KARNATAKA: Karnataka High Court held that the cook employed on the contract bases in the Midday Meal Scheme run by Karnataka State Government is not qualified to get the benefits for wages under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948.
The bench comprises Acting Chief Justice Alok Aradhe and Justice S Vishwajith Shetty disposed of the petition filed by Nowhera Shaik who is currently working as a social worker in Karnataka.
The bench observed, “The provisions of the Act (Minimum Wages Act) apply to the employments which have been mentioned in the Schedule appended to the Act. The scheme is not one of the employment mentioned in the Schedule and therefore, the provisions of the Act do not apply to Head Cooks and Cooks who have been employed on contract basis for a limited duration of 4 hours in a day.”
“It is worth mentioning that under the provisions of the Karnataka Minimum Wages Rules, l958 (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Rules’ for short), the number of hours to constitute a normal working day in case of an adult is 9 hours. The Head Cooks and Cooks also failed to fulfil this criteria mentioned under the Rules. The claim of minimum wages by the Head Cooks and Cooks employed under the scheme is not covered under the provisions of Act. Therefore, no writ of mandamus can be issued to the respondents to provide minimum wages to the Head Cooks and Cooks employed under the scheme.“
The Petitioner moved to the court seeking that women workers employed under the Scheme, primarily belonging to SC/ ST, employed on Contract bases of Rs.1,000 per month and were denied the benefit of minimum wages. It was contended that the fundamental rights of the said women workers under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India have been infringed.
The High Court noted that the scheme in question was formulated following the Supreme Court’s directions in PUCL v. Union of India by providing freshly cooked meals to children in all Government schools in India.
Following the demands of head cooks and cooks, the Government enhanced their remuneration to Rs.2,700/- and 2,600/- per month respectively in the year 2018. The Government also undertook measures for providing insurance and compensation. In case of untimely death or injury, compensation to the extent of Rs.1,00,000/- and Rs.75,000/- respectively is payable. The provision for payment of Rs.30,000/- has also been made in case any burn injuries are sustained by any person employed under the scheme.
Therefore, the Court disposed of the petitions