Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Kerala High Court directs state government to take action against striking employees for violating Service Rules

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The Kerala High Court has directed the State Government to proceed with the action and take necessary steps, in order to ensure that appropriate action is taken against the erring workers and employees, who have acted against the Kerala Service Rules and other Conduct Rules, circulars/notifications issued by the State Government, in regard to participation in strikes, in accordance with law.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice S.Manikumar and Justice Shaji P.Chaly disposed of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed seeking declaration that the call for General Strike on 28th and 29th of March, 2022 proposing total cessation of work by forcefully preventing citizens of the State by blocking road and rail is an unconstitutional act and against the binding judgments of the High Court including Bharath Kumar v. State of Kerala [1997 (2) KLT 287 (FB)].

The Petitioner stated that the National Convention of Workers had proposed to organise a nation-wide strike on February 23-24 during the budget session of Parliament. In view of the pandemic and assembly election, in various parts of the country, the strike was postponed to March 28-29. However, the trade unions had called for a nation-wide strike to protest against the economic policies of the country, by giving two month’s notice in advance.

Petitioner seeks to bring to the notice of this Court the mala fide attempt on the part of respondents 1 to 3, viz., Chief Secretary to the Government, State of Kerala, Trivandrum; the Principal Secretary, Department of General Administration (Secret Section), Trivandrum; and the Principal Secretary, Department of Finance, Trivandrum, to aid and assist the general strike on 28th and 29th of March, 2022, by permitting eligible leave with salary to the State Government employees taking part in the general strike, by not declaring dies-non, in terms of the directions of the High Court in W.P.(C) No. 5752/2019.

The Court noted that the question emerging for consideration is as to whether, Government employees are entitled to participate in a strike against the provisions of the Service Rules.

“In fact, the said question was considered by us elaborately in the judgment in G. Balagopalan v. State of Kerala and Others reported in 2021 Lab IC 1764, taking into account the provisions of Kerala Service Rules, as well as the notifications issued by the State Government, and has arrived at the conclusion that if any Government employee participate in a strike, in violation of the provisions of the Government Servants’ Conduct Rules, 1960/notifications/circulars issued by the State Government, affecting the normal life of the public and Public Exchequer, is not entitled to be protected under the rights guaranteed in Article 19(1) (c) of the Constitution of India. It was further held therein that there is no legal right for the workers or any associations, to call for a general strike or instigate the employees to strike, in the guise of the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(c) of the Constitution’, the Bench observed.

The High Court have also found, in the decision in G. Balagopalan (cited supra), that Part I of the Kerala Service Rules and Kerala Government Servants’ Conduct Rules, 1960, discussed therein, make it clear that if any Government servant indulges in strike, he is liable to be proceeded in accordance with the provisions of the said rules.

The State Government, in their statement filed before the Court along with the documents produced as Annexures, have made it clear that steps are being taken to proceed against the workers/ Government employees, who had participated in the strike held on 28th and 29th of March, 2022. The necessary steps are being taken, in order to identify the workers/employees who have taken leave for participating in the strike, in accordance with the provisions of Kerala Service Rules and other notifications/circulars issued by the State Government.

Accordingly, the Court disposed of the PIL recording the steps taken by the Government, as stated in the statement filed before the Court along with the documents.

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