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The intervention application states that Nagreeka Exports has in no way challenged either the vires or the powers the government under the Disaster Management Act, 2005
Unorganised sector workers unions from Maharashtra and Delhi have moved the Supreme Court to intervene as applicants in a plea filed by a Mumbai-based textile firm challenging the order to pay workers full wages during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The textile company, Nagreeka Exports, had earlier approached the Supreme Court seeking quashing of the March 29 Ministry of Home Affairs order, which compelled employers to pay full wages and salaries to workers and employees during the period of lockdown.
After the MHA, on March 31, the Maharashtra government passed a similar order "compelling" industry owners to pay full salaries to staff, workers, contract workers and casual workers for the period of the lockdown.
Nagreeka Exports seeks quashing of both government notifications, stating that it had to face major losses to the tune of Rs 1.5 crore due to the lockdown. If they are compelled to pay full salaries, then there would be “far reaching consequences", the plea stated.
Angmehnanti Kashtakari Sangharsh Samiti (AKSS), an umbrella coalition of informal workers in the State of Maharashtra, and Delhi Municipal Workers Union (DMWU), the oldest trade union of the Delhi Municipal Corporation, have stated that if the prayer of Nagreeka Exports is allowed, then their “basic rights of sustenance and livelihood will be gravely affected.”
The trade union organisations' intervention application, filed by Advocate Sunil Fernandes, submits that Nagreeka Exports has in no way challenged either the vires or the powers the government under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
"The entirety of the aforesaid writ petition is based on the vague prayer of the Petitioner possibly suffering financial burden in complying with the provisions, the Petitioner has not made out a single ground to challenge the aforesaid orders on how the balance of conveniences tilts in their favour or on equity."
IA filed by workers' unions
Substantiating how the notifications are based on solid footing, the petitioner states that the same have been passed under Section 10 of the DMA and have a direct nexus with ‘preparedness to deal with the disaster’ of COVID-19.
The plea further states that such a directive was passed so that migrant workers do not fear unemployment and flee to their villages, thereby causing further damage to the plan to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. It states,
"The directives were given to ensure migratory workers do not flee to their villages/hometowns in panic created by the Pandemic as well as the uncertainty of income due to illegal retrenchments, layoffs during this period by employers. Such incidents of mass migrations, as already witnessed in Delhi and Mumbai, would lead to catastrophic consequences which would undo the impact in success to curb the spread of the COVID-19, that the lockdown seeks to achieve."
Since Nagreeka exports had raked up how the Industrial Disputes Act allows employers to lay off employees if no work is done, the intervenors state that the government directive was to “ensure the measly wages given to workers are not scuttled by taking recourse to laying off under Section 2(kkk) and Sections 25C and 25M of the Industrial Disputes Act.” The IA goes on to state,
“Section 72 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 is a non obstante clause and has an overriding effect over other legislation wherever there may be a conflict. Hence, suspension of provisions and superseding the same during the lockdown period by taking recourse to DMA is constitutionally legal under Article 254 and since the DMA is a later statute, it would prevail over provisions under the Industrial Disputes Act/State Industrial Acts."
[READ THE INTERVENTION APPLICATION]