Unheard of case: Class-IV worker being paid Rs 500 per year since 1998

HC reprimands DSE for inaction on directives, grants final opportunity
Seeks explanation for contemptuous attitude

Mohinder Verma

JAMMU, Sept 20: In an unheard of case, a Class-IV worker posted in a Government school is being paid Rs 500 per year since 1998 even after explicit directives of the High Court. Now, taking serious note of the sheer exploitation of a poor person and dubbing the case as a clear form of forced labour, Justice Wasim Sadiq Nargal has given final opportunity of implementing the order to the Director School Education Jammu besides seeking explanation from him for contemptuous attitude.
The petitioner Sanjay Kumar was engaged as Waterman-cum-Sweeper in the Government Middle School, Mahanpur in Kathua district on October 28, 1998 on a meager amount of Rs 500 per year and he was never in a position to bargain with the might of the State and continued to suffer the violation of his rights for years together.
Finally, the poor worker knocked the doors of the High Court, which vide order dated September 2, 2013-on the very first day of hearing, directed the respondents to consider payment of wages as envisaged under Minimum Wages Act. Astonishingly, the respondents, inspite of explicit directives of the High Court passed way back in 2013, never bothered to implement the same and this was precisely the reason that High Court vide order dated April 20, 2022 reiterated that the petitioner is entitled for minimum wages in terms of Minimum Wages Act.
Accordingly, a direction was issued to the Director School Education Jammu to release immediately the minimum wages in favour of the petitioner. However, the direction was flouted with impunity and accordingly the High Court vide order dated May 25, 2022 directed Director School Education Jammu to remain present before the court on the date fixed to explain as to why the direction has not been complied with.
“The direction has not been implemented till date as such the respondent is in recurring contempt”, Justice Wasim Sadiq Nargal said, adding “the order passed by this court dated 20.04.2022 has assumed finality as according to the petitioner, the respondents have not assailed the same before any higher forum and the respondents have no other option but to implement the same in its letter and spirit”.
“This is a sheer case of exploitation to a poor person by the respondents, where the respondents are extracting the work from the petitioner since 1998 and as on date and the petitioner is being paid Rs 500 per year which is insufficient to cater the daily needs of the petitioner and it shocks the conscience of the court that a person even after 72 years of independence continue to suffer exploitation”, Justice Nargal further said.
The High Court again said, “since the petitioner is continuing uninterruptedly since 1998, the respondents were under legal obligation to regularize his services or he should have been paid minimum of the wages”, adding “inspite of the categoric direction issued on 20.04.2022 read with 25.05.2022, respondent has neither complied with the direction nor has appeared in person, which means that he is taking the orders casually and instead he has filed an application for seeking exemption which is declined keeping in view his conduct”.
“This is a fit case where rule can be framed against the respondent as he is in recurring contempt and has flouted the orders passed by this court with impunity and failed to appear before this court in spite of categoric direction and his act, as such, is contemptuous”, Justice Nargal said, adding “before proceeding further in the matter, he is given final opportunity to comply the order passed on 20.04.2022 in its letter and spirit and file compliance report by or before the next date of hearing by paying petitioner minimum of the wages besides explaining his conduct for not complying court order dated 20.04.2022 and non-appearance”.
High Court has further directed the respondent to appear in person along with the record of the list of contingent paid workers/local fund paid workers approved for regularization in terms of SRO-308 of 2008 of Jammu Division from 1998 till date as directed vide order dated 20.04.2022.
“The present case highlights the manner in which the practice of forced labour is prevalent in the country even after 75 years of independence and the helpless people similar to the petitioner continue to suffer the exploitation willingly”, Justice Nargal observed while pointing towards numerous judgments of the Supreme Court and referring Articles of the Constitution of India.
He further said, “this court being a custodian of the fundamental rights cannot shut its eyes to the injustice carried out against the petitioner by an act of the State, which claims to achieve socio economic equality as the cherished dreams of the Constitution”.