The Bombay High Court held that the financial difficulties cannot be the ground for non-payment of due wages to workers. It is violative of fundamental rights under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
The petitioner, in this case, is a trade union consisting of 150 workers. They work for a company called M/s India Steel Limited which manufactures steel bright bars and has a steel melting and rolling plant at Khopoli in Raigad district. The workers were not paid wages since December 2019 onwards despite the fact that they have been working regularly.
The company claimed that the plant was closed on 20th March, 2020 and the workers had decided to stay at home much before the proclamation of lockdown. The company also alleged that an illegal strike against the company was initiated and therefore workers were called upon to resume their duties.
The division bench of Justice Ujjal Bhuyan and Justice NR Borkar stated that denial of payment of due wages to workers would infringe the human rights of a workman under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. It was held that due wages of the workers from December 2019 onwards would be deposited to their bank accounts.
Also, the Court directed the Deputy Commissioner of Labour and Superintendent of Police to conduct an inquiry into this matter and submit the report mentioning the safety and preventive measures taken by the company. Court asked to check how far the company is following the guidelines given by the government in view of COVID -19.