Can’t adjudicate on RTC stir: Telangana HC

Telangana government must act on report of conciliation officer on strike, says court

By Author  |  Legal Correspondent   |  Published: 19th Nov 2019  1:07 amUpdated: 19th Nov 2019  1:11 am
Telangana HC
Commuters wait to board an RTC bus in Mahabubnagar.

Hyderabad: The Telangana High Court on Monday ruled that it has no jurisdiction to adjudicate matters relating to the ongoing strike by the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) employees and workers.

The Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan and Justice A Abhishek Reddy said it was now for the conciliation officer of the labour department to look into the issue and submit a report. The Telangana government has to act on this report. Within two weeks of submitting the report, the government must decide whether to approve it or refer it the labour court, the High Court said.

That the Telangana High Court cannot adjudicate on the TSRTC strike has been the argument of the State government and found favour with the High Court on Monday. The bench was dealing with writ petitions filed by Subedar Singh and five others which sought the High Court to declare the RTC strike illegal.

The Industrial Disputes Act empowers the State government to refer for adjudication any of the issues that were discussed before the conciliatory authority. While the conciliatory authority is a pre-adjudicating authority, it is the Labour Court which would adjudicate the issues on hand.

‘Decide in two weeks’

The bench said the government should take a decision within two weeks either to refer the report of the conciliatory authority to the labour court or refuse. Such an action should be communicated to the TSRTC employees and workers unions.

The bench did not opt for the suggested path of referring the matter to a three-member committee of retired Supreme Court judges. The counsel for TSRTC employees, D Prakash Reddy, pointed out that such a course of action did not depend on the consent of the government.

Referring to the constitution of such a committee, the Chief Justice observed that such action would be of no avail in view of the stated stance of the State government. For arriving at the decision of the High Court to refrain from adjudicating the matter, the bench relied on the rulings cited by amicus curiae Vidyasagar and concluded that it was “not for the High Court to adjudicate legality of the ongoing strike.”

Abortive attempts

The bench referred to its abortive attempts to find a reconciliatory route and observed that the action of going on strike could not be construed as abandonment of service since the demands themselves related to improving service conditions. Referring to some newspaper reports, the bench directed the State government to provide sufficient number of buses for commuters.

The bench also referred to the huge unemployment in the market and predicted that it was highly unlikely that over 48,000 employees would find fresh employment. “Even erring employees require the magnanimity of State”, the bench stated.

The matter now goes before the Conciliation Officer who would submit his report to the government and within two weeks from then the government will decide whether the dispute is to be referred for adjudication to the Labour Court. The remaining writ petitions relating to suicides and also privatization will be heard on Tuesday.

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