'Treat with urgency': SC tells govt about pleas against compulsory wages

A view of the Supreme Court | Photo: PTI
The government must treat "treat with urgency" issues raised in pleas challenging a home ministry notification asking private organisations to pay wages to workers during a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

“All employers, be it in the industry or in the shops and commercial establishments, shall make payment of wages of their workers, at their workplaces, on the due date, without any deduction, for the period their establishments are under closure during the lockdown,” the ministry had said on March 29.

The home ministry repealed the order after hearing industry associations, Business Standard reported on May 19
Attorney General K K Venugopal told a three-judge Supreme Court bench the government had issued a notification on May 17 to override the March 29 ministry order. The court then asked the government to file its response and posted the matter for hearing next week.

"Treat this with urgency. Lot of people are affected," the court told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was also appearing in the matter.

The court had observed on May 15 that the March 29 notification directing companies to make payment of full wages to workers even if they were not working during the lockdown involved a larger question. It said small companies may not have earned during the lockdown and may be unable to pay wages to their workers, news agency PTI reported.

It said if government does not help these small companies, then they might not be able to pay their workers.

A lawyer appearing for one of the petitioners argued that companies are going out of business, as they do not have orders for production and they risk being prosecuted due to the home ministry’s order.

An association of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) has said in its plea before the court that the MHA order was passed without due care and deliberation on the financial implications for employers.

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