'Different Educational Qualification & Experience Can Be A Ground To Have Different Pay Scales'- Reiterates SC
The Supreme Court while reiterating that different educational qualification and experience prescribed for appointment could be a ground to have different pay scales/pay structures, held that the Nursing Assistant in the BSF could not be treated at par with the Staff Nurses and be granted Nursing Allowance, as they neither had the relevant experience nor they had relevant educational qualification.
The Bench of Justice MR Shah and Justice CT Ravikumar observed that “The Nursing Assistants in the BSF neither have relevant experience for appointment as Staff Nurse nor they possess any educational qualification for appointment as Staff Nurse. Therefore, the case of Nursing Assistants cannot be compared with that of the Staff Nurses as both carry different educational qualification.”
In this case, the respondents- original writ petitioners were working as the Nursing Assistants in various hospitals under the Border Security Force and were being paid the ‘Hospital Patient Care Allowance'.
The respondents preferred a writ petition before the Gauhati High Court claiming that they were entitled to Nursing Allowance at par with the Nursing Staff. This writ petition was allowed by the High Court on the ground that the duties performed by the writ petitioners were the similar duties performed by the Staff Nurses.
Appeal was preferred by the appellants before the Division Bench, which was also dismissed.
Aggrieved by the dismissal of appeal by the High Court, the appellants had approached the Apex Court.
The question that arose in the case was whether in a case where the educational qualifications for the post of Nursing Assistant and Staff Nurse were different, still the Nursing Assistants should be entitled to the Nursing Allowance at par with the Staff Nurses.
ASG Madhavi Divan appearing for the appellants contended that Nursing Assistants-respondents were not eligible for appointment as Staff Nurses and the educational qualification being different, they should not be entitled to claim the Nursing Allowance at par with the Staff Nurses. The Counsel further submitted that the educational qualification could be a ground for denial of Nursing Allowance to the Nursing Assistants as had been held by the Apex Court in a catena of decisions, classification of the different pay scales was permissible based upon educational qualifications, experience and nature of duties.
Advocate K.K. Omanakuttan (Caveat) appearing for the respondents, submitted that the educational qualification could not be a ground for denial of Nursing Allowance to the Nursing Assistants. It was contended that when both the Nursing Assistants as well as the Staff Nurses were integral part of the nursing service and would be performing the similar duties, Nursing Assistant were entitled to Nursing Allowance at par with the Staff Nurse.
The Apex Court observed that the view taken by the High Court that the educational qualifications could not be a ground for denial of Nursing Allowance at par with the Staff Nurse who could also be said to be an integral part of the nursing service in general, was just contrary to the decisions of the Apex Court wherein it was held that “different educational qualification and experience prescribed for appointment can be a ground to have different pay scales/pay structures.”
The Apex Court further placed reliance on Director of Elementary Education, Odisha and Others versus Pramod Kumar Sahoo, (2019) 10 SCC 674 and held that “nature of work may be more or less the same but the scale of pay may vary based on academic qualification or experience which justified classification. It is further held and observed that inequality of men in different groups excludes applicability of the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’ to them.”
Consequently, the Apex Court held that the High Court had committed a serious error in holding and directing that the Nursing Assistants serving in the Assam Rifles/BSF were entitled to Nursing Allowance at par with the Staff Nurses.
Accordingly, the appeal was allowed and the impugned judgment of the High Court was quashed and set aside.
Cause Title- The Union of India & Ors. V. Rajib Khan & Ors.