The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the operation of a Ministry of Home affairs (MHA) circular asking private companies to pay full salaries to their employees during the lockdown. The Bench headed by Justice Nageswar Rao while staying the MHA circular said no coercive action should be taken until the Centre files its response next week.
On March 29 2020, MHA had passed an order directing industry, shops and commercial establishments, to pay salaries to workers, without any COVID-19 deductions. Various petitions was filed by companies including Ludhiana Hand Tools Association and Ficus Pax. They sought the quashing of the MHA’s circular and blamed the government of passing such orders without due care and deliberation on the financial implications for the employers. The petitioners warned that making such payments will lead to the closure of many of the units and which in turn will cause permanent unemployment and will adversely affect the economy.
The move was also called arbitrary before a three-judge bench. There is a larger question involved and the government has to find an answer to it,” the bench said referring to the home ministry order. The court, it should be clarified, did not stay the MHA order per-se but only prevented the Government for now from acting on it.
The government is lifting restrictions in a phased manner owing to the COVID-19 situation. In its previous advisory, the government had allowed some industrial units to open in the green zones. In many states, the industrial units are opening in a graded manner with staggered work force, owing to social distancing norms.