The Telangana High Court on Monday pulled up the state government for its decision to defer the salaries of public representatives, employees and pensioners, in order to mobilise funds to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dubbing it prima facie 'illegal', a bench comprising Chief Justice RS Chauhan and Justice B Vijaysen Reddy asked if the government's move was backed by the law.
On March 30, the Telangana government released a government order (GO) to defer 50% of pension to retired employees as a measure to handle the COVID-19 pandemic. However, after the intervention of the court, it was reduced to 25%.
The court, which was hearing a batch of Public Interest Litigations (PILs) challenging the move, on Monday asked how the pensioners could survive after 25% of their pension is deferred, as it is their only source of income to take care of their expenses.
The Bench also pointed out that there were no provisions in the Disaster Management Act or any other law, unless a state of financial emergency was declared, to defer pensions.
Advocate General BS Prasad argued that the COVID-19 pandemic was unprecedented and forced the government to take various steps to face the challenges that were cropping up.
After hearing both sides, the case was posted to Wednesday for further hearing.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao had earlier said that due to the lockdown, the revenue of the state had fallen steeply and the state government was looking at a financial crunch.
Accordingly, even for the month of May, 50% of salary has been deferred for state government employees. The deferment of 75% in the salaries of the public representatives, 60% for All India Service officers and 25%t of pensions were continued. For outsourcing and contract workers, there will be a 10% deferment.
The Chief Minister had earlier said that the state should get Rs 12,000 crore income every month but it received only Rs 3,100 crore for May, which includes the state's share in central taxes (Rs 982 crore).