Bombay HC directs BMC to pay salaries to blind employees absent during Covid-19 pandemic
In a major relief to the blind employees of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the Bombay high court (HC) on Wednesday directed the civic body to compensate employees by paying them salary arrears in two parts. The court held that the action of the BMC of not paying salaries to specially-abled employees for not attending work due to the pandemic was discriminatory and illegal. The BMC is to pay the employees the arrears in two parts – one before Diwali, and the second instalment after 45 days of paying the first instalment.
The division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Girish Kulkarni, while passing its judgement in the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by the National Association for the Blind (NAB) on behalf of around 250 blind employees of the civic corporation, held that the BMC was responsible for its employees and was bound to pay them salaries though they did not attend duty.
While arguing for NAB, advocate Uday Warunjikar had submitted that the Central and state government had issued a notice on March 27 and April 21, respectively, directing all government and local body authorities to exempt persons with disabilities from essential service duty during the pandemic. Warunjikar also submitted the April 28 memorandum issued by the ministry of social justice and empowerment which directed all PSUs to exempt persons with disabilities from essential services during the pandemic, and to treat their absence as special leave without loss of pay.
Warunjikar further cited the example of a blind employee of the BMC who did not receive any salary in July and said that he was just one of 250 others who were marked absent by the civic authority and refused salary. Warunjikar had sought the courts interference by declaring the BMC’s act of non-payment of salaries to blind employees as arbitrary and also issue directions to the BMC to implement the provisions of the Persons with Disability Act, 2016. He asked that the civic body treat the absence from duty as simpliciter leave, wherein there is no financial loss to the employees.
While pronouncing the judgement, the court held that the BMC’s act of not paying salary to blind employees was illegal and directed it to pay the salaries in two instalments.