Thursday, August 7, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Govt staff can’t go on strike, rules SC
Our Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, August 6
Taking a tough stand on government employees using strike as a weapon to get their demands fulfilled, the Supreme Court today ruled that they had no fundamental, statutory, equitable or moral right to strike work.

“In our view, no such right exists with government employees,” a Bench comprising Mr Justice M.B. Shah and Mr Justice A.R. Lakshmanan ruled while disposing of six petitions relating to the recent statewide strike by Tamil Nadu government employees.

“Apart from the statutory rights, the government employees cannot claim that they can hold society to ransom by going on strike,” the court said, making it clear that if they “presumed” that “injustice” had been done to them, there was a machinery provided in a welfare state for the redressal of their grievances.

Holding that strike as a weapon had been mostly misused, resulting in chaos and total maladministration, the court said such an action by the government staff affected society as a whole and brought the administration to a grinding halt.

The court elaborated in details how patients suffer during the strike by doctors and medical staff, students’ studies are affected when teachers stop work, people’s movement is affected if railway and road transport staff strike work.

Such actions of the employees not only affect a particular section but also the entire society, dealing a major blow to the developmental activities, business and industrial growth, the court observed.

Stating that government employees, being part and parcel of the governing body, owed a duty to society, the court said, “In the prevailing situation, apart from being conscious of our rights, we have to be fully aware of our duties, responsibilities and effective methods of discharging them.”

Expressing concern over the declining work culture, the court said, “For redressing their grievances, instead of going on strike, if employees do some more work honestly, diligently and efficiently, such gesture would not only be appreciated by the authority but also by people at large.”

The court, on whose intervention the Jayalalithaa government in Tamil Nadu had agreed to take 1.64 lakh employees back on service after being dismissed en masse for going on strike on July 2, warned the reinstated staff to take care in future in maintaining discipline and not resort to such action again.

Making it clear that the reinstatement of the employees was possible only due to the magnanimous attitude of the Tamil Nadu Government, the court passed a formal order for constituting a three-member judicial panel to look into the cases of 6,072 employees, whom the state administration had refused to take them back alleging that they were facing cases for indulging in illegal acts during the stir.

Directing Madras High Court Chief Justice to nominate three retired High Court judges to the tribunal within a week, the apex court said the panel’s decision would be binding on the state government. 

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