A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court by advocates Rajesh Inamdar and Harpreet Saluja seeking a strict compliance of the Government notification issued on March 20 and 29 directing employers not to evict employees from their jobs and pay wages during the lockdown. The petitioners have clarified that they do not seek to make it difficult on the part of employers but are instead praying to strike a balance between the two since the employees are certainly at a disadvantaged position here.
The notifications by the government include the March 20 advisory by the Ministry of Labour and Employment and the March 29 directive by the Ministry of Home Affairs which clearly stated that employees shouldn’t be terminated and wages must be paid in full during the nationwide lockdown.
Since the extension of the lockdown till May 3, many private companies across the country have initiated mass termination, withholding of salaries and deduction of wages which is a violation of the government orders.
The plea also adds that the primary purpose of the petition is to ensure that employees in the private sector are not terminated and can atleast draw subsistence salary to get over during this lockdown. According to the plea, several employers have laid off employees even over phone calls which is a clear violation of statutes and acts which lay down the official procedure for such termination such as the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947.
Such termination have been executed without following the necessary steps required. Notice period, intimation to government authorities, payment of retrenchment compensation, payment of gratuity, leave encashment, etc. are some of the pointers that need to be taken care of before beginning the process of termination. Companies, as stated in the plea, haven’t undertaken any such process.
The plea is also based on humanitarian grounds that in a situation such as this where the entire world is lingering through a time of crisis, people belonging to disadvantaged class need to be taken care of, basic amenities be made available to them. Thus the petition involves contravention to several fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution such as that under Article 21 (Right to Life).
The biggest challenge for such a petition however, isn’t the process in the courtroom but instead its listing. Serious questions were raised on the functioning of the Supreme Court Registry since Republic TV founder Arnab Goswami’s plea in the Apex court got listed with 24 hours of its filing whereas the petition for migrant workers haven’t found a listing yet. The Registry has been accused of biasedness and favouritism in its functioning.