Equal pay for equal work

Equal pay for equal work‘Pay Gap’ or unequal pay is an issue which has become a matter of concern these days due to an increase in the instances of discriminatory pay scales for the same type of work. India still lacks a comprehensive and transparent wage policy for all the sectors of the economy. This makes the issue of potential demand for equal pay a matter of concern in recent times. Equal pay here relates not only to basic pay but includes other benefits and allowances too.

The Indian Constitution recognized the principle of ‘Equal Pay for Equal Work’ for both men and women, and ‘Right to Work’ through Article 39(d) and 41. These Articles are inserted as Directive Principles of State Policy. This means that, they will serve as guidelines to the Central and State governments of India, which are to be kept in mind while framing laws and policies.

Efforts are employed even on legislative fronts - Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 being the prime one amongst them. The Act by means of Section 4 not only emphasizes on equal pay for equal work but even bars the employer from reversing the pay scales in order to attain equilibrium.

The principle of Equal Pay for Equal Work was first considered in Kishori Mohanlal Bakshi v. Union of India1 in the year 1962 where the Supreme Court declared it incapable of being enforced in the court of law. However, it received due recognition only in 1987 through Mackinnon Mackenzie’s case2. Here the issue of concern was a claim for equal remuneration for Lady Stenographers and Male Stenographers. This was ruled in favour of lady stenographers as the Court was in favour of equal pay.

Although, times have passed but crisis still remain. The report published by International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in March 2009, reveals existence of gender pay gap to the extent of 30 percent in India in 2008.3

Agreed that the issue is more rampant in case of gender pay gap and is being dealt with, but this is not the complete picture. There are instances where such pay inequalities exists even in case of persons of the same gender. This is despite the fact that they are deploying same efforts and time and doing same kind of work as their counterparts.

Surprisingly, where on one hand legislature is propagating for equality, on the other judiciary recently has made a controversial move. Supreme Court here quashed an order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. It denied paying daily-wage drivers at par with the regular drivers working for the Punjab government. It ruled that, “A daily wager cannot claim salary equal to that of a regular worker even if the two are discharging the ‘same functions’ It further ruled that, “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.”4

In spite of having made endless efforts still there is lack of a subsequent and meaningful legislation. Also factors like ignorance and uniform interpretation of law act as barriers in demolishing pay gap. In order to resolve this issue, it is important to not only create awareness for, but also effectively implement the legislative enactments.


- Palak Lotiya (views expressed in the article are that of the author)


1. Kishori Lal Mohan Lal Bakshi v. Union of India, A.I.R. 1962 S.C. 1139

2. Mackinnon Mackenzie and Co. Ltd. vs. Audrey D'Costa and Others (1987) 2 SCC 469

3. ITUC Report 2008, Gender (in) equality in the labour market: an overview of global trends and developments Retrieved, 18th July, 2009 from ITUC Report online via access:

4. No equal pay for daily wager and regular employee: SC (2007, Oct 30). Retrieved July 23, 2009 from


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