New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday will pronounce an order on a clutch of pleas by several companies including MSMEs challenging the MHA notification on full payment of wages to employees during the 54-day nationwide lockdown to contain the outbreak of Covid-19.
A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M R Shah will pronounce the judgment on the matter. On June 4, the Centre had informed the apex court that its March 29 notification on full payment of wages to workers by their employers during the lockdown was not unconstitutional. The Centre's counsel contended it was a measure taken to prevent perpetration of financial crisis within the lower strata of the society, labourers and salaried employees.
The Centre, in the affidavit filed, said the March 29 order was not a permanent measure, and it has already been withdrawn. "It is further emphasized and reiterated that the said directions (March 29 order) were issued by Union of India as a temporary measure to mitigate the financial hardship of the employees and workers specially contractual and casual during the lockdown period", said the Centre.
The affidavit emphasized this measure was proactively taken to prevent perpetration of financial crisis within the lower strata of the society, labourers and salaried employees. The MHA said the direction for payment of wages was in public interest, and was taken by the National Executive Committee under the pertinent provisions of the Disaster Management Act. Therefore, the National Executive Committee had full competence to issue the March 29 order.
The Centre said regarding the contention that the employers are not in a financial position to pay their employees and workmen, no material has been placed on record to establish this fact. "The petitioners-employers must be directed to furnish proof of their incapacity to pay wages and salaries in terms of the March 29 order, by placing on record their audited balance sheets and accounts", said the Centre.
The affidavit, filed by the MHA, added that the March 29 order has outlived its life and adjudication of the same would only entail academic exercise, as it would not be in interest of the public to seek recoveries of salaries to employees and workers for the 54 days. Therefore, the petition should be disposed of as being infructuous.
Scores of firms from across the states have moved the apex court challenging the March 29 order, which obligated employers to pay full wages to their workers during the period of the lockdown. The industries have challenged the MHA on the source of power to pass such directions, and highlighted that financial burden cannot be put on the private firms, when the companies are shut during lockdown.