A bench of justices SJ Mukhopadhaya and SA Bobde directed the Centre that wage under the scheme cannot be less than the minimum wage fixed by the state government for agricultural labourers.

The Centre submitted that it has already issued notification in this regard to bring the wage on par with minimum wage fixed by the state government.

The bench was hearing an appeal filed by the Centre against a Karnataka High Court order which had September 23, 2011 held the wage under the scheme cannot be less than the minimum wage.
It also said the Centre should pay arrears to workers who had been paid less.

Senior advocate VK Biju, appearing for a labour union on whose plea the high court had passed the direction had strongly opposed the Centre's contention justifying differential wages.

Earlier, the Apex Court had questioned the Centre for paying less wages saying, "It is a beneficiary legislation so why there is contradiction between minimum wages and the wage paid under the NREGA Act."

The wage rate under the central job scheme, which varied between Rs 118 and Rs 181 from state to state, was less than the notified minimum daily pay in six states. But in 14 states the wages under rural job scheme was higher than the minimum wage.


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