Following this decision, the advocate who filed the PIL may move the Supreme Court.
NEW DELHI: Following the Delhi High Court’s decision to dismiss the plea filed by the Legal Forum for Women Empowerment, an NGO, seeking better facilities for home guards in terms of health, salary hikes, pension and other facilities on a par with police officials, the advocate who filed the PIL may move the Supreme Court.
Payal Bahl, a practicing advocate at the Supreme Court, told The Sunday Guardian: “Many home guards have consulted us regarding this and we are thinking of taking this matter to the Supreme Court at a later stage. I have to know why the High Court dismissed the petition, as earlier, Justice Rajendra Menon had passed a similar order for home guards in Madhya Pradesh. As per the Home Guards’ Act, they are treated as civil servants. So, home guards should have some basic amenities, including welfare schemes, like any government officers. Home guards have to work round the clock and their job is no less risky than a police official.”
“These poor people get juggled between the Central government and the Delhi government. If you are putting someone in the front, they should not be left to die. Basic facilities should be provided to them,” Bahl added.
However, in a recent order, the bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice C. Hari Shankar said, “Neither the salary nor the perks being paid to the police personnel can be extended to the home guards working in Delhi. Moreover… it appears that enough and adequate care has been taken by the respondents for the home guards, e.g., Rule 18 of the Delhi Home Guards Rules prescribes compensation to be paid to the home guards.”
Disposing the PIL, the court order said: “These two are entirely different cadres. One is temporary in nature and another is permanent in nature. One is a voluntary body, whereas another is recruited under the Delhi Police Act, 1978.”
Talking about the plea, Bahl said, “There is no difference between work performed by the home guards and police personnel. Thus, Provident Fund or pension, insurance, health scheme benefits, medical coverage, sanitation facilities and medical checkup on a monthly basis should be provided to the home guards as a police officer is entitled to get.”
Some have, however, welcomed the decision of the Delhi High Court. Utkarsh Joshi, an advocate practicing in the Delhi High Court, said, “I feel that the Delhi High Court has been fair in its decision making. They have pointed out that home guards and the police have different service conditions. They have also noted that in the past two years, the remuneration for home guards has increased by 31%. It is an equitable position of law and does away with any unfairness.”
Sudarshana Bandyopadhyay, another legal professional, said, “Although apparently it seems that their duties are same, it’s wrong to measure them in the same scale. The duty of policemen is more challenging as they have a large area to cover, whereas that of the guards is restricted to a particular society or area, mostly residential, where notorious activities are less in comparison. But they should be provided with basic facilities.”
A few home guards said that they maintain law and order by putting their lives at risk, but there is no concern for their lives. Vikrant Khalko, a home guard at a society in Noida Sector 75, said, “Our salary is very low and there is no hike. We have a risky job of guarding property of the nation and we risk our lives in doing so. However, assailants have more weapons than we do. We lack training and there are no basic facilities like medical check-ups, pension, provident fund etc.”
Suman Yadav, another home guard, said, “We have to work for 11 hours and our salaries are cut if we don’t abide by that. The salary is anyway very low and even if we die on duty, there is no compensation for our families.”