Kerala High Court
Kerala High Court
Litigation News

[Breaking] Deferment of salary amounts to denial of property: Kerala HC stays state govt move to defer payment of salaries to govt employees

The Court made the observation while staying the Kerala Government's recent decision to defer paying 6 days' worth salaries to government employees for 5 months in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

Bar & Bench

The Kerala High Court today stayed the state government's recent decision to defer paying six days' worth salaries to government employees for the next five months in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

While doing so, the Court opined that the same would, prima facie, amount to a denial of the right to property.

To meet financial difficulties arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kerala government had issued an order (GO) stating that the salaries of all government employees who are in receipt of a gross salary of above Rs 20,000 would be deferred to the extent of six days every month from April till August.

The government's decision in this regard had been challenged by various government employee associations, whose petitions were taken up this afternoon by Justice Bechu Kurian.

Justice Bechu Kurian
Justice Bechu Kurian

After hearing detailed submissions by various counsel for the petitioners, including Senior Advocate KP Satheeshan, Advocates Kiranlal and Rekhesh Sharma, as well as the arguments by Advocate General CP Sudhakara Prasad, assisted by Advocate Manoj for the State, the High Court concluded,

"Payment of salary is certainly not a matter of bounty. It is a right vested in every individual to receive the salary. Article 300A of the Constitution which confers a right to property will include within its purview "salary" also a property, at least prima facie."
Kerala High Court

Justice Kurian went on to hold that the Advocate General’s submission that the government has the power to delay the disbursement of salary by a few months through an executive order "cannot, in the face of law, be countenanced."

The judge further observed that he could not find any statutory basis for the deferment of salaries, neither in the Epidemic Diseases Act, nor in the Disaster Management Act.

"The provisions read out (by the State of Kerala) do not specify or confer any power upon any government to defer the salary due to its employees during any kind of disaster."
Kerala High Court

The Court also added that there seems to be some ambuguity in the challenged GO on how the amounts proposed to be set apart would be utilised by the government.

"It only refers to the financial difficulties that are faced. The said financial difficulty is not a ground for the State Government to defer the payment of salary", the Court observed.

In view of these observations, the Kerala High Court proceeded to stay the operation of the challenged Government Order for a period of two months. The judge held,

"Prima facie, I find, the deferment of salary, for whatever purposes it may be, amounts to a denial of property. In such a view of the matter, I stay the operation of Exhibit P1 (GO) for a period of 2 months."
Kerala High Court

Read the order:

KERALA VYDYUTHI MAZDOOR SANGHAM vs. STATE OF KERALA AND ORS. - KERALA HC ORDER.pdf
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