SC advises middle path over paying 100% salary during lockdown | Deccan Herald

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A view of the SC

The Supreme Court on Thursday suggested for finding a middle ground to protect the interest of crores of contractual workers and employees as well as  a group of companies, which vehemently opposed the Union government’s order to pay full salary for 54 days during the nationwide lockdown.

“Can you run an industry without labour? Therefore, you have to strike a balance. The issue should not be tilted either on side of the employer or the employee,” a bench presided over by Justice Ashok Bhushan told a battery of counsel representing various companies.

The top court directed that no coercive action should be taken against the companies until June 12, when it would pronounce its judgement on a batch of petitions questioning validity of March 29 order issued under the Disaster Manasement Act. It had earlier also on May 15 protected the companies against any prosecution on non compliance of the notification.

The bench, also comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M R Shah, said there can be negotiation industry wise. It may not be possible to give 100 % wages and the government can play a role of a facilitator.

“There is a concern that workmen should not be left without pay… but the concern should also be there that an industry may not have money to pay,” the bench said, asking Attorney General K K Venugopal to strike balance between the two sides.

Venugopal said in any event they have to pay 50 %. He asserted the government has done good job as it infused Rs 20,000 Crore in the MSME sector. 

The bench, however, stressed, “We can find out a via media. Give us a practical solution.”

Referring to the Industrial Dispute Act, Venugopal said there was a provision of conciliation and settlement. However, the most appropriate thing would be to consider the humanitarian situation due to which the order for full payment of salaries was issued.

The March 29 order for payment of wages without any deduction was revoked on May 17.

In an affidavit, the Union government said it would neither be in interest of justice nor in public interest to adjudicate upon validity of the notifications which operated only for 54 days to mitigate financial hardships of crores of workers and employees. 

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