Can’t coerce firms to pay full wages, says apex court

Can’t coerce firms to pay full wages, says apex court

New Delhi, June 4

The Supreme Court today said no coercive action can be taken against employers for violating the March 29 notification of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) mandating payment of full wages to employees during the lockdown.

MHA notification

  • An MHA notification mandated payment of full wages to staff during lockdown

  • The govt said this aimed at averting mass migration by workers

  • Petitioners say the Disaster Management Act cannot impinge upon provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act

The Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan passed an interim order after the Centre submitted that the MHA notification was a temporary measure for 54 days.

The court reserved its order on a batch of petitions challenging the validity of the MHA notification for June 12.

The petitioners, including Karnataka-based company Ficus Pax and Ludhiana Hand Tools Manufacturers Association, have challenged the validity of Section 10(2)(i) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

The provisions of this Act cannot “impinge upon express provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, and take away the right to layoff workmen during times of natural calamity,” they said.

Terming the MHA order under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, as arbitrary, they said the order violated the private companies’ right to carry on any occupation, trade or business guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. Attorney General KK Venugopal said the notification aimed at averting mass migration by workers and preventing human suffering.

“But your notification compelled payment of 100 per cent of salaries... it can be around 50 to 75 per cent. So the question is, do you have the power to get them to pay 100 per cent, and on their failure to do so, prosecute them?” the Bench sought to know. — TNS

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