Delhi Government’s 2017 Minimum Wages Notification to hold the field (for now), Supreme Court
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Delhi Government’s 2017 Minimum Wages Notification to hold the field (for now), Supreme Court

Murali Krishnan

The Supreme Court yesterday ordered that the Minimum Wages fixed by the Delhi government as per notification dated March 3, 2017 will hold the field till the Supreme Court decides the appeal against a Delhi High Court judgment on the validity of the same.

The order was passed by a Bench of Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi and Justices UU Lalit and KM Joseph.

“During the pendency of the special leave petitions, the minimum wages fixed as per notification dated 03.03.2017 will hold the field”, the Court ordered.

The Bench also directed the Delhi government to re-do the exercise of fixing the minimum wages for the scheduled employment afresh in accordance with the route prescribed either under Section 5(1)(a) or 5(1)(b) of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948.

“Without prejudice to the rights of the respective parties, we direct the petitioner to re-do the exercise of fixing the minimum wages for the scheduled employment afresh following the route rescribed either under Section 5(1)(a) or 5(1)(b) of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 as the petitioner may opt to adopt.”

The said exercise has to be completed within three months.

The Court also clarified that at this stage, arrears need not be paid but current wages will have to be paid as per the notification of March 2017.

However, the question of arrears under the notification of March 2017 will be governed by such wages as may be re-fixed pursuant to the fresh exercise ordered to be undertaken.

All stakeholders have been given the liberty to raise all relevant issues in the fresh exercise ordered to be undertaken by the court.

“Needless to say, in the de novo exercise ordered to be carried out will be open for all the stakeholders to raise all issues as may be relevant.”

Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave appeared for the Delhi government. Senior Advocates V Giri, PV Surendranath, Sudershan Kumar Misra and Basava Prabhu S Patil appeared for various respondents.

The Delhi High Court had, on August 4 this year, quashed the notifications revising the minimum rate of wages for all classes of workmen/employees across all scheduled employments under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 (Act) and re-constituting the Minimum Wages Advisory Committee (Committee) for such scheduled employments.

The judgement was passed by the bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar in a batch of writ petitions moved by various associations such as the Delhi Factory Owners’ Federation, New Delhi Traders’ Association etc. challenging the two notifications dated September 15, 2016 and March 3, 2017.

The notifications were assailed on the ground that objections and representations submitted to the Committee by the employers or the employees were not considered either at all, or were insufficiently dealt with.

Further, the petitioners had contended that no local association of any scheduled employment in Delhi was made a member of Committee and therefore, the “employers” were given no representation as required by the Minimum Wages Act.

The High Court had accepted the same and held that petitioners that the petitioners not given representation in the Committee. This was based on the fact that that instead of appointing representatives of local scheduled employments on the Committee who would have been in the best position to put forth the stance of the employers, national level organizations not representing the interests of the employers engaged in scheduled employments were nominated on the Committee.

This, the High Court had held, amounted to a denial of statutorily mandated representation to the actual employers in scheduled employments in Delhi and consequently, non-compliance with Section 9 of the Act.

Further, the High Court had also held that while issuing a notification which impacts workmen in different industries and scheduled employment, the Advisory Committee is required to scrutinize all relevant materials not only regarding the Scheduled employments but also the variations in prices of commodities in different localities/districts in Delhi, economic climate, benefits and facilities created and advanced by the Government. This was not done, the High Court had concluded.

Read the Supreme Court order below. 

Minimum-Wages-Order.pdf
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