Allahabad HC: Employment on monthly wage of Rs 150 constitutes forced labour

The high court clarified that such unreasonable low rate violates fundamental human rights, including the right to work with dignity


In 2004, a petition was filed by Amar Singh (the petitioner), employed in the state as a school watchman in December 1992. The petitioner was initially employed on a monthly wage of Rs 30. In the subsequent year, he officially took on the position of a watchman (choukidar) and his salary was increased from Rs 30 to Rs 150 in 1998.

However, the petitioner has continued to receive this amount (Rs 150) ever since. As per the petitioner plea, he expressed that he had provided continuous service for a decade since 1992, working daily from 10 AM to 4 PM, similar to other employees. Therefore, he should be eligible for the minimum pay scale applicable to a Class IV employee.

In response to this petition, the respondents argued that the petitioner was appointed based on a monthly allowance and not as a Class IV employee. Moreover, they contended that as a part-time watchman (choukidar), and hence, he could not receive compensation equivalent to the regular pay scale

Following the presentations made in court, the honourable court of Allahabad ruled that employment by the State Government for a mere Rs 150 per month constitutes forced labour, which is legally impermissible. The court also instructed the State to remunerate the petitioner with immediate effect at the rate of the minimum pay scale designated for Class IV employees. Additionally, the payment has to be made within a span of six weeks.

Justice Irshad Ali clarified that when the State government employs someone at an unreasonably low rate, which is insufficient for basic human sustenance, such work can only be seen as an exploitation of human labour. He also added that it violates fundamental human rights, including the right to work with dignity as outlined in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Furthermore, the order specified that the petitioner’s eligibility for regularisation should also be assessed by the respondents during the mentioned time frame.

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