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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court issued notices to the attorney general for Pakistan and the advocate general Sindh regarding the provincial government’s notification fixing Rs25,000 minimum wage per month of workers.

A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, heard various petitions against the Sindh High Court (SHC)’s judgement on the minimum wage.

The attorney general was issued notice in terms of Order XXVII-A of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 since the interpretation of the provincial and the federal statutes and the Constitution required.

The bench referred the matter to the chief justice of Pakistan for constituting a three-member bench, as the SHC’s judgment was passed by two judges. The bench also issued notices to the respondents, which include the secretary Sindh Labour and Human Rights Resources, the Employers Federation of Pakistan, and others.

Shahid Anwar Bajwa, who represented trans-provincial organisations, adopted the submission of the counsel of the main petitioners. He submitted that petitions (5970 and 5863) filed in the High Court had been separated from the other petitions. He asserted that the petitioners were trans-provincial organisations and were governed by federal legislation. However, their petitions in the High Court were disposed of vide order dated 11th November 2021, which placed complete reliance upon the judgment dated October 15, 2021, and without attending to the trans-provincial organisation submission and of the exclusive applicability of the federal law as had been urged.

The Sindh government on July 19, 2021 issued a notification, which was challenged by some petitioners before the SHC that delivered the judgment on October 15, 2021. The petitioners had contended that the provincial government’s notification did not comply with the Sindh Minimum Wages Act, 2015.

The counsel submitted that under Section 3 of the Act a Minimum Wage Board is established. It prescribes the minimum rates of wages of workers. The Board proposes the minimum wage to be fixed and submits its recommendation to the government under Section 6 of the Act. The government may then issue a notification in the official gazette under Section 6 (1)(a) of the Act, if it agrees with the recommendation of the Board, but if it does not agree then refer the matter back to the Board for reconsideration under Section 6(1)(b) of the Act.

The Board had recommended a minimum wage of Rs19,000 per month, increasing it from the previous minimum wage of Rs17,500 per month. However, the provincial cabinet enhanced the minimum wage to Rs25,000, per month, without issuing a gazette notification as envisaged by Section 6 of the Act. He pleaded that that gazette notification was issued on November 12, 2021, pursuant to the SHC’s judgment, the high court did not direct the government in this regard. He contended that under Section 6(2) of the Act, the government can refer the matter back to the Board with its comments, but it does not have power to itself determine the minimum wage.

The case was adjourned until January 2022.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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