A submission was made before Rajasthan High Court by the State Government that the Committee constituted on the court’s direction has recommended increasing wages of prisoners. The Additional Advocate general informed two-judge bench of Justices Rameshwar Vyas and Sangeet Lodha that as per the directions given by the court on September 3, 2020, the committee has made the recommendation.
The petition has been filed by a prisoner, Indrajeet Singh, lodged in Central Jail, Jodhpur, who sent it by post, about non-revision of the wages payable to the prisoners who are employed for work at the prison. Singh stated that the wages payable to prisoners who volunteer to labour were last revised in March, 2015. The petitioner contended that although wages payable to skilled and unskilled labour has been revised from time to time under the Minimum Wages Act, the wages for prisoners had not been revised since 2015.
The amicus curiae appointed by the court, Advocate RS Saluja, had submitted to the court that it is permissible to deduct the amount towards the food etc. from the wages payable to the prisoners as also towards the payment of compensation to the victim but there is no reason as to why the wages payable to the prisoners should not be fixed at par with labour under the Minimum Wages Act. Saluja observed that non-revision of wages to prisoners is “ex facie violative of the provisions of Article14, 21 & 23 of the Constitution of India”. He further stated that the State Government is under an obligation to revise the wages from time to time and thus, payment of wages to the prisoners at the rate fixed in the year 2015 is absolutely unjustified. The Additional Advocate general however contended that prisoners cannot claim revision of wages as a matter of right.
On September 3, 2020, the High Court observed, “When the minimum wages payable to the various categories of employees under the Act of 1948 have been revised by the State Government from time to time, inaction on the part of State Government in revising the wages payable to the prisoners on work cannot be countenanced by this Court.” The court also pointed out that as per Rule 31(1) of the Rajasthan Prison Rules, “It was incumbent upon the State Government to revise the wages payable to the prisoners from time to time as it is done in respect of the employees engaged in scheduled employment”.
As such, the court had directed the state government to constitute a committee for determining the quantum of equitable wages payable to the prisoners. In accordance with this direction, the committee recommended an increase in such wages, and in its order dated January 4, 2021, the court directed the state government to file a compliance report within two weeks.
The January 4 order may be read here.
The September 3 order may be read here.