Observing that non-payment of salaries to Municipal transport employees by the civic body is solely a case of mismanagement and that fundamental right of human livelihood under Article 21 of the Constitution was being directly affected by “callous acts,” the Bombay High Court on Thursday directed the Solapur Municipal Corporation (SMC) to deposit Rs 8 crore in its registry against arrears of pending salaries of nearly 300 employees for nearly four years.
The Court said that till such deposits or payments are made, the corporation should stop the expenditure on all activities except expenses relating to essential civic amenities.
A single-judge bench of Justice Girish S Kulkarni on Thursday passed an order on contempt petition filed by the ‘Lal Bavta Mahanagar Palika’, a trade union for employees of Solapur Municipal Corporation Transport Undertaking, argued through senior counsel Gayatri Singh along with advocates Deepali S K and Ronita Bhattacharya, against the Commissioner of SMC for not complying with the order passed by Industrial Court in Solapur in December, 2017.
The Industrial Court had restrained the civic body from adopting “unfair labour practices” and directed it to give the monthly salaries to the worker members of the trade union as also arrears of payment to the transport employees in phases till August 2018. The court also asked SMC to pay 50% of the pending salary from July 2017 till January 10, 2018 to the employees. In May 2018, the High Court confirmed the Industrial Court’s order.
Advocate I M Kharadi for the SMC submitted that due to financial difficulties of the Municipal Corporation, the respondents could not pay the arrears and/or the regular salary. However, he did not deny that employees concerned are regularly discharging their duties.
After hearing the submissions, Justice Kulkarni observed, “The state of affairs is quite shocking inasmuch as there is no dispute whatsoever that such employees are discharging their duties, however, they have not been paid their salaries…It is precarious to imagine such a situation in a civilized society and that too at the hands of a public body. It is quite surprising that for the period between November, 2017 till October, 2021 no salaries have been paid to such employees, however, they are discharging their duties, under the fear of losing their employment… A purported poor financial condition cannot be an answer or justification to this situation.”
Seeking compliance of directions, the HC posted further hearing in the matter to November 15.