A group of 11 MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) having at least one of their factories in Haryana have approached the Supreme Court to challenge Union Government advisories/orders compelling of 20th March and 29th March payment of full wages during the period of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Advocate Jeetender Gupta representing the petitioners contended that government should relieve the companies from paying 70% of the salary of each worker during the lockdown.
It was added that the Government has to take up paying the 70% percent from the funds collected by the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) or the PM Cares Fund or through any other Government Fund / Scheme.
The petitioners have challenged the March 20 advisory by the Ministry of Labour & Employment and the March 29 order of the Ministry of Home Affairs as violative of Articles 14 and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India. It stated the MHA orders “employers, be it in the industry or in the shops and commercial establishments shall make payment of wages of their workers at their work places, on the due date, without any deduction, for the period their establishments are under closure during the lockdown.”
The plea stated that the employers should be allowed to pay less 70% of the salary of employees as their business is stand still during this lockdown. Plea further stated,
“The government should be directed to subsidize the wages of workers to the tune of 70% for lockdown period by utilizing the funds collected by the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) or the PM Cares Fund or through any other Government Fund / Scheme.”
“Business of the Petitioners has come to a standstill still due to lock down and on the other hand the Petitioners are being compelled under the Impugned Notifications to pay for the wages to workers for entire lockdown period. The Petitioners are being further restrained from reducing their workforce especially the casual or contract or migrant workers. The Petitioners are under extreme financial & mental stress because of the Impugned Notifications”
The petition asked for entitlement for laying off and retrenching workers in terms of Sections 2(kkk), 2(oo) and Sections 25C to 25N of the Industrial Disputes Act.
The petition stated that the primary obligation is of the government to pay the salaries of employees not of employers. It further stated,
“The two notifications are contrary to Article 300A of the Constitution of India as per which no person shall be deprived of his property save by the authority of law. However, by way of enforcement of Impugned Notifications, the Respondents are compelling Petitioner to meet out an expense which is otherwise the obligation of the Respondents and not that of the Petitioners.”
Read the petition here: