Karnataka High Court Upholds Equality for International Workers in EPF and Pension Schemes - Karma Global
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Karnataka High Court Upholds Equality for International Workers in EPF and Pension Schemes 

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Karnataka High Court holds Provident Fund Law for Foreign Workers as unconstitutional!     


India’s Employees’ Provident Funds Scheme, 1952 (EPF Scheme) was amended with the introduction of Paragraph 83 in 2008 to extend the coverage of the Indian Provident Fund (PF) law to “International Workers.” Further, Paragraph 43A was introduced under the Employee’s Pension Scheme, 1995 (EPS) to extend the coverage of EPS to international workers.

These provisions of the PF law applicable to international workers have now been held by the Karnataka High Court to be discriminatory and in violation of Article 14 (Right to Equality) of the Indian Constitution in a ruling dated 25 April 2024.1

Facts of the case

Paragraph 83 of the EPF Scheme was introduced to define international workers as:

  • An Indian employee working in a foreign country with which India has entered into a Social Security Agreement (SSA) and who is eligible to avail himself or herself of the benefits under a social security programme of that foreign country; or A foreign employee holding a non-Indian passport and working for a covered establishment in India.

With the introduction of Paragraph 83, the following features of the EPF Scheme became applicable to foreign employees working in India and not covered under any SSA signed with India:

  • The employer is required to make PF contributions without any wage ceiling limit on the wages received in India as well as outside India for the services provided in India.
  • International workers from non-SSA countries are not allowed to withdraw the balance in their EPF account until they reach the age of retirement as per PF laws,  58 years.

 The respondent in this case – the Union Government of India — contended that the objective behind entering into SSAs and the introduction of the EPF Scheme provisions related to international workers was to protect Indian employees going abroad to work from being subjected to the foreign country’s social security, and to provide reciprocal treatment to the foreign nationals of such countries while they work in India.

In light of these provisions, the petitioners raised a question to the Karnataka High Court: “Whether the introduction of para 83 of the Provident Fund Scheme and para 43A of Pension Scheme is unconstitutional and hit by Article 14 of the Constitution of India?”

 High Court ruling

The High Court struck down Paragraph 83 of the EPF Scheme and Paragraph 43A of the EPS as “unconstitutional” and “arbitrary.” It further stated that all orders passed thereunder by the EPF authorities are unenforceable.

In the absence of parity and reciprocity, there is no justification to demand PF contributions on the entire global pay of a foreign employee from a non-SSA country.

The difference between the contribution by an employee going to a non-SSA country and an employee from a non-SSA country coming to India is clearly discriminatory and violative of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, according to the court.

Foreign citizens and Indian citizens working in India are being considered as two different classes, which violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution because both groups are equal but are being treated differently.


The ruling is likely to be challenged by the Indian government and the EPFO, and may receive finality in the Supreme Court. Similar matters are pending with other High Courts as well.

This ruling could have a far-reaching impact on all ongoing litigation matters relating to PF contributions and damages imposed for IWs. Hence, employers should evaluate the impact of the ruling on their compliance strategy for IWs working in India.

Proprietary blog of Karma Global – collated and compiled by the internal staff of Karma Global  with the knowledge and expertise that they possess,  besides adaptation, illustration, derivation, transformation, collection and auto-generation for its monthly newsletter Issue 24  of  June   2024  and in case of specific or general information or compliance updates for that matter, kindly reach out to the Marketing Team –  mudra@karmamgmt.com

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