By Rupali Gupta-
Around 150 workers from Raigad, working in a steel factory approached the Bombay High Court through their union. Because they did not get their wages on time and there is no safety measures taken in their workplace.
On Wednesday the bench of Justices Ujjal Bhuyan and NR Borkar made a statement while hearing the case is –
“Denying or delaying payment of wages to workers is a violation of their right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution”
The petitioner told the court that the company had paid the workers less than half the wages in March, April, and May. And the company had not to pay them wages for December, January and February.
They were asked to stay at home in March due to lockdown and after as per the directions of government the company reopened and no proper safety measures were taken and no services of transportation was provided. As a result, many workers were unable to rejoin. This led to a dispute between workers and the factory owner which resulted in the delay in payments of dues.
The petitioner also told the court that the government had directed the factory owners to pay the workers their dues for the month before lockdown but no payment was made.
In their defense, the factory owners argued that the union had arrived at an “informal settlement” with them, under which workers had been paid their dues in installment.
On this the court judgment says-
“Denial of due wages either by way of non-payment or by way of deferred payment or by way of installments would certainly infringe upon the cherished human right of a workman under Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” the bench said.
“Right to life guaranteed in any civilized society implies the right to food, water, a decent environment, education, medical care and shelter.”
“Pausing here for a moment, we may ask ourselves whether in the absence of due wages or delayed payment of due wages by several months not authorized under the Payment of Wages Act, can a person be said to live with human dignity?”
So, clearly denial of wages or delays by way of deferment, or payment through installment certainly breached the worker’s right to life.
The bench directed that the May order of the High Court be implemented and the petitioners are paid their full wages due for the period before the lockdown.
It also directed the local labor commission authorities to resolve the complaint filed by the union within three months.
The high court directed the government authorities to carry out inspection of the factory to check if all safety measures for the prevention of virus infections had been implemented.