A daily wager cannot claim salary equal to that of a regular worker even if the two are discharging the ‘same functions’, the Supreme Court has ruled in a landmark judgement which supercedes its earlier, almost opposite, stand on the issue.
The principle of equal pay for equal work will arise "only if there is complete and total identity between the two persons similarly situated so as to grant equal pay for equal work," a Bench of Justices A K Mathur and Markandeya Katju observed.
Holding that its earlier view that if two persons were discharging same functions they were entitled to same wages was no longer applicable, the court said, "Even if a daily wage employee is discharging the same functions as a regular employee the authorities are not bound to grant equal pay to such a person." The court said the case of a regular employee and that of a daily wage worker was on a different footing as the former is always appointed through a selection process and his services are permanent.
The apex court gave the observation while quashing an order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court which had affirmed a trial court order directing equal pay for some daily-wage tractor drivers on par with the regular drivers working for the Punjab government.
The state government had challenged the lower court's direction by filing a petition in the apex court.