ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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'Equal Pay for Equal Work'

"Equal pay for equal work," envisioned as a concept of gender justice in the workplace and more, has shrunk to a jurisprudential principle used in service disputes between employees and the government. Even this body of court-made law, while laudable in at least protecting the rights of the temporary employees, does not actually further the larger principle in the context of the Indian worker, male or female, who has been abandoned by the state.

Part IV of the Constitution, the Directive Principles of State Policy, lays out the goals towards which the state must work. One of these is contained in Clause(d) of Article 39, namely, “equal pay for equal work for men and women.” Over the years, it has become a principle of law used by the courts in India for purposes almost entirely unimagined by the framers of the Constitution. The recent judgment of the Supreme Court in State of Punjab v Jagjit Singh (2016), which applies the principle of “equal pay for equal work” in the context of temporary employees of the Punjab government, is one such instance.

While the Constituent Assembly debates seem to envision the principle expressed in Article 39(d) as one which relates to gender equality in India,1 the large bulk of cases where this principle has been applied relates to service law cases, that is, cases relating to employees of the union or state governments. In this article, I argue that notwithstanding the judgment in the Jagjit Singh case, the judicial approach to “equal pay for equal work” is yet to explore the potential for the application of this principle, and many more facets to this principle require to be elaborated in legislation.

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