[vc_row][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_column_text][mkdf_dropcaps type="normal" color="" background_color=""]O[/mkdf_dropcaps]On 15th May 2020, in a Writ Petition (WP) filed by the Hand Tools Manufacturers Association (which claims to consist of 52 firms, partnerships and private limited companies engaged in the manufacture and distribution of hand tools) challenging the MHA notification directing employers to pay full wages to their workers during the lockdown, the Supreme Court has passed an interim order directing that “No coercive action shall be taken in the meanwhile” against its members. (A similar order has been passed in another petition filed by Indian Jute Mills Association.) These orders seem to have been passed erroneously and ought to be immediately reconsidered for the reasons stated herein.
While invoking the writ jurisdiction of a court, a petitioner is required to come with clean hands and be in compliance of the law at least as per its own contention. It also requires the court to consider the equities between the parties while remaining within the bounds of the law. The court also does not go beyond the prayer made in the petition to grant any further relief. In the event that the court finds that the petitioner is not in compliance of the law even as per its own contention, it would normally forthwith dismiss the petition. At best it would grant it time to comply and only then to consider the petition on merit. Hence, it follows that these petitioners must at least assert (and then to also satisfy the court) that they are indeed in compliance of the law as they perceive it.
It is noted from their petition (of the Hand Tools Manufacturers Association) that the petitioners have challenged only that part of the said notification which requires them to pay full wages to their workers during the lockdown. It is not their contention that they should be permitted to retrench workers or to close down in accordance with law. Hence, that contention cannot be advanced and need not be considered.
The petition contends inter alia that the Industrial Disputes Act, 1948 prescribes
“…payment of 50% wages under similar circumstances” and that “…the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 is a complete code in so far as the right to lay-off and payment of wages is concerned”.
Yet, it is noted that they have not contended that any of them had declared lay-off or that they were actually paying lay-off compensation (“50% wages under similar circumstances”) according to their understanding of the Industrial Disputes Act. Since there is no such assertion, it must be presumed that they have not declared lay-off and that they are not paying any compensation to their workers.
It is also noted that the petitioners have impleaded only the Union of India (UOI), the Home Ministry, and the Govt. of Punjab. Let alone the affected employees, there is not even a pretence of impleading any workers union/ association/ federation to represent their interests before the Court. While it is noted that the Solicitor General (SG) was present before the Court when the said order was passed, it may also be recalled that the SG had opposed another petition by an NGO (filed through Harsh Mander) which had sought the enforcement of its very same notification. Hence, the UOI has clearly been running with the hares and hunting with the hounds and does not seem to be keen to enforce the said order. Therefore, the presence of the SG should not have sufficed and the Court should have required the petitioner to at least implead some of the reputed unions or federations of workers before it passed any such interim orders. Indeed, interventions have now been filed by the Trade Union Joint Action Committee, the Trade Union Centre of India and the Hind Mazdoor Sabha.