SC tells Centre, states not to take coercive action against private firms for non-payment of full wages during lockdown

The SC bench, which passed an order in the matter, told the state governments to facilitate such settlement process and file its report with the labour commissioners concerned.

Press Trust of India June 12, 2020 14:53:13 IST
SC tells Centre, states not to take coercive action against private firms for non-payment of full wages during lockdown

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Centre and states not to take any coercive action till July end against private companies, which have failed to pay full wages to their employees during the coronavirus-induced lockdown period.

A bench of justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MR Shah said industries and employees need each other and they should sit together to arrive at a settlement on the issue of payment of wages.

The bench, which passed an order in the matter, told the state governments to facilitate such settlement process and file its report with the labour commissioners concerned.

It also told the Centre to file an additional affidavit within four weeks with regard to the legality of Ministry of Home Affairs' 29 March circular which had mandated payment of full wages during the lockdown period.

SC tells Centre states not to take coercive action against private firms for nonpayment of full wages during lockdown

File image of Supreme Court. Reuters

The bench posted the petitions filed by various companies against the 29 March circular, for further hearing in last week of July.

The apex court told the Centre and state governments to circulate its order through labour departments to facilitate the settlement process.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in its 29 March circular, had told all employers to make payment of wages to their workers without any deduction for the period their establishments were under closure during the lockdown to contain COVID-19.

The Secretary (Labour & Employment) had also written to chief secretaries of states to advise employers not to terminate employees from their jobs or reduce their wages amid the challenging situation of the pandemic.

Attorney-General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, had earlier told the court that as the people were migrating after the lockdown, the government came out with the notification to ensure that the workers are paid to help them in staying put at workplaces.

The top law officer had referred to the provisions of the National Disaster Management Act to argue the validity of the 29 March circular.

The Centre had also filed an affidavit justifying its 29 March direction saying that the employers claiming incapacity in paying salaries must be directed to furnish their audited balance sheets and accounts in the court.

The government had said that the 29 March directive was a "temporary measure to mitigate the financial hardship" of employees and workers, especially contractual and casual, during the lockdown period and the directions have been revoked by the authority with effect from 18 May.

While requesting the top court to dispose of as infructuous the batch of pleas challenging the 29 March notification, the government had said the "impugned notifications have outlived their life and adjudication of the same would only entail an academic exercise as it would not be in the interest of the public to seek recovery of salaries paid to employees and workers for the said 54 days".

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