The Bombay High Court has said that workers have the fundamental right to get payment of wages under Article 21 of our Constitution. Further, the Court said that financial difficulties of an employer cannot be a reason for non-payment or delayed payment of wages to workmen.
Referring to our Constitution, the Court said that the right to life given to every person under Article 21 means something more than just survival or animal existence. It includes the right to live with human dignity. The right to life means not only physical existence but the quality of life as well.
The Court looked at the denial of due wages either because of a) non-payment, or b) delayed payment by installments. The Court felt that denial of wages would certainly restrict the human right of a workman under Article 21. Denial of wages would not allow a person to live with dignity.
The law that regulates wages in India
The Code on Wages, 2019 is our primary law that regulates matters related to wages, such as minimum wages, payment of wages, payment of bonus, etc.
As per the Code, the employer has to fix the wage period for employees either as daily, or weekly, or fortnightly, or monthly. No wage period can be more than a month. The employer has to pay wages to the employees without delay, in the following manner:
(i) For daily wage workers, wages have to be paid at the end of the shift.
(ii) For workers engaged on a weekly basis, wages have to be paid on the last working day of the week, before the weekly holiday.
(iii) For workers engaged on a fortnightly basis, wages have to be paid before the end of the second day after the fortnight.
(iv) For workers engaged on a monthly basis, wages have to be paid before the end of the seventh day of the following month.
Any employer who does not follow these rules can be punished with a fine of up to twenty thousand rupees.
Moreover, any employer who pays any employee less than the amount due to the employee, can be punished with a fine of up to fifty thousand rupees.