In India, efforts to combat the COVID-19 crisis are being undertaken both at the Central and State Levels. As a measure to curb the spread of COVID-19, the government of India declared a nation-wide lockdown up to 14 April 2020, and issued guidelines with respect to the implementation of the lockdown, allowing establishments/organisations catering to essential services to remain functional. Various State governments have issued similar circulars and also elaborated on the list of establishments that can remain open during this time, as well as specifying guidelines for their operation.
Additionally, there are both Central level and State level advisories (“Advisories”) that set out: (a) the government is aware that the current situation may result in employers dispensing with the services of employees / requiring them to go on unpaid leave / reducing their wages; (b) as this would further deepen the crisis, all public and private establishments are advised not to terminate the services of any employee (particularly casual and contractual workers); (c) further, if any worker takes leave, leave may be granted without any deduction in wages for this period, and if the place of employment is to be made non-operational due to the lockdown, the employee should be deemed to be on duty.
The Ministry of Home Affairs vide a notification dated 29 March 2020 has however, ordered State governments to take necessary measures to ensure that “all employers, be it in the industry or in the shops and commercial establishments, shall make payment of wages of their workers, at their workplaces, on the due date, without any deduction, for the period their establishments are under closure during the Lockdown”(“Order”). The Order has been issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs under Section 10 (2) (1) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, the violation of which attracts criminal prosecution.
However, due to the constant rise in the number of positive COVID-19 cases in India, the Central government of India via a notification dated 14 April 2020 has extended the Lockdown for a further period up to 3 May 2020 and has also issued further guidelines with respect to the implementation of the Lockdown – relaxing certain norms and allowing certain industries to remain operational under certain conditions and considerations.
The COVID-19 crisis has not only caused the loss of human life, but has also disrupted the operations of various organisations (both government and private), which has triggered huge financial losses, affecting the economy as a whole.
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