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Randhir Singh vs. Union of India (1982): A Landmark in Gender Wage Equality

In the annals of Indian jurisprudence, certain cases stand out for their profound impact on society and governance. The Randhir Singh vs. Union of India case of 1982 is one such landmark judgment, setting a precedent for equal pay for equal work, irrespective of gender. This judgment was a significant step in the direction of promoting gender equality in India, particularly in the workplace.

1. Background of the Case

Randhir Singh, a Driver in Delhi Electric Supply Undertaking (DESU), approached the court seeking wage parity with other drivers in similar government institutions. He argued that despite performing the same functions and responsibilities, there was a wage disparity between him and drivers in other similar government sectors.

2. The Core Issue

At the heart of the petition was the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work.’ The contention was that if two individuals perform the same duties and responsibilities, they should be entitled to the same remuneration, irrespective of their gender or the department in which they are working.

3. The Court’s Decision

The Supreme Court of India, in its judgment, upheld the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work.’ The court observed:

“The principle of equal pay for equal work is deducible from Articles 14, 16, and 39(d) of the Constitution and has been given concrete shape by equal remuneration laws. It is a constitutional goal and may be achieved through constitutional remedies.”

Thus, the court directed that drivers working in various government sectors, including Randhir Singh, should be given equal pay since they all performed the same kind of duties.

4. The Significance of the Judgment

  • Gender Neutrality: Although the case concerned a male petitioner, the ruling’s underpinnings were rooted in gender neutrality. By upholding the principle of equal pay for equal work, the court set a precedent for subsequent cases where women were discriminated against in terms of wages.
  • Constitutional Affirmation: The judgment reinforced the directives of the Indian Constitution, which enshrines equality as a fundamental right and directive principle.
  • Basis for Future Litigations: Many subsequent cases concerning wage disparity have cited the Randhir Singh judgment, making it a cornerstone for wage equality litigations.

5. Broader Implications

The judgment was a significant stride towards eliminating gender-based wage discrimination in India. Even though the petitioner was male, the verdict was embraced as a clarion call against gender-based wage disparity, and it bolstered the argument that compensation should be based on the work’s nature, not the worker’s gender.

Conclusion

The Randhir Singh vs. Union of India judgment is a testament to the Indian judiciary’s role in upholding constitutional principles and promoting a more egalitarian society. By emphasizing equal pay for equal work, the Supreme Court highlighted the importance of wage equality as a cornerstone of a just and fair society. Today, as conversations around gender equality continue to evolve, this judgment stands as a historic marker of progress in the quest for a more equal India.

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