Dimapur, January 31: The Gauhati High Court, Kohima Bench has directed the Government of Nagaland to constitute an expert committee to examine and determine the payment/entitlement of financial benefits of Village Guards (VGs) in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs, Northeast Division, Government of India.
A two Bench Judge gave the judgment on January 29 after hearing a writ appeal filed by the State Government & 5 others against the judgment & order of a Single Judge on November 11, 2017 directing the State to examine and raise the existing wages and allowances of the VGs to a reasonable level but not less than that of the Home Guards of the State within a period of two months from the date of receipt of a copy of the judgment & order. The Single Judge had further directed that the increase in the wages of allowances should be made effective from 01.01.2017.
The Single Judge gave the judgment & order after hearing a writ petition filed by the Village Guard Association of Nagaland & 6 others.
At the time of filing the writ petition, the VG personnel were paid a fixed monthly wage of Rs 1500 per month, ration allowance of Rs 25 per day while on duty and a yearly clothing allowance of Rs 500. When they were promoted, they were paid NCOs rank allowance of Rs 50 per rank-wise.
The VGs were demanding minimum wages by increasing their monthly pay from Rs 1500 to Rs 5000, ration allowance from Rs 25 to Rs 150 per day and increase of yearly clothing allowances from Rs 500 to Rs 1500 and increase the NCOs allowances from Rs 50 to Rs 500.
The monthly honorariums of the VGs were enhanced from Rs 1500 per month to Rs 3000 per month from 01.04.2018.
The VG association contention was that the Home Guards serving in the State of Nagaland are paid a daily wages of Rs 150 with effect from March 1, 2012, which amounts to a fixed salary of Rs 4500 per month.
“The Home Guards are unarmed personnels for Civil Defence whereas, the VGs are armed personnel performing law and order duties. As such, the nature of work of VGs is much more strenuous and risky than the of Home Guards personnels,” it contented.
After the VGs filed the writ petition, the direction of the Supreme Court in Grah Rakshak Home Guards Welfare Association (supra) was implemented by the State Government vide Notification dated 27.04.2017 by enhancing the duty allowance of Home Guards personnel under the Directorate of Civil Defence and Home Guards, Nagaland from Rs 150 per head per day to Rs 520 per head per day with effect from 03.04.2017.
Appearing for the State appellants, K. Sema, Senior Additional Advocate General, submitted that VG is a voluntary organization and they are called for duty as and when they are required only. “Unless the comparison of the nature of their duties, work, responsibility etc., is complete and established with that of the Home Guards, the direction to grant them a similar pay/wages or honorarium like that of the Home Guards is not justified,” he submitted. .
Taka Masa, Senior Counsel, appearing for the VGs submitted that even if the prayer of the VGs for increase in their honorarium and allowances as demanded cannot be accepted, the State Government would still have to constitute an expert committee to examine and determine the claim of the VGs for enhancement of their financial benefits.
Submitting that the VGs are trained and that is why they are issued arms and ammunition by the State Government, the Senior Counsel said the contention of the writ petitioners about the nature and duties of the VGs, the issuance of rifles and ammunitions and the manner in which they have served the nation ever since its inception in the year 1957 is clearly admitted and not denied by the State appellants in their affidavit-in-opposition.
“Therefore, when the Home Guard personnels are basically to assist in the maintenance of internal security, law and order duties, protection to important installation of State and Central establishments, the VGs cannot be given monthly honorariums and allowances lesser than them,” he said while submitting that the principle of equal pay for equal work is very much attracted under the facts and circumstances.
Directing the State Government to constitute an expert committee to examine and determine the payment/entitlement of financial benefits of VGs, the two Bench Judge directed that the expert committee should include representatives from the Home Department, Department of Personnel & Administrative Reforms, Finance Department, at least 2 members from the VGs association, the representatives of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Northeast Division amongst others.
The Court ordered that the committee should be constituted within a period of 3 weeks from the date of receipt of a certified copy of the Court’s order and the committee should complete the process of examining the matter of enhancement of the honorarium and other allowances of the VGs as expeditiously as possible and not later than within a period of 4 months from the date it is constituted.
(Page News Service)