ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court Monday remanded the issue regarding suspension of social security contributions’ notifications to the Lahore High Court.

The top court directed the LHC to decide within two weeks all applications pending in the high court pertaining to suspension of notifications issued by the Punjab government regarding social security contributions by employers for the benefit of workers.

The Punjab Employees Social Security Institution (PESSI) had challenged the February 28 order of LHC before the top court, wherein it had suspended amendments to the Provincial Employees Social Security Ordinance, 1965, that allowed increase in wages of workers from Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,500 per month and daily wages from Rs 400 to Rs 600.

The matter was remanded after the arguments of Advocate Raheel Kamran Sheikh before a two-judge bench comprising Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan.

Advocate Sheikh had moved a petition on behalf of Punjab Employees Social Security Institution, Punjab Employees Social Security (PESS), Lahore, and PESS Sheikhupura directors.

The petition stated a notification issued on October 18, 2012, raised the wages of workers from Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,500 per month or Rs 600 from the earlier Rs 400 for daily wagers while under the notification of January 30, 2013, the monthly wage was raised from Rs 12,500 to Rs 15,000.  Under a notification dated October 12, 2014, the monthly wages were raised from Rs 15,000 to Rs 18,000 and wages for daily wagers from Rs 600, to Rs 750, the petition stated.

A notification dated June 15, 2017, raised the monthly wages to Rs 22,000 or Rs 1,000 per day, it further stated, adding the high court had suspended these notifications and ordered the petitioners to continue contributing the amount of social security payable before the issuance of the notifications, as per law, in which the upper wage ceiling was fixed at Rs 10,000 per month or Rs 400 as daily wage rate.

The counsel for the petitioners argued that an ordinance was promulgated by the Punjab government in 1965 to introduce social security to ensure certain benefits to workers and their dependents in case of sickness, maternity, workplace injury or death and medical care of dependents, disablement pension and gratuity, survivor’s pension, death grant and medical care in case of employment injury.

These benefits were covered under Chapter V of the 1965 Ordinance and were specified in sections from 35 to 47A of the ordinance, he further contended.

Likewise, he said, the PESSI was created to protect and secure the interests of low-income workers and employees in the Punjab.

“The institution strives to provide health care facilities and cash benefits to secured workers and their dependents employed in industrial or commercial establishments operating in the Punjab,” the petition said.

He further argued that the ordinance was in the nature of a beneficial and remedial legislation enacted for the purpose of welfare of labour.

Consequently, a number of industrial units, including Shafi (Pvt) Ltd, Tanveer Cotton Mills (Pvt) Ltd, Tanveer Spinning, weaving mills and others approached the high court and challenged the amendments made to the 1965 Ordinance.