Hardly had the diplomatic stand-off over the return of murder accused marines ended, the Italian embassy on Saturday found itself embroiled in another controversy. Indian employees of the Italian embassy dragged it to the Delhi high court for alleged racial discrimination.
In their civil suit filed through advocates Gopal Sankarnarayanan and Aman Garg, eight locally recruited Esecutivos (Executives) of Indian nationalities accused the Italian embassy of violating the relevant Italian laws and discriminating against them on the basis of their nationality.
“This is in contravention of the laws of India, Italy and the European Union,” they contended. The plaintiffs alleged that Indian origin executives were receiving salaries far below those given to their colleagues of Italian nationality, regardless of the fact that the work being done was exactly the same.
While Indian executives recruited on contract basis were receiving about 6,000 euros annually, their Italian counterparts were receiving about 60,000 euros, they alleged.
It was in violation of the principles of “equal pay for equal work” and non-discrimination on the grounds of race and nationality, which were integral precepts of both Indian and Italian law, they contended.
The Constitution of India guarantees individuals the right to equality under Article 14, bars discrimination under Article 15 and assures equal pay for equal work under Article 39(d) read with Article 21 (right to life and liberty).
When the fact that both groups belonging to the same homogeneous set discharging the same duties were getting different remuneration was brought to the notice of the Italian ambassador, he sought a legal opinion and was advised that the discrimination indeed existed ought to be suitably rectified, they contended.
The union representing the plaintiffs received a letter on September 6, 2001, from the external affairs ministry in Rome, stating that the embassy would make due modifications.
In October 2003, the ambassador said to Indian employees that in view of “budgetary constraints”, it would not be possible to grant any relief to them.