Observing that it is the duty of the state government to ensure its citizens, both men and women have equal rights to adequate source of income, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday upheld the government resolution pertaining to the work distribution for Mathadi workers in Maharashtra.
The bench of Justices Sanjay Gangapurwalla and Shrikant Kulkarni said, "Article 39 of the Constitution of India includes protection of health and strength of workers and just and humane condition of work. It is the duty of the State that citizen, men and women equally have right to adequate means of livelihood."
"Article 38 of the constitution provides that the State to secure a social order for the promotion of welfare of the people. Equality before law has many facets and is a dynamic concept. It is duty of the state to empower weaker sections of the society like Hamal/
Mathadi kamgars by way of policy decision," the judges added.
The bench was seized with a plea filed by a transport company that also provided Hamal services for transport of food grains from one government godown to others.
The company had challenged the GR issued in 2018 inviting tenders of other such cooperative societies that provided similar services. The GR even provided for uniformity in the payment as per labour rates as sanctioned and approved by the Mathadi Board and for prompt payment of minimum rates in addition to levy rates and additional labour rates on the basis inflation index. The state had prescribed qualification for bidding contracts of handling of food
The hamaal group argued that by virtue of this provision of the GR the state has planned in to bring in private entities and open doors for unhealthy competition between such old contractors and the private firms involved in similar work.
Per contra, the state argued that it has only floated the tenders so as to bring in uniformity in the payments for such labour apart from healthy competition.
Having considered the contention, the judges upheld the clauses of the GR issued in 2018.
As far as the clause of the GR that gives priority to cooperative societies involved in providing labour or hamaals, is concerned, the judges said, "The said policy decision seems to have been taken by the state with a view that the cooperative societies financed by Mathadi Hamals which
works for the welfare of Mathadi Hamals should be given priority so
that they can engage Hamals and labourers registered with the Mathadi Board. In turn, they shall be paid minimum rates approved by the Board in addition to levy rates and additional labour rates on the basis of inflation index."
In the judgment authored by Justice Kulkarni, the bench has further noted that the state has received many complaints regarding non-payment of wages to Hamals or labours or delayed deposit of the additional levy rates.
"The state intends to maintain uniformity in the payment of labours/Mathadi Hamals approved by the Board. It is the primary duty of the state to see welfare of labourers and they should get prompt wages for their work. The state intends to protect their interest," the judges noted.
The judges further said the scope of judicial interventions in policy decisions of the state, is minimal and limited and accordingly, upheld the GR.