A Mumbai-based textiles exports firm petitioned the Supreme Court, challenging the order of the Central government on March 29 and that of Maharashtra government on March 31 asking private sector companies to pay full wages to their employees, including contract workers, casual workers, and others for the lockdown period.
The petitioner Nagreeka Exports Limited – engaged in manufacturing and exporting of cotton yarns, fabric, and textiles – has assailed the constitutional validity of the orders issued under the provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, only to the extent of “compelling” the employers and companies to pay wages to their employees for the lockdown period when their enterprises were not operational.
How can a shutdown company pay to its workers, the petition asked referring to the government's order that "all the employers, be it in the industry or in the shops and commercial establishments, shall make payment of wages of their workers, at their workplaces, on the due date, without any deduction, for the period their establishments are under closure during lockdown period."
Seeking the stay of the operation of the orders mandating full wages, the petitioner company has contended that because of stoppage of operations since the lockdown, it has suffered losses to the tune of Rs.1.50 crore. On top of it, it would cost another Rs 1.75 crore if full salary is to be disbursed.
“… these directions have caused consternation to a large number of employers in the country, despite their best intentions for and efforts towards, supporting their employees during this period of crises,” the petition asserts.
Raising a number of questions on the sustainability of the orders, the petitioner has asked whether Centre and the Maharashtra government were empowered under the Disaster Management Act to direct private enterprises to pay 100% wages to all the workers, without any deduction, for the entire period when his establishment is closed during the lockdown.
In a poser, the petition asks whether the government was right in issuing “vague directions without specifying” whether they were applicable to the employers of migrant workers, or it is a blanket direction to all employers.