28/04/2020 3:57 PM IST | Updated 28/04/2020 4:14 PM IST

Kerala Govt's Order On Employees' Salary Cut Stayed For 2 Months By High Court

The Kerala government argued that COVID-19 had put huge burden on the resources of the state.

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Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister of Kerala, at Kerala House in New Delhi.

The Kerala High Court on Tuesday stayed for two months the state government’s order for salary cut of its employees in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government had on April 22 decided to deduct the salaries of all state government employees for six days every month for the next five months to meet the serious financial crisis it was facing.

The order had said there would no salary cut for those who earn less than Rs 20,000 per month.

The government had said the deductions would begin this month.

“Financial difficulty is not a ground for state government to defer the payment of salary. Prima facie I find that deferment of salary, for whatever purposes, amounts to denial of property. In such a view, I stay the operation of the impugned order for a period of 2 months,” Kerala high court said in its order on Tuesday, LiveLaw quoted.

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Kerala’s Advocate General had said that the government could appropriate funds under the Disaster Management Act, the provisions of which override other legislations.

Justice Bechu Kurian, who was hearing a batch of petitions against the salary cut, pointed out that the government order was not issued under the Disaster Management Act, LiveLawreported.

The Advocate General argued that the order could be traced to powers under act, even if the sections was not mentioned in the order.

“COVID-19 has put huge burden on the resources of the state. Rs 5,000 crores was spent last month in relation to COVID-19. Government servants are the luckiest in the society at present, whereas many other sections are suffering due to lockdown,” the state government argued in court.

The government also said that it was only “postponing the payment of a portion of salary under this extraordinary circumstance”. 

Just Kurian said, “However much I tried to bring the impugned order within some framework of law, I could not find any basis for such any order in any of the statute.”

‘It is a vested right of every individual to receive salary for the work discharged. Article 300A will include within its purview ‘salary’ also, as a property, at least prima facie,” the court  said in its order.

Over the weekend, the chief minister had slammed various teachers’ organisations, attached to the Congress-led UDF, who had set the government order on fire .

The government’s decision to defer payment of a portion of their salaries was “cruel and Inhuman” and would affect morale, Dr Joseph Chacko, president of Kerala Medical Officers Association, said in a letter to Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday.

State finance minister Thomas Isaac had on Saturday said that the government would decide on returning a part of the salary after six months, based on the circumstances prevailing then.