Commenting on the strike by MCD sanitation workers, Delhi High Court Friday asked why the workers were “continuing the strike despite salaries being paid”.
The question was raised after counsels appearing on behalf of the three MCDs informed the bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath that “all salaries have been released” till January 31, and the workers’ unions were insisting on continuing the strike demanding payment of arrears, dearness allowance and other allowances.
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The court issued notice to 34 unions of MCD sanitation employees, asking them to file their replies Monday to a PIL which has sought orders to impose Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA). The court also issued notice to the central government to file its response on the legal issue of whether ESMA could be imposed.
The bench noted “people of Delhi were suffering” because of the strike, and the civic bodies, and the court “could not remain a mute spectator”.
The bench, however, declined to issue any interim orders to call off the strike, observing that it would have to hear the unions. “We will pass orders but first you have to report on what are the steps that can be taken,” said the court.
The court said it had passed an interim order that the Commissioner of Police “shall ensure that the removal of garbage by the private agencies employed by the Municipal Corporations is not obstructed by the existing staff or their agents in any manner whatsoever”. The court reiterated “the said direction”.
The PIL filed by advocate Birinder Sangwan has sought imposition of the provisions of the ESMA to force safai karamcharis (sanitation workers) to come back to work, claiming that sanitation was an “essential service”, and the strike by the workers should be declared “illegal”.
The PIL has also sought orders to “convert the three MCDs into one entity again” so that accounts “can be properly maintained”.