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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Panel formed to resolve issue: state to Bombay HC on MSRTC workers’ strike

On Thursday, the MSRTC submitted that despite the HC order, most of the 250 depots were non-functional due to the strike.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
Updated: November 9, 2021 1:52:04 am
“Upon such a report being submitted to this court, all contentions of the parties are kept open,” the bench said, and directed that the entire exercise be completed within twelve weeks and the committee shall inform its progress every fortnight.

The Maharashtra government told the Bombay High Court on Monday evening that as per the court’s direction, it has issued a notification constituting a three-member high-level committee comprising the Chief Secretary, Additional Chief Secretary of finance department and Additional Chief Secretary of transport department, along with MD of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) as the coordinator of the panel, to amicably resolve the issue pertaining to MSRTC workers’ demand to be treated as employees of the state government.

A vacation bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and S P Tavade earlier in the day had directed the state government to form a panel, while hearing a plea by MSRTC against Sangharsh ST Kamgar Sanghatana, an employees’ trade union, along with others seeking direction to all staffers to refrain from participating in strikes or stoppage of work.

The bench had noted in its order, “Admittedly, the demand of the workers of the MSRTC is that they should be treated as employees of the state government. For this reason, workers of MSRTC, as stated in our earlier orders, are on strike. Though by our earlier orders we have directed the workers to resume their duties and the order has been breached, an attempt has been made to amicably resolve the above issue raised by the workers by requesting the government to sympathetically consider the demand of the workers of the MSRTC.”

“Upon such a report being submitted to this court, all contentions of the parties are kept open,” the bench said, and directed that the entire exercise be completed within twelve weeks and the committee shall inform its progress every fortnight.

The HC on Monday morning noted that the Government Resolution (GR) notifying formation of the said committee be issued by 3 pm, a meeting of committee will be held at 4 pm and the minutes will be placed before the court at 5 pm. It added that the committee shall fix the next meeting date within ten days thereafter.

The HC, on Wednesday, had directed MSRTC employees to refrain from proceeding with the proposed rallies/strikes or stoppage of work from the midnight of November 3 until further orders. The court said the move would cause “hardships” to travellers who rely on state transport buses during the festival season.

On Thursday, the MSRTC submitted that despite the HC order, most of the 250 depots were non-functional due to the strike. Therefore no buses plied from these depots, depriving commuters of services during the festival. Thereafter, the HC issued notice to the union leader and warned of stern action.

The court, on Monday, with the assistance and suggestions of parties and their lawyers, directed the state to form a committee with the MSRTC Managing Director as its coordinator, who will not have powers in decision-making. The HC said the panel shall hear the representatives of 28 trade unions and representatives of MSRTC and thereafter submit their decision/recommendation to the Chief Minister, who will then submit his views on the recommendations.

The bench noted that none present before it had raised any objection to its order and said, “Upon such minutes reaching the court at and being perused by all the advocates present before us, the unions representing the employees of MSRTC shall forthwith withdraw the strike/agitation and resume their duties.”

On Monday evening, Government Pleader Priyabhushan P Kakade informed the court that the government has issued a notification of constituting a committee headed by its Chief Secretary as directed by the court and submitted minutes of the meeting of the panel.

However, the lawyers for employees’ union through advocate Gunratan Sadavarte said they were not satisfied with government notification.

“We do not understand why the employees of the MSRTC have now backed out from what they themselves wanted the government to consider. Despite them having repeatedly breached the orders passed by this court, the court when informed that some of the employees of MSRTC have committed suicide, as stated earlier, kept the issue of breach of our orders aside and requested the state government to consider the demands of the employees of the MSRTC,” the HC noted in its order. The court noted that the state government has fully cooperated with respect to demand of MSRTC employees by issuing GR.

“We fail to understand how by not wanting to abide by the order passed by this court in the morning session and insisting on continuing to breach the orders of the court, the employees stand to gain and how such an adamant stand taken by the employees of MSRTC will prevent their colleagues from taking the drastic step of committing suicide in future,” it added.

The court then asked the lawyer for petitioner MSRTC to take out appropriate steps against those who have repeatedly committed wilful breach of HC orders, to file contempt proceedings against them and posted further hearing to November 10.

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