Udayavni Special

HC stays Kerala govt’s order for its employees’ salary cut, observes it has no legal backing


Team Udayavani, Apr 29, 2020, 8:21 AM IST

Kochi/Thiruvananthapuram: In a setback to the LDF government’s plans to mobilise funds for COVID-19 battle, the Kerala High Court on Tuesday stayed an order for salary cut for its employees, observing that it lacked legal backing.

The court order was welcomed by opposition Congress which said it was “a huge blow” to the government that “displayed an arrogant approach” on the matter while Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan reacted cautiously, saying it will have to be followed.

Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas issued the interim order valid for two months considering a batch of petitions filed by a section of state government employees and their organisations challenging the April 24 order for deducting one month salary in five installments.

Noting that the executive order lacked legal backing, the court said it was also ambiguous as it has not clearly stated how the money was going to be spent.

The G.O. had said the state government employees’ salary for six days every month would be deducted for the next five months as part of raising funds for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.

“This would be applicable to employees of all state-owned enterprises, public sector undertakings, quasi-government organisations, universities, etc in the state,” the order, issued in line with a state cabinet decision, had said.

However, it had made it clear there will be no salary cut for staff who earn less than Rs 20,000 per month.

The order had also stated that ministers, MLAs, various board members, local body institution members, members of various commissions would receive 30 per cent less salary for one year.

Reacting to the development, state Finance Minister Thomas Isaac opined that since it was a high court order it was binding on other states and even the central government which have taken similar decision on salary cut for the government servants for fighting COVID-19.

“We will wait for the detailed order and respond accordingly,” he told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram.

Vijayan said the high court order will have to be followed.

In a statement, state Congress president Mullappally Ramachandran said the government took the decision to deduct the salary without the consent of the government servants.

Former chief minister and senior Congress leader Oommen Chandy said the government should follow democratic principles while going ahead with such decisions.

He urged the government not to forget “the support” given by the police and health officials in the fight against COVID-19.

While announcing the cabinet decision on Wednesday, Vijayan had said the deducted amount will be given back to the employees when the financial condition of the state improved.

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