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The plea challenged MHA's advisory against wage deduction. The High Court declined to intervene, for now, save to clarify that where restrictions have been partially lifted, the wages of absentee workers can be deducted.
The Bombay High Court on Thursday declined to interfere, for the time-being, in a plea challenging the MHA notification requiring employers to pay their workers their salaries during the period of the COVID-19 lockdown (Align Components Pvt. Ltd., and another Vs. Union of India and others).
The Court declined to interfere, noting that a similar matter is pending before the Supreme Court at present.
Appearing for the petitioners, Advocate TK Prabhakaran told the Court the petitioners were seeking an exemption from paying their workers during this time, given that manufacturing activities have been restricted.
All the same, it was submitted that the petitioners were willing to pay 50% of the gross wages or the minimum rates of wages prescribed under the Minimum Wages Act, whichever is higher.
The Court, however, noted that the Supreme Court on Monday had declined to grant any interim relief in similar matters moved before it, while adjourning the proceedings to after two weeks.
Further, Justice Ravindra V Ghuge, noted that the Kerala High Court has stayed an order issued by the Kerala Government Finance Department to defer the payment of 50% salary.
In this backdrop, the Bombay High Court declined to interfere in the matter for now, stating, "I am of the view that as the Hon'bble Apex Court is dealing with a similar cause of action, I would not be inclined to interfere with the impugned order."
Justice Ghuge added,
"[I] would expect the petitioners to pay the gross monthly wages to the employees, save and except conveyance allowance and food allowance, if being paid on month to month basis in the cases of those workers who are not required to report for duties."
Bombay High Court
Notably, the Court also clarified that in industrial areas where the State of Maharashtra has partially lifted the lockdown, the employers can deduct the wages of employees who fail to report for duty. In this regard, the order records,
The matter has now been posted to be taken up next on May 18 or on the day this Court holds Court hearing thereafter.
The Court added, "the payment of gross wages by these petitioners to the workers, save and except conveyance/food allowance, shall be subject to the result of this petition."
Read the Order: