The Apex Court on Monday refused to stay Karnataka High Court\\\’s order which on September 23 had said that MGNREGA worker could not be paid less than the minimum wage fixed by state government.
While hearing the Special Leave Petition filed by central government challenging the landmark judgement of Karnataka HC, the court said that it is a beneficial legislation for poor so why there is contradiction between minimum wages and the wage paid under NREGA.
A bench of justices Cyriac Joseph and Gyan Sudha Misra asked Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman to ask the Centre to fix wages under NREGA after considering the minimum wages fixed by state governments.
The Apex court also told the Solicitor General to solve the matter in a consultative manner.
The move is likely to have a significant impact on the payment of minimum wages in various states where NREGA notified wage is less than the minimum wage fixed by state government.
Arguing for the petitioners, Senior Counsel Anil Divan pointed out it was settled position for the last 27 years that non payment of minimum wages is tantamount to forced labour, with at least three SC judgments affirming this position.
The court only agreed to stay payment of arrears to the workers after the Centre contended that it would cause a huge budgetary implication of Rs 7500 crore.
The bench also issued notices to various labour unions and asked them to file their response within two weeks on the Centre’s plea.
The government of India is now required to pay minimum wages to the NREGA workers in Karnataka with effect from September.
The Karnataka government has fixed a minimum wage of Rs 145 under NREGA in the state while the Central Government has fixed a wage of Rs 100.