Lockdown rules misinterpreted, no legal action against CEOs if employee found COVID positive: MHA

  • Govt clarification comes after ‘apprehensions based on wrong interpretation of guidelines’ were raised
  • Lockdown norms should not be misused to harass the management of firms, says govt

Shaswati Das
Updated23 Apr 2020, 11:35 PM IST
Agricultural and industrial activities resumed on 20 April after the ministry issued a revised set of guidelines for the second phase of the lockdown
Agricultural and industrial activities resumed on 20 April after the ministry issued a revised set of guidelines for the second phase of the lockdown(Photo: Bloomberg)

Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla on Thursday told states that no chief executive officer (CEO) will be penalized if employees test positive for the coronavirus at factories that have reopened in the second phase of the nationwide lockdown.

The ministry said “some apprehensions, based on wrong interpretation of the guidelines, have been raised”.

In a letter, the ministry said that the CEO will not face legal action, including imprisonment. Factory premises will not be sealed or shut down either.

“I would like to clarify that there is no such clause in the consolidated revised guidelines and, therefore, there is no basis for such misplaced apprehensions,” Bhalla said in his letter.

The ministry also said the consolidated revised guidelines for the lockdown “should not be misused by anyone to harass the management of any manufacturing or commercial establishments”.

After the ministry issued a revised set of guidelines for the second phase of the lockdown, agricultural and industrial activities resumed on 20 April.

The Union government had also reiterated that certain industrial activities would be allowed in some areas after 20 April. The guidelines also specified the details of exempted activities, and associated terms and conditions.

The latest communication to states and Union territories came hours after Bhalla, along with secretary in the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) Guruprasad Mohapatra, talked to industry associations to allay their apprehensions.

Bhalla also told states that “it is important that all workplaces take measures to ensure social distancing and follow standard health protocols as notified by ministry of health and family welfare as covid-19 is a highly infectious disease”.

While the guidelines now require workplaces to maintain social distancing and hygiene norms, the home secretary said the activities allowed under the consolidated revised guidelines, except in containment zones, have subsumed all the earlier activities that were permitted under the earlier guidelines issued on 24 March.

“Hence, it is clarified that the consolidated revised guidelines dated April 15 do not curtail the exemptions already provided earlier, unless the exempted activity falls within a containment zone. Therefore, no separate or fresh permissions are required from authorities for industries already permitted to operate prior to April 15, in areas falling outside containment zones,” he said. Earlier, after their meeting with Bhalla and Mohapatra, industry representatives said the government should issue a notification clearly stating that employers will not be held responsible in case any worker tests positive for covid-19 after resuming operations in manufacturing units. Industry chambers, such as CII and Assocham, attended the video conference.

The chambers also urged that within red zones, there should be a clear demarcation of hotspots, or containment zones, as defined by the ministry of home affairs, and economic activities outside containment zones may be permitted. “Criminal liability of employers in case of finding covid-19 positive cases among employees has been mentioned by many industry members across states and needs to be clarified. We have seen the clarification from MHA yesterday. A notification or announcement that employers will not be held responsible for covid-positive cases will add confidence,” the CII said.

On Wednesday, the Union labour secretary had assured industry body Ficci that companies will not be criminalized if employees joining work test positive for the coronavirus.

PTI contributed to this story.

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First Published:23 Apr 2020, 11:35 PM IST
HomeNewsIndiaLockdown rules misinterpreted, no legal action against CEOs if employee found COVID positive: MHA

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