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Madhya Pradesh High Court declares nurses strike illegal, orders them to resume work

The High Court has ordered all the nurses to return to work. At the same time, the Court has also directed to form a committee regarding this matter.

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The Jabalpur Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court on Wednesday declared the strike of the Nursing Association as illegal. The High Court has ordered all the nurses to return to work. At the same time, the Court has also directed to form a committee regarding this matter.

The dispute pertains to the nurses working in different Government Hospitals/Dispensaries/CHCs/PHCs of the State, who have proceeded on strike on 14.06.2021. The Petition has been filed by the Petitioner- Nagrik Upbhokta Margdarshak Manch with a prayer that the strike by nurses in the State called by the Joint Forum Nursing Association, be declared illegal.

D.K.Upadhyay, Counsel for the Petitioner submitted that approximately 50,000 Nurses of the State are on strike, which is causing huge inconvenience to the people of the State.

Ashish Anand Barnard, Additional Advocate General has cited the order passed by the High Court recently on 03.06.2021 declaring the strike called by the PG Doctors’ Association as illegal and requiring the State Government to take appropriate action against the erring doctors under the Essential Services Maintenance Act, National Disaster Management Act and the Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002.

Additional Advocate General further submitted that M.P. High Court earlier on 25.07.2018 had already declared the strike by the Nurses of the State, illegal. In the present case, the State Government has issued a notification dated 28.06.2021 declaring the services rendered by the Doctors, Nurses, and other health workers, as essential service by invoking Section 4(1) of the Essential Services Maintenance Act and therefore, the ongoing strike by the respondent should be declared illegal.

When the matter was last listed earlier on 05.07.2021, the Court directed for impleadment of Ms. Rekha Parmar, President of Nursing Association of M.P.

On Wednesday, Atul Choudhary, Counsel appearing for the Joint Forum Nursing Association argued that despite long-standing demands of the Nurses in State, the State Government has not taken any steps for the redressal of their grievances, except, of course, in respect of changing nomenclature of their designation. Reference is made to the demand charter dated 24.06.2021 containing a total of 14 demands. It is submitted that the State authorities ought to engage in discussion with the representatives of the Joint Forum Nursing Association for accepting all their reasonable demands so as to enable them to call off the strike. If that is done, the  Joint Forum Nursing Association and Rekha Parmar shall call off the strike.

The Division Bench comprising of Chief Justice Mohammad Rafiq and Justice Vijay Kumar Shukla after hearing the concerned parties “declares the strike by the nurses in the State as illegal and condemn their action especially because such a call has been given at a time when the country has still not been able to come out of the ill effects of the second wave of COVID-19.”

The Court directed that the respondent Nursing Association shall immediately call off their strike and resume their duties by tomorrow itself. The State Government shall soon thereafter notify the constitution of a Committee headed by the Additional Chief Secretary, Health with the Principal Secretary, Finance Department, and Director, Health Services as its members. The Committee shall invite the representatives of the Nursing Association for negotiations and submit its report to the State Government positively within a period of two months. The State Government shall on the basis of the recommendation of the Committee pass the appropriate order within a month thereafter.

“If the Association of Nurses despite assurance fails to resume their duties by tomorrow, it would be open to the State Government to take appropriate action against them in accordance with law”, ordered the Court.

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At this stage,  Counsel Atul Choudhary submitted that the period of absence due to strike may not be treated as a break in service and the same may be regularised against the leave of any kind due in the account of respective nursing employees and no disciplinary action should be taken against them for that reason.

“The Government shall sympathetically consider the demand for not taking any disciplinary action for the period of absence of the striking Nursing employees so as not to precipitate the matter and consider granting them leave of any kind that may be due in their account or otherwise if no such leave is found due in the accounts of the respective nursing employees, grant such leave without pay, but shall not treat such period as a break in service”, the order reads while the Petition is disposed of.

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