Kerala

HC stays govt. order on salary deferment

‘Move amounts to denial of the right to property’

The Kerala High Court on Tuesday stayed for two months the State government order on deferring payment of 30 days’ salary of government servants and employees of other State government-owned undertakings.

Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas passed the interim order on a slew of petitions filed by various unions challenging the government order to defer payment of six days salary every months from April to August It was not applicable to employee who was drawing a gross salary below ₹20,000.

The court while staying the order observed that prima facie the law authorising the government to issue such an order was found wanting.

The judge also noted that there was ambiguity in the order regarding the manner in which the amount deducted was proposed to be set apart or was to be utilised. The government order only referred to the financial difficulties faced by the government due to the COVID-19 situation

Financial difficulty

Financial difficulty was not a ground for the government to defer payment of salary of its employees. Prima facie, deferment of payment of salary, for whatever purposes amounted to denial of the right to property, the court added.

The counsel for the trade unions contended that Article 300A of the Constitution (right to property) would include within its ambit ‘salary’ as well. The Article mandates that no person shall be deprived of his/her property save by the authority of the law.

They further argued that no law empowered the government to defer the salary payment of the employees. Besides, the payment could not be deferred without their consent.

‘No power’

Rejecting a contention of the government, the court pointed out that the Disaster Management Act or the Epidemic Diseases Act did not specifically confer any power on the government to defer salary payment during the times of any disaster.

Advocate General C.P. Sudhakara Prasad submitted that the government order only postponed the payment of salary and did not deprive the employees of their right . The deferment was ordered to overcome the financial difficulties faced by the government.

The government spent 50% of the its revenue for the payment of salaries. The power to defer payment of the salaries could be traced to the provisions of the Disaster Management Act 2005 and the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 as amended in 2020, the AG argued.

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 11:52:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/hc-stays-govt-order-on-salary-deferment/article31455551.ece

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