Telangana High Court adjourned the hearing on the PIL petition seeking to declare the ongoing strike by employees of RTC as illegal to October 15. The Court directed the parties, including Government and RTC, to file comprehensive counter-affidavits.
The Vacation Bench, comprising of Justice A Rajashekar Reddy and Justice A Abhishek Reddy, gave this direction on Thursday after hearing elaborate arguments from all parties. It expressed dissatisfaction at the report submitted by the state government. The report detailed the measures taken to reduce the inconvenience of travelling public due to the strike.
“When we come to Court, we usually see a lot of RTC buses plying on the roads. However, we didn’t see them at all today, and you are claiming that so many temporary drivers have been recruited,” the Bench said. Noting that the report is not substantial, the Bench wanted the government and RTC to file comprehensive counter-affidavits by next hearing.
Advocate General BS Prasad and Additional Advocate General J Ramachandra Rao in their arguments contended that the strike by the employees was illegal. The lawyers mentioned that the employees resorted to it even as conciliation proceedings initiated by Joint Commissioner of Labour were underway. They asserted that the government had taken measures to see that people were not inconvenienced due to the strike. Around 3,000 temporary drivers have been recruited to run the services apart from requisitioning maxi-cabs to ferry people.
The Bench asked whether any notification for recruiting such drivers was given and if so to provide the same. The AAG submitted that he would file the same along with the counter-affidavit. He also mentioned that the PIL might be dismissed since the main prayer in the PIL was about the inconvenience to the public. With the government taking remedial measures and the festival season over, the PIL does not survive.
Senior counsel D Prakash Reddy, appearing for Telangana Mazdoor Union (TMU), refuted the contention of the PIL that the strike was illegal. He said there are specific parameters to call the strike illegal. He mentioned that the strike notice was given to the management on September 11 and conciliation meeting was scheduled to be held on September 23. However, the meeting was put off without any reason or rhyme, and no further date was mentioned. This made it clear that the RTC and government were deliberately putting off the conciliation meeting. The union wrote to the Joint Commissioner of Labour on October 26 that since the meeting was postponed and no fresh date has been given, it is assumed that conciliation has failed. The employees still waited a week before going on strike.
After deliberately not engaging in efforts to resolve the genuine issues raised by the employees, the government cannot blame them for inconveniencing the travelling public. The senior counsel asserted that the Constitution of India provides for the right to form a union and go on strike as part of collective bargaining. It is wrong on the part of the state government to declare that they will not allow unions. No one is above the law, he stressed.
The counsel for the PIL petitioner PV Krishnaiah said the very purpose of forming an RTC was defeated if the travelling public is being inconvenienced in this manner. He found fault with the unions for not challenging the GOs that prohibit the conduct of strikes by employees engaged in essential services. He sought a direction from the Court to the employees to resume their duties immediately. Krishnaiah faulted the opposition parties for coming out in support of the striking employees instead of convincing them to resume duties in the interest of the public.