The Bombay High Court has recalled the strike called by employees of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) holding it illegal.
The striking employees demand a revision in their pay-scale in accordance with the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission.
The vacation bench of Justice SK Shinde noted that the MSRTC serves 7 million passengers daily on 13,700 routes across the state, and due to the strike, life of people in the rural areas has been heavily disturbed and virtually come to standstill.
“Judicial notice can be taken of the fact that private transport operators do not ply their buses on every route and as such, there are no transport facilities available in the interior parts of the State except that of State Corporation,” the court said.
The court was hearing a couple of PILs filed by Jayant Satam and Vinod Waghmare seeking declaration of the strike as ‘illegal and unconstitutional’ and direction to the striking employees to resume their duties immediately.
Petitioners contended that the strike ‘has arrested the mobility of the population in the rural area in the state’. It was further contended that though the state is a stakeholder and has control over the corporation, it has not taken notable efforts to resolve the situation. The petitioners said the passive attitude of the state is aggravating the situation causing immense inconvenience to children, senior citizens and daily commuters.
It was submitted on behalf of the state that in order to bring relief to the commuters, a notification dated October 16, 2017, was issued permitting all private vehicles, school buses, company buses and goods carriers to carry out the work of plying and ferrying the passengers for the entire duration of strike.
Apart from this, the state government suggested the formation of a high-powered committee comprising of the Finance Secretary, the Transport Secretary, Transport Commissioner, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of MSRTC, to look into the demand of the striking employees, subject to resumption of duties.
GS Hegde appeared for the MSRTC, and he argued that under Section 2(n) of the Industrial Disputes Act, the corporation is rendering a public utility service, and under Sections 22(1)(a) and (d) of the Act, the strike of the employees of the corporation is per-se illegal, as it is in breach of the provisions of Clause (a) which requires a notice of six weeks before going on strike whereas the striking members of the employee’s union had given a notice of 14 days only.
Also, the state government issued a notification dated September 29, declaring the service being rendered by the MSRTC as public utility and a labour court in Latur had, in an order dated October 13, restrained the employees of MSRTC to commence a strike before October 16 midnight.
Referring to the judgment of the apex court in the case of TK Rangarajan vs Government of TN and Others, the court said-
“Employees cannot claim that they can take the society ransom by going on the strike and even if there is injustice to some extent, they have to resort to machinery provided under different statutory provisions for redressal of their grievances.”
Since the striking employees were not agreeable to the suggestions of constitution of a committee to look into their demands and insisted on the Chief Minister himself to oversee the committee, the court declared the strike illegal and directed the employees to resume their duties.
A five-member high power committee has also been constituted to look into the demands of interim pay hike and pay revision. The committee has been asked to submit its report by December 22.