The Bombay High Court heard the case of Rashtriya Shramik Aghadi v. State of Maharashtra & Ors. on 12th May. It observed that it was harsh to follow the principle of “no work, no wage” in the present scenario.
The suitors are a union of contract labourers. They work for the temple trust named Shri Tuljabhavani Mandir Sansthan in Tuljapur. They had filed a grievance petition before the Court. It stated that they are willing to offer their services as security guards and health workers. It further described their plight where they were not paid due to their inability to work. This inability arose due to the present lock-down.
The Court observed that the workers were receiving a meagre amount of their salary for April. Besides, the Trust also made deductions from their salary for March. Proceedings containing these grievances are also pending before the Assistant Commissioner of Labour. Those concern the Industrial Disputes Act and Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act.
Arguments Before The Court
The counsel for the petitioner has presented a ready reference chart to the Court. It showcased the unfair deductions made in the monthly salaries of the workers. It proved the grievances made by the union.
The counsel for the respondent challenged the sustainability of the petition. He submitted that since the issue is pending before another body, the Court should not take up the same.
Coram- Justice Ravindra V. Ghuge
The Court rejected the argument of the respondent. It stated that it cannot turn a “Nelson’s eye” because of COVID-19 pandemic. It further observed that the petitioners are able-bodied persons. They are willing to offer their services as contract labourers in the security and house-keeping wing of the Trust. Yet, they are unable to work due to the closure of temples for containing the pandemic. In such a case, even the principal employer is unable to provide them with work.
The Court held that prima facie, the concept of “no work, no wages” is not applicable in the present case. The Court cannot turn a blind eye to the plight of the workers in such difficult times.
The counsel for the respondent was unable to disapprove the arguments of the petitioner. Hence, the Court directed the petitioner to add the contractors as additional respondents. Further, the Court gave the suitors liberty to serve the contractors.
The District Collector of Osmanabad is also instructed in the capacity of the President of the Trust. He is to ensure that full wages except food and conveyance allowance is being paid out. The wages are for the months of March, April, and May 2020. The disbursement of wages is now subject to the decision of the Assistant Commissioner. He will take the decision after the complete lifting of the lock-down.
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