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Are workers in religious/charitable institutions protected under the Minimum Wages Act?

Date : 26/05/2006

Shri Satya Narayan Tulsi Manas Mandir vs. Workman Compensation Commissioner & Ors

A Special Leave Petition has been filed in the Supreme Court of India to consider whether employees of Religious or Charitable Institutions and Establishments are protected under the Minimum Wages Act or other similar statutory enactments. The Indian constitution is secular in character, treats all citizens equally and entitles each to protection in the matter of wages under Article 21.

Case Details and Status

Workers, who are kept by the temple as “Sevadars” to facilitate worship, are also engaged in other activities like looking after the premises of the Mandir, selling books and tickets for exhibitions etc. The temple also collects rents from the shops within the temple grounds. In spite of all these apparently commercial activities at the temple and the fact that sevadars perform similar tasks to employees in any other commercial establishment, employees of the temple are not paid a minimum wage.

In 1995 a complaint was filed by the Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh alleging non-payment of minimum wages to the employees of the Mandir. The then labour enforcement officer inspected the establishment and later the Additional Labour Commissioner, Varanasi issued a notice to the temple. The temple management filed a writ petition (No. 5324 of 1997) before the Allahabad High Court.

The Court responded positively through an order dated 26th May 2006, directing the Mandir to pay minimum wages to its employees, retrospectively from the date when the dispute arose and further directed the State Government to make suitable legislation in this regard. The Mandir has challenged this order in the Supreme Court. A favourable decision by the Supreme Court will not only grant these workers their dues but also uphold the egalitarian nature of the Constitution of India, which considers all citizens to be equal.

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