Read Judgment: Chandra Chooden Nair. S v. State Of Kerala

LE Correspondent

Kochi, March 30, 2022: Directing the Government of Kerala to issue appropriate orders to prevent the Government servants from engaging in strike and also to issue necessary orders forthwith, to all the Heads of the Departments, to ensure that Rule 86 of the Kerala Government Servants’ Conduct Rules, 1960 are not violated, the Kerala High Court has opined that the Government should take adequate steps to prevent the Government servants to engage in any activity specified in Rule 86 of the Kerala Government Servants’ Conduct Rules, 1960. 

Finding that though the strike notice has been issued in March, 2022, and there is no response from the Government by issuing any orders, A Division Bench of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly observed that the Government servant has no right to participate in any strike, and equally, it is the duty of the Government to prevent the Government servant from joining in strikes. 

The observation came pursuant to a petition seeking to bring to the notice of this Court the mala fide and illegal attempt of first to third respondents to aid and assist the General strike on 28th and 29th March, 2022 by permitting eligible leave with salary to the State Government employees taking part in the General Strike by not declaring dies non in terms of the earlier directions passed by this Court.

Going by the background of the case, this Court had prohibited Bandhs in Kerala and had directed the first to third respondents to issue orders mandating the attendance of Government servants and declaration of dies-non on days of General Strike to mitigate the inconvenience and hardship caused to the public. 

However, over the past few years, the respondents had acted hand in glove with the trade unions and encouraged the Government servants and teachers to participate in the general strike against the policies of Central Government by offering to regularise the absence in strike days as eligible leave with salary. In a Writ Petition,challenging such Government order granting eligible leave and salary to the striking employees, this Court quashed the order therein and directed the respondents to verify the attendance register and to take action in accordance with law. However, no such steps have been taken by the respondents till date and presently, they have extended unbridled support to the strike by not declaring dies-non nor even mandating the compulsory attendance of government servants on the days of proposed General Strike. 

The trade unions of the ruling party have offered eligible leave and salary to the Government servants for abstaining from office on 28th and 29th March, 2022 to support the general strike. This is being done when workers striking against the state government are penalized appropriately. The actions on the part of the respondents in impliedly supporting the general strike by not insisting attendance and not declaring dies non on the days of General Strike is highly illegal and unjust.  

After considering the submissions, the High Court noted that when there was a challenge to the G.O.(P) No.1/2019/GAD dated January 31, 2019, which granted permission to the employer, to grant eligible casual leave to the Government employees and teachers, who had not attended duty during the national general strike, taking note of the statutory provisions, circulars and other decisions, this Court had struck down the said Government Order.

Reading of Rule 86 makes it manifestly clear that no Government servant shall engage himself in any strike or in any similar activities, added the Court. 

Speaking for the Bench, the Chief Justice highlighted that the government servants should not engage themselves in any concerted or organised slowing down or attempt at slowing down Government work or in any act, which has the tendency to impede the reasonably efficient and speedy transaction of Government Work, and at the same time, concerted or organised refusal on the part of Government servants to receive their pay will entail severe disciplinary action. 

The fact remains that there are no buses operated by the State Government, enabling the Government servants to attend duty and there are no orders issued by the Government, enabling operation of vehicles, viz., buses and others, so as to facilitate Government servants from attending duty, added the Bench.  

The Chief Justice therefore concluded that the Trade union activities pertaining to the statutory provisions under the Trade Unions Act, 1926, cannot be allowed to impede the governance, as it is the duty of the welfare Government, to protect not only the citizens, but to continue with, all the Government work, as expected.

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