In a relief to contractual nurses working in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the Delhi High Court Thursday directed the institution to pay them salaries in the minimum of the pay scale given to regular nurses along with dearness allowance, saying the principle of equal pay for equal work’ is applicable here.
The high court said the salary shall be paid with retrospective effect from September 19, 2016 and the order will be complied within three months.
A bench of Justices V Kameswar Rao and Anoop Kumar Mendiratta observed that nurses working in hospitals provide a very valuable humanitarian service as they assist doctors and give personal care to patients. It will be a travesty of justice if such people are denied adequate compensation for their services, it said.
The high court was hearing an appeal by several contractual nurses challenging a 2016 order of the Central Administrative Tribunal dismissing their plea seeking same pay and benefits as being paid to regular staff nurses working in AIIMS.
“Before parting, we must state that nurses working in hospitals provide a very valuable humanitarian service; their duties are manifold – from assisting doctors in carrying out treatment to taking personal care of patients and even sometimes handling bystanders and relatives of the patients. They attend to the needs of the sick and the ailing in the extremely tense atmosphere of hospitals. It would be a travesty of justice, if such people are denied adequate compensation for their services as they are entitled to,” the bench said.
The high court referred to a previous judgment of the Supreme Court and said in this case, the petitioners are seeking parity with staff nurses working in the AIIMS who perform similar duties and have similar responsibilities.
“They cannot be denied adequate compensation as is being received by regular staff nurses in the respondent hospital. The principle of equal pay for equal work’ as propounded by the Supreme Court is clearly applicable to the facts of this case,” it said.
The petitioners said they were appointed as staff nurses on contract basis initially on a monthly salary of Rs 11,750 which was later increased to Rs 28,000, while the staff nurses working on regular basis received a total salary of Rs 56,800 per month.
The hospital claimed the petitioners are being paid at par with other contractual employees of Sister Grade-II and as such there is no discrimination.
The institution said the petitioners are working on contractual basis and their term had expired on July 30, 2014 but they are continuing in work due to the interim orders passed by the tribunal and the high court.
The AIIMS’ counsel also contended that the principle of equal pay for equal work’ cannot be applied to contractual employees as it is the contract which would govern the terms and conditions of their service
The petitioner nurses’ counsel contested the submissions of AIIMS and presented the salary slips of several regular employees to show that they were being paid higher than the petitioners.
The high court noted the AIIMS did not raise any dispute on the nature of duties being performed by the petitioners which were identical to those being discharged by the regular nursing staff.
It said as there is complete similitude in the work done by the petitioners and other staff nurses working on regular basis, the apex court judgment would apply here and the petitioners will be entitled to wages in the minimum of the pay scale applicable to regular employees working in AIIMS as staff nurses with dearness allowance.
The high court set aside the tribunal’s order and said, “The respondent (AIIMS) is directed to pay the salary in the minimum of the pay scale of the post along with Dearness Allowance to the petitioners with effect from September 19, 2013 but without interest.”