The Bombay High Court on Tuesday held that the principle of 'No Work No Pay' cannot be made applicable in such extraordinary circumstances prevailing in the country due to the pandemic of Covid-19.
Justice RV Ghuge of the Aurangabad bench directed the President of Tuljabhavani Mandir Sansthan to ensure that contract workers/labourers are paid full wages until May 2020.
Court was hearing via video conferencing the writ petition filed by Rashtriya Shramik Aghadi, a union of contract workers/labourers who expressed willingness to offer their services as security guards and health workers with Shri Tuljabhavani Mandir Sansthan, Tuljapur but due to the closure of all places of worship like Temples, Gurudwaras etc in wake of the nationwide lockdown, they are unable to work.
The Court noted that although certain proceedings under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 and the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 are pending before the Assistant Commissioner of Labour, Latur, further hearings in the matter are not possible due to the clamping of the lockdown.
Petitioner's advocate SP Shah uploaded a ready reference chart to indicate the gross monthly wages of the employees till January and February and the payments made by the contractors to the said employees for the months of March and April, 2020.
Shah submitted that the payments made by the contractors for the month of March are slightly lesser than the gross salary and payment for the month of April is a paltry sum.
Whereas, Advocate PP Mandlik appeared on behalf of the District Collector, Osmanabad and the Tahsildar. He submitted that the District Collector is now the President of the Trust and the Tahasildar is the Manager of Administration of the said temple trust. Thus, considering the pendency of proceedings before the Assistant Labour Commissioner, Latur, Mandlik said that the issue of maintainability should be left open.
Justice Ghuge observed-
"This Court cannot turn Nelson's eye to an extraordinary situation on account of Coronavirus/ COVID19 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 housekeeping sector of the Trust, are unable to work since the temples and places of worships in the entire nation have been closed for securing the containment of COVID19 pandemic. Even the principal employer is unable to allot the work to such employees in such situations. 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 Covid19 pandemic."
Mandlik told the Court that he was unable to comment upon the chart just now uploaded by the learned advocate for the petitioner since he has not taken instructions regarding the payment made to the contractors for the months of April and May, 2020.
Finally, the Court directed petitioners to add the two contractors as respondents in the petition and told the District Collector, Osmanabad, in his capacity as President to ensure that full wages, excluding food allowance and conveyance allowance will be disbursed by the contractors to the concerned employees for the months of March, April and May, 2020.
Posting the matter for hearing on June 9, Justice Ghuge said-
"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 this petition or the 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."
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