The Kerala High Court on Thursday directed the State government to proceed with action being taken against its employees who abstained from work as part of a 2-day nationwide strike last year. The court made it a point to reiterate an earlier judicial order that public servants would not be protected for participating in agitations that disrupt public life.
With the direction today, the court disposed of a plea by a lawyer alleging that the government aided and assisted in the strike against Central policies on March 28 and 29, 2022, by permitting leave with salary to its employees who took part in it instead of declaring ‘dies non’ (no work, no pay).
A Bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly referred to the statement filed in court by the government that said steps were being taken to proceed against the employees who participated in the agitation.
”Accordingly, this writ petition is disposed of recording the steps taken by the government as stated in the statement filed before this court along with the documents and consequently, there will be a direction to the State government to proceed with the action and do what is necessary…,” the court said.
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The government, in its statement, had said the salary of 1,96,931 employees has been withheld for absence on March 28 and of 1,56,845 for absence on March 29.
It had further said disciplinary action was taken against 24 employees who were absent on March 28 and against 4 who were absent on March 29.
”The facts and figures will show that 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 or circulars issued by the State government,” the court noted.
The Bench said that in another similar matter titled G Balagopalan v. State of Kerala, the court had held that any government employee who participates in a strike which affects normal life of the public and the public exchequer and also in violation of the Conduct Rules as well as notifications and circulars issued by the State government was not entitled to be protected under the rights guaranteed in Article 19(1) (c) of the Constitution.
The Bench said it was also held in the G Balagopalan case 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 court said the proposition of law laid down in that matter ”would be squarely applicable” to the instant case also.
The petitioner Chandra Chooden Nair S had sought in his plea disciplinary action against those who kept off work.
When the plea was first heard on March 28, the court directed the LDF administration to forthwith issue orders preventing its employees from abstaining from duty as part of the 2-day nationwide strike, saying that government servants should not engage in any concerted or organised slowdown of work.
The Bench had 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.
Hours after the court order, the State government issued an order stating that ”unauthorised absence of employees participating in the strike will be treated as dies-non” under Rule 14 A of Part 1 of Kerala Service Rules.
The order had said no leave of any kind would be granted to government employees unless the individual or relatives like wife, children, father and mother was sick.
The strike on March 28 and 29 was called for by the joint platform of central trade unions against the alleged anti-worker, anti-farmer, anti-people and anti-national policies of the Central government.