On March 31, 2020, The State Government had announced the deferment of salaries and pensions of its employees, including Chief Minister, IAS Officers and Ministers. The Government, claiming that all the revenue streams have totally dried up due to the lockdown, issued deferments ranging from 10 to 100 per cent for different categories of employees.
The Chief Minister, Ministers and Legislators were to get a 100% cut off their salaries. IAS, IPS, IFS and All-India Service Officers were to get a 60% cut while Class 2 and Class 3 employees suffer a 50% cut. The increase in demand for medical equipment, protection equipment, health facilities and financial assistance for the poor had put a strain on the reserves of the State.
The Government Order 26 issued by the State Government was challenged by Advocate Jandhyala Ravi Shankar who has filed a petition in the High Court of Andhra Pradesh against this matter. The petition was heard on Tuesday via video conference where Chief Justice Jitendra Kumar Maheswari granted one week’s time to the Advocate General to respond.
Arguments before the Court
Mr. Ravi Shankar argued that the State Government has no jurisdiction to issue instructions for deferment of pension. He further referred to the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, and the Disaster Management Act, 2005, to point out that there is no provision that empowers the Government to defer salaries or pensions. He claimed the liability of the G.O to be struck down.
Mr. Ravi Shankar also requested the Chief Justice to consider taking up the matter as s suo moto Public Interest Litigation in order to protect the life and liberties guaranteed to government pensioners under the Constitution of India.
While the Epidemic diseases Act, 1897, is a 123-year old legislation that gives the authorities full immunity against legal action if acted in good faith of the Act, these powers cannot be subject to interpretation and misuse in the current world. With the current situation, the Act needs to be subjected to a review in order to provide justice for those affected.
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