The Gauhati High Court on Tuesday said tea garden owners in Assam will have the “liberty” to decide if they want to give enhanced wages to workers, as notified last month by the state government, NDTV reported.
In a petition, the Indian Tea Association and 17 tea companies had challenged the February 23 notification of the Assam Labour Department. Through the notification, the minimum wage of tea plantation workers was increased from Rs 167 per day to Rs 217 per day by adding an “interim amount” of Rs 50. Justice Michael Zothankhuma’s interim order came days after he directed the state government not to take action against the Indian Tea Association and 17 tea companies, according to The Sentinel.
The petitioner’s counsel had argued that the notification was “illegal in as much as, no Committee/Sub-Committees have been formed as required under Section 5(1/a) and Section 9 of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948”.
The judge on Tuesday said that the order passed on March 8 shall continue until further directions. “Further, after hearing the parties, this court is of the view that liberty should be given to the petitioners to pay to the workmen any interim enhancement of their wages as they deem proper, till the issue is finally decided by this court,” he added.
The matter will be heard next on April 23.
Elections will be held in three phases in Assam on March 27, April 1 and April 6. Both the BJP-led Assam government and the Opposition have promised to increase daily wage of tea workers, who are a deciding factor in at least 40 out of Assam’s 126 Assembly constituencies.
In 2017, the minimum wage of tea plantation workers was raised to Rs 167 per day after an advisory committee’s recommendation, NDTV reported. But, the committee had suggested a daily wage of Rs 352.