The Aurangabad bench of Bombay High Court has said the principle of no work-no wages cannot be applied in the present extraordinary situation prevailing in the country due to the coronavirus-enforced lockdown.
Justice R V Ghuge on Tuesday directed Aurangabad's Tuljabhavani Mandir Sansthan trust to ensure that all its contract labourers, who have been unable to work due to closure of temples and places of worship in the wake of the pandemic, are paid full wages till the month of May 2020.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Rashtriya Shramik Aghadi, a contract labourers' union, which claimed that despite the lockdown, members of the workers' union expressed their willingness to be deployed as security guards and on other duties with the Tuljabhavani Mandir Sansthan.
According to the petition, the temple trust was, however, not permitting them to perform their duties on account of the COVID-19 lockdown. It also pointed out that payments made to the union members by contractors for the months of March and April this year were less than what was paid in January and February.
The petitioner informed the court that the Osmanabad district collector was the president of the Tuljabhavani Mandir Sansthan trust and the tehsildar was its manager-administration.
After hearing brief arguments in the case, Justice Ghuge said the court cannot turn a blind eye to the situation at hand.
"Able-bodied persons, who are willing and desirous to offer their services in deference to their deployment as contract labourers in the security and house-keeping sector of the trust, are unable to work since temples and places of worships in the entire nation have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the court noted.
"Prima facie, I feel the principle of no work-no wages cannot be made applicable in such extraordinary circumstances. The court cannot be insensitive to such
workers' plight which has unfortunately befallen them on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, Justice Ghuge said.
The court directed the Osmanabad district collector, in his capacity as president of the trust, to ensure full wages are disbursed by contractors to the labourers for the months of March, April and May this year.
The court also said the principle of no work-no wages shall not be invoked until further orders in the petition, and posted the matter for further hearing on June 9.