SC asks Kerala HC to expeditiously decide issue of nurses’ wages

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday refused to interfere with the Kerala High Court’s interim order holding that the state government is entitled to raise minimum wages of nurses working in hospitals.

However, the top court vacation bench comprising Justice A M Khanwilkar and Justice Navin Sinha asked the high court to expeditiously dispose of the matter pending before it, taking note of high court’s observation that the petition would be taken up for final hearing within one month.

“We decline to interfere with the interlocutory order passed by the high court refusing to grant interim relief considering the observations made in the order dated May 4, 2018 that the writ petition will be taken up for final hearing within one month,” the court said in its order on Monday.

Disposing of the petition by the Kerala Private Hospital Association and others, the bench said: “We request the high court to dispose of the writ petitions expeditiously in view of the nature of controversy involved. All questions be decided on its own merits in accordance with law uninfluenced by the dismissal of this petition.”

The vacation bench said this on a plea by the Association and others contesting the interim order permitting the government to enhance the minimum wages.

Appearing for the petitioner Association, senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi told the bench that the state government had constituted a Committee under Section 5(1)(a) of the Minimum Wages Act for holding enquiries for the fixation or revision of wages.

Senior counsel Singhvi told the court that since there was no consensus in the committee, the state government took recourse to Section 5(1)(b) of the Minimum Wages Act and increased the wages.

He told the bench that the state government could not have done both — appointing a committee under Section 5(1)(a) of the Minimum Wages Act and then switching over to Section 5(1)(b) of the Act for revising the minimum wages of the nurses in the state.

“You (state government) can’t do both,” Singhvi said urging the court that the Kerala government could put on hold the implementation of the enhanced minimum wages and during this time, a judge of the high court could decided the issue in two weeks.

“Notification increasing wages has not been affected on the ground, let it be kept in abeyance for two weeks,” said Singhvi pointing out that the petitioner Association has 960 hospitals as its members and 630 of them are 25-bedded hospitals, which are faced with the prospect of shutdown in view of increased wages.


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