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Plea In SC Against Central PSE’s Decision To Call Employees On Work Amid Lockdown

A writ petition has been filed in Supreme Court challenging Constitutional validity, legality and rationality of orders issued by Central PSE’s directing their employees to resume duty and attend offices during lockdown period in abject contravention and manifest violation of statutory orders and guidelines by Central Government directing people to stay at home and closing of  offices, establishments and enterprises involved in manufacturing, distribution, supply and sale of non-essential and non exempted goods and services.

Petition filed by Advocates Anil K. Aggarwal and K.S. Wahi prays for issuing of writ of mandamus for quashing orders/circulars issued by Public Sector Enterprises for being unconstitutional and illegal and violating guidelines issued on behalf of Central Government on 15.04.2020. Guidelines were issued by Ministry of Home Affairs under Disaster Management Act, 2005 as emergency measures to contain spread of Covid-19 epidemic infection. Also directions are sought to be issued to close down all offices and operations of  Steel Authority of India Limited and National Building Construction Company and to keep them closed during entire lockdown period till 03.05.2020 or till such period as extended by the Central Government and also grant paid leaves to their employees for entire period of lockdown.

Petition states that SAIL, NBCC and other such Government Companies decided on their own to open their office and resume their operations and issued orders/circulars to most of their employees to start attending office from 20.04.2020 under the garb and shadow of para 18(2) of guidelines, deliberately and wrongly equating and identifying Government owned Companies as Government Departments and office under the control of the Ministries and Departments of Central Government overlooking health safety concerns of employees and their family members. 

The Petition also prays for Union to find out if there are other Central PSE’s or companies which are involved in manufacturing, distribution, supply or sale of non-essential and unexempted goods and services and opened their offices and operations during lockdown period and initiate disciplinary action against CMD’s in terms of Section 58 of Disaster Management Act, 2005 for committing offence punishable under Section 51 of the said Act and Section 188 of IPC, 1908.

Petitioner states that this will  have devastating effect on meagre and overloaded health infrastructure of the country entailing further hardship and danger to the entire country.

Petition also mentions that petitioner-advocates contacted Dr. Nitin Aggarwal, Jt. Director of Dept. of Public Enterprise appointed as nodal officer to deal with public grievance relating to COVID-19 and also shared with him over WhatsApp message the Order dated 17.04.2020  issued by SAIL to its employees to attend their offices w.e.f. 20.04.2020. But instead of taking any immediate corrective action at level of his department/Ministry, Joint Director directed petitioners to file  public grievance complaint on link provided on website of Department of Public Enterprises.

-India Legal Bureau

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