Ministry of Home Affairs drops order on wages for lockdown period

Several companies had moved SC against the order last week

Updated - May 18, 2020 10:01 pm IST

Published - May 18, 2020 09:09 pm IST - New Delhi

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The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has dropped a crucial order that required all employers — shops, industry and commercial establishments — to pay wages to workers for the period the units were shut during lockdown. The order that has now been dropped also called for action against landlords who forced students and migrant workers to vacate the premises during the lockdown.

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Several companies had moved the Supreme Court against the order last week and the apex court asked the government to not take any coercive against them.

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In the fresh set of guidelines issued for Lockdown 4.0 on Sunday, the March 29 order on migrants was removed. The MHA did not comment on the subject.

“Save as otherwise provided in the guidelines annexed to this order, all order issued by the NEC under Section 10(2)(I) of the Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005, shall cease to have effect from 18.05.2020,” the May 17 order said.

Disaster Management Act

Since the lockdown was first imposed on March 24 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic , the Centre invoked provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 for the first time in the country, which is binding on all States. District magistrates and Superintendents of Police are personally liable for the implementation of the orders issued under the DM Act.

The National Executive Committee (NEC) that issues the order is chaired by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla.

Clause III of the March 29 order said, “all the employers, be it in the industry or in the shops and commercial establishments, shall make payment of wages of their workers, at their workplaces, on the due date, without any deduction, for the period their establishments are under closure during the lockdown.”

It also said, “wherever the workers, including the migrants are living in rented accommodation, the landlords of those properties shall not demand payment of rent for a period of one month. If any landlord is forcing labourers and students to vacate the premises, they will be liable for action under the Act.”

The order directed the State governments to take necessary action under the DM Act in case of a violation.

A standard operating system for movement of stranded labour was issued on April 16 in continuation of the March order which allowed their movement within the boundaries of a State. This order, however has been retained in the May 17 guidelines.

In the first phase of the lockdown that lasted 21 days, no activity was allowed and all shops, factories and commercial establishments were completely shut. The guidelines were relaxed gradually and several factories were allowed to operate after following social distancing norms and other health protocols.

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