Plea in SC challenges full payment to workers in lockdown

New Delhi


A plea has been moved in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of the orders issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Maharashtra government ordering payment of salaries to the workers during the nationwide lockdown to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

The MHA on March 29 issued an order mandating payment of salaries to industry workers with deduction, for the lockdown period. On March 31, the Maharashtra government issued various directions to all private establishments not to terminate any workman, including temporary/contract workmen and pay wages for the period of lockdown even if any workman has not performed/attended work.

"The losses of the petitioner will be multiplied and if the petitioner has to observe the said orders, March 29 and March 31, in its entirety, then the business itself' will become unsustainable and will have more far reaching consequences, affecting the livelihood of more people", said Mumbai-based textile company Nagreeka Exports Limited, which moved the apex court challenging the constitutionality of these order.

The petitioner contended that these directions have caused consternation to a large number of employers in the country, despite their best intentions for and efforts towards, supporting their employees during this period of crisis.

The petitioner submitted that due to stoppage of operations since the lockdown, the firm has suffered losses to the tune of Rs 1.50 core, and complying with these orders, the petitioner had to disburse full salaries to all its employees on its payroll, which amounts to approximately Rs 1.75 crore. The petitioner has urged the top court to set aside both orders to the extent that payment of full salaries was mandated.

The plea claims the orders passed by the MHA and the Maharashtra government is illegal, unconstitutional and violates Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution. The petitioner contended that the Disaster Management Act does not provide for continued payment of wages by employers to their workers/employees during any disaster.

"National Disaster Management Authority and National Executive Committee constituted under the Act have no power under section 7 and 10, respectively, to direct the employers to make payment to their workers, without any deduction, during the period of lockdown. These government orders are passed beyond the legislative competence of the respondents and therefore, ultra vires the Disaster Management Act, 2005", said the plea.

The plea further urges during the pendency of the matter, the petitioner be allowed to pay only 50 per cent of the salaries to its workers. IANS