Employer’s financial difficulty not a valid ground to deny payment of wages: Bombay High Court

Payment of due wages is a fundamental right of a worker under article 21 of the Constitution of India and an employer cannot take the defence of financial difficulty for non-payment or delayed payment of wages to workmen held by Coram of Justice Ujjal Bhuyan and N. R. Borkar in Hind Kamgar Sanghatana V. State of Maharashtra & Ors. [WP-ASDB-LD-VC-1/20].

Facts related to this case is workers of respondent No.7 were not paid wages from December 2019 onwards despite reporting for work regularly. It is stated that respondent No.7 was fully operational and all its workers had reported for duty during the period from December 2019 to March 2020 but they did not receive any wages for this period.

The Hon’ble Court observed that “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 statute in question i.e., Payment of Wages Act, can a person be said to live with human dignity? The answer to us appears to be quite obvious. Denial of due wages either by the way of non-payment or by way of deferred payment or by way of instalments would certainly infringe upon the cherished human right of a workman under Article 21 of the Constitution of India”.

The Hon’ble Court directed the respondent authorities to pursue the matter u/s 15 of the Payment of Wages act and reached a settlement within 3 months. The Hon’ble Court further directed the Deputy Commissioner of Labour, Raigad and Superintendent of Police, Raigad to carry out a joint inspection of the factory premises of the respondent company at Khopoli within a period of 15 days submit a report about safety measures adopted by the company as well as compliance to various government instructions by the view of COVID-19 situation.

Finally, the writ petition has been disposed of.

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Judgement reviewed by-Sarita Kumari

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