A writ petition filed by 20 major plantation companies challenging the decision of the Wages Board to increase the daily wage of plantation workers to Rs.1, 000 has been dismissed by the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal held that relief by way of a writ cannot be sought as a right.
The petitioners were: Agarapatana Plantations Limited, Balangoda Plantations PLC, Elpitiya Plantations PLC, Horana Plantations PLC, Hapugastenne Plantations PLC, Kahawatte Plantations PLC, Kegalle Plantations PLC, Kelani Valley Plantations PLC, Kotagala Plantations PLC, Madulsima Plantations PLC, Malwatte Valley Plantations PLC, Maskeliya Plantations PLC, Natural Plantations Limited, Namunukula Plantations PLC, Talawakelle Tea Estates PLC, Udapussallawa Plantations PLC, Watawala Plantations PLC, Hatton Plantations PLC, Bogawantalawa Plantations PLC and Lalan Rubbers (Pvt) Ltd.
“Even if the Petitioner has a strong case, and grounds exist for the issuance of a writ of certiorari, the courts may still not be inclined to grant relief based on other pertinent and important grounds, such as grave public administrative inconvenience,” the Court of Appeal observed.
The Court of Appeal bench comprised of Justice Sobhitha Rajakaruna and Justice Mayadunne Corea. The petitioners had named Minister of Labour, Chairman of Wage Board for Tea, Rubber Growing and Manufacturing Trade Prabath Chandrakeerthi and several others as respondents.
The plantation companies sought an order quashing the decision of the Wages Board to increase the daily wage of plantation workers to Rs.1, 000.
However, during the inquiry, the respondent parties maintained that several plantation companies were willfully refusing to pay a Rs.1000 daily wage for plantation workers.
The petitioners stated that in the event they are compelled to pay Rs.1, 000 as minimum wage to every estate worker, they would incur significant losses and the petitioner companies would all run at a loss for the foreseeable future.
The gazette notification on increasing the daily wage of estate workers to Rs. 1,000 was published on March 9, 2021. This increase comprises of Rs.900 as minimum daily wage and Rs.100 as an allowance. The court was informed that the issue of a wage increase for estate employees was raised during the last presidential elections, with the candidates of the two main political parties promising a minimum daily wage of Rs.1, 000.