The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India has issued an order containing certain relaxations and guidelines for the fourth phase of the COVID-19 lockdown, which will be in effect till May 31, 2020.
Through its order of May 17, the MHA has ceased all its previous orders, including order issued on 29th may according to which employers had to pay wages to employees during the lockdown
The May 17 Order by Ministry of Home Affairs states,
“Whereas, save as otherwise provided in the guidelines annexed to this Order, all orders issued by NEC under Section 2(10)(I) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 shall cease to have effect from 18.05.2020.”
As Labour is a subject in the Concurrent List wherein both the Central & State Governments are allowed to enact legislation subject to certain matters, State Governments may enact separate rules if it intends to compel employers to pay during the Covid period.
As soon as the March 29 notification came out, it was challenged in several petitions before the Supreme Court. The lead petitioner in the case is Ficus Pax, represented by Advocate-on-Record Jeetender Gupta.
The Karnataka-based company had challenged the constitutional validity of a March 20 notification by the Secretary (Labour & Employment) and clause III of the March 29 notification by the MHA as being constitutionally invalid as they compelled payment of full wages to workers and employees during the period of lockdown.
The petitioner company asserted that these notifications were “arbitrary, illegal, irrational, unreasonable and contrary to the provisions of law including Article 14 and Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India.”
The petitions were listed for hearing on May 15, when the Government of India sought some time to file its response.