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PIL in Bombay HC seeks provision of Risk and Hardship Allowance to Police officers battling COVID-19 on the frontlines

Inter alia, the petitioners have also challenged a Government Resolution passed recently which proposes to defer the salary payment of police officers, in the absence of any financial emergency being declared.

Meera Emmanuel

A PIL has been moved in the Bombay High Court, urging for directions to pay police officers on the frontlines in the battle against COVID-19 a risk and hardship allowance for their services during the pandemic.

Among other prayers, the petitioners have also challenged a Government Resolution passed recently by the Maharastra Government which proposes to defer the payment of salaries for police officers, "without any financial emergency being declared."

The petition filed by Tosif C Shaikh and Satish S Gaikwad through Advocate Ganesh Gupta highlights that, "the police forces across the country is working over-time, and is working in hazardous conditions. It is submitted that the police personnel are being subject to immediate risk of the disease being on the frontline, next only to doctors and medical staff."

While this is the case, it is pointed out that there are no safeguards in place made available for them.

The petition goes on to contend that reports indicate only 50% of the salaries for Class I and II employees and 25% of salaries for Class III employees will be paid during the pandemic period, while there is no financial emergency declared.

As per news reports, the Government has clarified that this is not a pay cut, but rather that the salaries would be deferred and disbursed in installments, in view of the present health crisis and its economic impact. The petitioners, however, argue that this would affect the morale of police officers who are on field trying to contain this deadly virus. Further, the petition states.

"It is submitted that deduction of salaries will only act as punitive and onerous as the officers are working tirelessly to contain the spread of the disease. It is submitted that such deduction of salaries is bound to have a negative impact on the morale of thousands of officers and staff working in these tough times."
Petitoners

Apart from praying that this proposal be stayed by the Court, the petitioners also argue that a risk and hardship allowance and other incentives must be paid to police officers for their services in controlling the spread of the pandemic.

"Presently, there is no such scheme that would secure hazard pay or any additional compensation for the police personnel, who are rising their lives, as well as the lives of those who come into contact with them", the petitioners state.

The proposal is mooted in the backdrop of the risks faced by police officers while working on the frontlines.

In this regard, the petitioners cite various reports of police officers having contracted the virus, attacks faced by the police while performing their duties as well as social ostracism being faced by such officers. Added to this, concern is also raised that police officers are being overworked and have to face mental stress during this time.

To alleviate these problems, the petitioners have urged the Court to issue directions for the payment of risk and hardship allowance and other incentives in form of bonuses or additional salary to police officers. It is added that if any salary is deducted during this period, it should be ensured that the same is reimbursed by the Government.

Further, it is prayed that police officers must be provided with Personal Protction Equipment (PPE) kits, gloves, masks etc. to guard against contracting the disease.

To make up for the shortage in police officers, it is also suggested that the Government recruit physically able persons on an ad hoc basis so that the police is not overworked during this time.

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