HC tells Kerala to prohibit strike by govt staff

Kochi, Mar 28 (PTI) The Kerala High Court on Monday directed the LDF administration to forthwith issue orders preventing its employees from abstaining from duty as part of the two-day nationwide strike. The court said government servants should not engage in any concerted or organised slowdown of work.

A Bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly directed the State to also issue orders enabling the operation of vehicles so that employees can report for duty.

The directions came on a plea by a lawyer — Chandra Chooden Nair S — alleging that the government was aiding and assisting the strike on March 28 and 29 by permitting leave with salary to its employees taking part in it instead of declaring ‘dies non’ (no work, no pay).

In his petition, Nair sought ensuring compulsory attendance of the employees, disciplinary action against those abstaining from work and a declaration that the strike was unconstitutional.

The court issued notice to the Centre and the State seeking their stand.

The State, represented by Advocate General (AG) K Gopalakrishna Kurup, contended that the plea was delayed as the strike was called for in February and the trade unions who called for the strike have not been made a party and if any employee abstains from work in violation of service rules, disciplinary action can be taken.

He urged the court not to issue any interim order prohibiting the government staff from participating in the strike.

The Bench, however, said Rule 86 of the Kerala Government Servants’ Conduct Rules makes it clear that no government servant shall engage himself or herself in any strike or in any similar activities.

“Government servants should not engage themselves in any concerted or organised slowing down or attempt at slowing down government work or in any act, which has the tendency to impede the reasonably efficient and speedy transaction of government work. Concerted or organised refusal on the part of government servants to receive their pay will entail severe disciplinary action,” the Bench said.

“…we are of the view that the government should also take adequate steps to prevent the government servants from engaging in any activity specified in Rule 86,” it added.

Regarding the submission that a disciplinary mechanism was in place for dealing with violation of Rule 86, the Bench said that having such a system in place does not absolve the government from taking preventive action.

With regard to making the trade unions a party, as contended by the AG, the court said that since the government has a duty to enforce its rules and maintain law and order, it was not necessary to decide at this stage whether the trade unions should also be made a part of the proceedings.

The Bench questioned whether the unions can call for a nationwide strike, in matters not related to trade union dispute under the Trade Unions Act, and when there is no industrial dispute with the employees in Kerala, within the definition of Industrial Disputes Act.

“Trade union activities pertaining to the statutory provisions under the Trade Unions Act, 1926, cannot be allowed to impede the governance. It is the duty of the welfare government to protect not only the citizens, but to continue with all the government work, as expected.

The strike — on March 28 and 29 — has been called to protest against Central government policies allegedly affecting workers, farmers and people.


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Source: PTI