New Delhi: In a big relief to employers, the Supreme Court on Friday directed the Centre and states not to take any coercive action till July end against private companies, which have failed to pay full wages to their employees during the lockdown period. A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M R Shah said industries and employees need each other and they should sit together to arrive at a settlement on the issue of payment of wages.
The bench also asked the Centre to file an additional affidavit within four weeks with regard to the legality of Ministry of Home Affairs' March 29 circular which had mandated payment of full wages during the lockdown period. The bench has posted the petitions filed by various companies against the March 29 circular, for further hearing in last week of July. The apex court further asked the Centre and the state governments to circulate its order through labour departments to facilitate the settlement process. The employers had argued in the court that they have no financial capacity to pay full wages during the period as they had no business.
In an affidavit, the government had insisted that all those rushing to the Apex Court did have the money to pay the labourers in full, urging the court to order them to first produce their account and balance sheets to prove their claim of incapacity to pay Notwithstanding the withdrawal of the notification on May 18,the government had defended it during the last hearing on June 4, on the ground that it had the powers to give such directions in a pandemic under the national disaster management Act "to protect the migrant workers and labourers who were at the receiving end of the lockdown with no work."