The Centre on Friday told the Supreme Court that four states have not made timely payment of salaries to healthcare workers engaged in the battle against Covid-19.
These states are Punjab, Maharashtra, Tripura and Karnataka. The Centre said that this happened despite a direction from the top court.
The court then asked the Centre to do the needful to ensure that salaries of these workers are paid on time.
“If the states are not complying with the directions and orders of the Central government, you are not helpless. You have to ensure that your order is implemented. You have got the power under the Disaster Management Act. You can take steps also”, the bench of bench of justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
The Supreme Court had issued stringent directions in June to criminalise the non-payment of dues on time to doctors and nurses. The direction had come on a doctor’s petition which alleged that medical professionals were not being paid in several regions and were also not provided with facilities to isolate themselves which was a big risk to their families if they were to get infected.
The Centre had then declared the act of withholding salaries of doctors and nurses engaged in the battle against Covid-19 an offence under the Disaster Management Act (DMA). The order was issued by the Union health ministry.
The apex court had taken serious note of non-payment of salary and lack of proper accommodation to doctors and said, “In war, you do not make soldiers unhappy.”
It had also said that the courts should not be involved in the issue of non-payment of salary to healthcare workers and that the government should settle the issue.
In April, the Supreme Court had observed that the doctors and medical staff are the “first line of defence of the country” in the battle against Covid-19 pandemic, and directed the Centre to ensure that appropriate PPEs are made available to them for treating coronavirus patients.