Govt. Order to pay wages during lockdown challenged in Supreme Court
Nagreeka Exports Limited, a firm engaged in manufacture and export of cotton yarns, fabric and textiles has filed a plea in the Supreme Court seeking to quash a government order that asks employers to pay full salary to employees, contract and casual workers during the lockdown. Nagreeka stated in its plea that since operations have stopped since the lockdown began on March 25, it has suffered losses to the tune of Rs 1.50 crore till the time the plea was filed.
The petition stated, "On top of that, as per the said orders dated March 29, 2020, and March 31, 2020, petitioner had to disburse full salaries to all its employees on its payroll, which amounts to approximately Rs 1.75 crore."
The plea challenges the constitutional validity of the order issued by the MHA on March 29. The MHA order had stated: All the employers, be it in the industry or 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 lockdown period.
The exporter has additionally challenged the subsequent Maharashtra government order of March 31 to the limited extent of compelling the petitioner to pay full salary to all its staff, workers, contract workers, casual workers during the period of lockdown, when its factories are not operational.
Nagreeka's petition seeks to adjudicate whether the Central government or the Maharashtra government are empowered to issue such a direction to a private establishment to pay 100 per cent wages under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
The exporter also argued that its losses will multiply now since the lockdown has been extended. Additionally, it argued that if it has to follow the government orders in entirety, its business will become unsustainable.
The orders will have "more far reaching consequences, affecting the livelihood of more people," the plea said.
The plea states that the government orders passed by the MHA and the Maharashtra government are "illegal, unconstitutional" and violative of Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution of India.
The petitioner has asked the apex court to set aside both the Centre's and Maharashtra government's orders to the extent that payment of full salaries were mandated.
Nagreeka further stated that till the pendency of the plea, it should be allowed to pay only 50 per cent of the salaries to its workers.