The Supreme Court on Friday said no coercive action can be taken till the end of July against private employers who have not paid wages to workers during the coronavirus lockdown, reported Live Law. It asked the state governments to facilitate settlements between firms and employees on payment of full wages during the lockdown.

“No industry can survive without the workers,” Justice Ashok Bhushan said in the order. “Thus employers and employees need to negotiate and settle among themselves. If they are not able to settle it among themselves, they need to approach the concerned labour authorities to sort the issues out.”

The court was hearing a batch of petitions challenging the Ministry of Home Affairs’ March 29 order requiring payment of full wages to workers during the coronavirus-induced lockdown. The petitioners are mostly small businesses. The court gave the Centre four more weeks to file a reply on the legality of its March 29 notification. The matter will be taken up again in last week of July.

On June 4, the court had passed a similar interim order. “The question is do you have power to get them to pay 100% and on their failure to do so, prosecute them...There is a concern that workmen should not be left without pay, but industry may not have the money to pay,” Justice SK Kaul had said.

However, Attorney General KK Venugopal had pointed out to the court that the directive was a temporary measure and has been revoked by the authority with effect from May 18.

During the hearing on June 4, the Centre had said that the employers who are incapable of paying salaries must be directed to furnish their audited balance sheets and accounts in the court. Venugopal asked the judges to consider the humanitarian situation because of which the order obligated all employers to pay their workers full wages.