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While adjourning the matter today, the Court extended its interim order of protection by another three weeks when the case will be taken up next.
The Supreme Court today extented its earlier interim order protecting the Indian Jute Mills Association from coercive action for not paying full wages to its workers during the COVID-19 lockdown for another three weeks.
The Association was one among many who had moved the top Court seeking to quash the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) notification compelling payment of full wages to workers during the lockdown.
Appearing for the Association today, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi reiterated the submission that the jute industry is governed under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955. He added that under the Jute Control order, all employers have to pay a fixed amount.
He went on to contend that the Jute Mills Assocation's case should not be tagged with other similar pleas. This is a peculiar one, he said, pointing out that though during the lockdown they were granted an exemption, they carried on work since jute products are essential commodities.
Rohatgi also pointed out that the latest MHA circular of May 18 has superseded its earlier orders. Therefore, he submitted that the issue now is regarding how the wage payment should be looked at for the lockdown period until May 18.
After hearing brief submissions today, Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MR Shah today decided to adjourn the matter further by a two week period. During this time, the interim protection earlier granted to the Association would continue. Further, the Central Government has also been asked to file a reply in the matter.
The plea argues that imposition of an unreasonable condition to fully pay wages to all employees, regardless of the financial condition of the employer, imposes a grave financial burden on the employer and can push a private establishment to bankruptcy and closure, thus, being violative of Article 19(1)(g).
It further states that, the ramifications of private establishments to abide by such financial burdens do not stand the test of reasonableness under Article 19(6).
The Petitioner Association was represented by Senior Advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Abhrajit Mitra assisted by Karanjawala & Co. Senior Partner Nandini Gore, Principal Associate Tahira Karanjawala, Senior Associate Arjun Sharma and Associate Jasvir Singh Sabharwal along with Advocates Nikhil Rohatgi and Rajshree Kajaria.