Recently, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India came across a case where pay scales were being argued upon. The question posed was whether it is correct to provide different salaries to employees when the nature of the job performed by them is the same, and the only difference lies in their educational qualifications.
In hospitals established under the Border Security Force, the two posts of Nursing Assistants and Staff nurses are paid differently. ‘Hospital Patient Care Allowance’ is something they all are entitled to, but the Nursing Assistants demanded Nursing Allowance like the Staff Nurse. A writ petition was filed requesting the same in the Gauhati High Court. The Hon’ble High Court took the view that it did not allow for differences in pay scale on the basis of educational qualifications. A Single judge bench first took this view, and then a subsequent appeal was dismissed by a Division bench too. An appeal was finally made in the hon’ble Supreme Court of India.
The main question is whether an educational qualification is a valid criterion for differentiation in pay scales. The Supreme Court Bench of Justice MR Shah and CT Ravi Kumar has ruled that educational qualification is a valid criterion for giving out different salaries. The reasoning lies in the fact that Nursing Assistants are only required to complete a one-year course, while Staff Nurses are required to complete a four-year course to attain that job.
My allegiance lies with the Supreme Court’s decision. Equality must be maintained, but such pseudo-equality will do nothing but disregard the extra qualifications one has to have in specific jobs. Talent and qualification must be treated respectfully, which is a valid intelligible differentia. Article 16 of the Indian Constitution arms every Indian citizen with the Right to Equality in Opportunity in matters related to public employment. The principle of meritocracy with merit reflecting crudely, talent, and hard work must be taken into consideration before making decisions solely based on equality maintenance. The word ‘equality’ sounds utopian and idealistic, but the truth is, in order to establish a just society, we must create a few differences to acknowledge individual talents. It is obvious that the Nursing Assistants and Staff Nurses cannot be compared due to their education and experiences being different.
A similar situation is seen in Military Hospitals where there is a difference in pay scales of Military Nursing Staff (MNS), Nursing Assistants, and Doctors. A military doctor has an MBBS degree, while an MNS has a Nursing Diploma, and a Nursing Assistant has separate training. The duration, intensity, and overall level of their training period are different for them all. Owing to this difference, the doctors are given proper officer ranks, a higher pay scale, and other military facilities, which any officer of the Indian Army is eligible for. MNSs have been given rankings similar to doctors, but their pay scales are slightly lower. Nursing Assistants have been put in an altogether different category with a much lower pay scale and ranks. Some issues did arise with the overall system, but the relevant address was made effective. Some questions were raised regarding the allocation of various allowances, and the reasoning was based on the difference in educational qualifications.
Here, we need to take into consideration the Davis-Moore Theory of Social Stratification. This is the Structural-Functionalist view of the inevitable phenomenon of social stratification. The different pay scales represent the different strata of society. An essential postulate that needs to be seen is the distribution of rewards based on the differential value attached to different functions. It refers to this difference as a consequence of the inevitability of the differentiation of roles and approaches to social duties. The strata are created to accommodate the different capacities and abilities of social actors. This stratification is seen as a beneficial and positive fact of society. It acts as a driving force for the inhabitants of a societal system to work harder and smarter to uplift themselves to higher positions.
In conclusion, different educational qualification does call for different pay scales to ensure apt appreciation of an individual’s talents and skills.
Author’s Name: Pratiksha Rana (Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow)