore, be denied minimum wages for the said period. The Court can ill afford to be a party to the portentously criminal act of the Club,” he added.

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