Mumbai: Judge Ravindra V. Ghuge of The High Court of Judicature at Bombay (Aurangabad bench) in the writ petition No. 4013 of 2020 filed by Rashtriya Shramik Aghadi against the State of Maharashtra and others ruled in the matter taken up through video conferencing during the nationwide lockdown on account of COVID 19 pandemic on May 12 – “This Court cannot turn a Nelson’s eye to an extraordinary situation on account of corona virus/COVID 19 pandemic. Able bodied persons who are willing and desirous to offer their services in deference to their deployment as contract labourers in the security and house keeping sectors of the Trust, are unable to work since the temples and places of worship in the entire nation have been closed for the containment of COVID 19 pandemic. Even the principal employer is unable to allot the work to such employees in such situation. Prima Facie, I feel that the principle of “no work – no wages” cannot be made applicable in such extraordinary circumstances. The Court cannot be insensitive to the plight of such workers, which has unfortunately befallen them on account of the COVID 19 pandemic.”

Judge Ravindra V. Ghuge of The High Court of Judicature at Bombay

Advocate S.P. Shah, who appeared on behalf of the workers union (RSA) made a grievance that after the lockdown has been affected and though the members of the union are willing to offer their services as security guards and health workers with Shri Tuljabhavani Mandir Sansthan, Tuljapur, they are precluded from performing their duties on account of the clamping of lockdown for containment of the COVID 19 pandemic. Though certain proceedings are pending under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 and the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 before the Assistant Commissioner of Labour, Latur, further hearings in the matter are not possible due to the clamping of the lockdown.

Shri Tuljabhavani Mandir Sansthan, Tuljapur

Judge R.V. Ghuge observed that the payments made by the contractors for the month of March 2020 are slightly lesser than the gross salary and for the month of April 2020 a paltry amount is paid.

Advocate P.P. Mandlik appearing for the respondents no. 2 and 3 submitted that the District Collector, Osmanabad is now the president of the Trust and the Tehsildar is the manager – administration and these two authorities are administering the Trust. Advocate D.R. Kale was the government pleader for respondent no. 1, the State of Maharashtra.

Stating that the petition shall stand over to June 9, 2020 or any date thereafter, when the Court conducts hearing of cases, the judge ruled, ‘In the meanwhile, the district Collector, Osmanabad, in his capacity as president of respondent no. 2 Trust/principal employer, shall ensure that full wages, save and except food allowance and conveyance allowance (only with regard to the employees who are not required to report for duties) shall be disbursed by the contractors to the concerned employees for the months of March, April and May 2020. The principle of “no work – no wages” shall not be invoked until further orders in this petition. Needless to state, such payment of wages would be subject to the result of the petition or proceedings before the Assistant Commissioner of Labour, Latur, which would progress only if the lockdown is completely lifted and free movement of citizens would be permitted’.

Ulka Mahajan of the Sarvahara Jan Andolan remarked that the Court’s order is very significant for payment of wages of the contract workers.