November 10, 2021 7:30:15 pm
MSRTC on Wednesday filed a contempt petition before the Bombay High Court against the workers who have repeatedly committed “wilful breach” of orders of the court, which had, on November 3, directed the employees to refrain till further orders from rallies/strikes or stoppage of work to avoid hardship to commuters during Diwali. Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) claimed that nearly 340 persons violated the court orders.
A vacation bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and S P Tavade sought a reply from the union to the contempt plea in a writ petition of the corporation against employees’ trade union along with others, seeking direction to all staffers to refrain from participating in strikes or stoppage of work.
The Maharashtra government told the HC that on November 8, as per the court’s direction, it issued a notification constituting a three-member high-level committee to amicably resolve the issue pertaining to workers’ demand of being treated as employees of the state government.
The committee comprised the Chief Secretary, Additional Chief Secretary of finance department and Additional Chief Secretary of transport department along with MSRTC managing director as the coordinator of the panel.
On Monday, while pulling up the lawyers of employees’ unions who said they were not satisfied with the government notification, the court said: “We do not understand why the employees of MSRTC have now backed out from what they themselves wanted the government to consider.” The court added, “Despite them (the workers) 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 orders aside and requested the state government to consider the demands of the employees of the MSRTC.”
The court said it failed to understand that how the employees stand to gain by not wanting to abide by the court order and “insisting on continuing to breach” them. The court further asked 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.
The bench then allowed MSRTC to take appropriate steps against those who have “repeatedly committed wilful breach” of HC orders, and to file contempt proceedings against them before posting the matter for further hearing on November 10.
The MSRTC filed the contempt plea on Wednesday, and named 342 respondents, including Maharashtra Rajya Kanishth Vetanshreni ST Karmachari Sanghatana, an employee union, and its president Ajaykumar B Gujar along with 340 employees, stating that they had breached the HC orders of November 3 and November 8 along with the industrial court order of October 29 restraining employees from proceeding with “illegal strikes” until further orders.
“The petitioner corporation ferries 7 million passengers daily…On each date, the number of employees from different depots kept on increasing and on November 8, employees of about 220 depots resorted to strike and have committee breach of court orders and as on today (Wednesday) 250 depots of the petitioner corporation are non-functional,” the contempt plea said.
It added, “The respondents acted very high-handedly, contemptuously and refused to obey the orders and direction of HC.”
The plea said the act was an intentional one on part of “respondents and contemnors” and should be dealt with in accordance with Contempt of Courts Act. “The MSRTC also sought direction to respondents to purge the contempt by reporting to work at concerned depots and refrain from obstructing other employees from working and to withdraw the strike,”the plea added.
After the lawyers of the employees’ union opposed the contempt plea, the HC sought their reply by Friday and posted the matter for further hearing to Monday, November 15.
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