In a relief to the LDF government in Kerala, the High Court on Tuesday refused to grant interim relief of stay on an ordinance that empowers it to defer payment of salaries and allowances to employees of the state government and government-owned institutions.
Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas observed that the state was going through a difficult time and the court cannot interfere with the provisions of the ordinance.
The court wasconsidering a batch of petitions filed by various employees' organisations challenging the Kerala Disaster and Public Health Emergency (Special Provisions) Ordinance promulagated by the state government in view of economic situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The court also observed that the government is empowered to pass such an ordinance. The court, however, admitted the petitions and issued notice to the state government. The matter has been posted for hearing later.
The ordinance promulgated by the government last week empowers the state government to defer the salary of an employee by an amount not exceeding one-fourth of the total monthly pay, for managing a situation arising out of a disaster or public health emergency.
The ordinance empowers the government to defer for six days the salaries of its employees for five months.
The ordinance also allows the government to impose a 30 per cent cut in the monthly gross salary or honorarium of all elected representatives in the State -Ministers, Members of the Legislative Assembly, members of different Boards under the Government and members of Local Self Government bodies, for a period of one year.
In their petitions, the employees' organisations including the Kerala NGO Association and Higher Secondary School Teachers Union alleged that the ordinance was issued to circumvent a recent High Court decision staying a government order which sought to deduct six days salary of government employees every month from April to August.
The petitioners also alleged mala fide intention on the part of the government in promulgating the ordinance.
The Kerala High Court on April 28 stayed for two months the government order to cut one month salary in five instalments saying it lacked legal backing.
The government took the ordinance route following the stay order issued by the court.