Hyderabad: The Telangana High Court bench hearing the petitions on the ongoing TSRTC issue, maintained on Monday that it had “certain limitation on its powers” and that it “cannot force parties to reconcile”. The two judge bench comprising Chief Justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan and Justice A Abhishek Reddy on Monday continued to hear the batch of writ petitions on the ongoing TSRTC strike. The bench maintained that its first endeavour was to give enough time for the parties to reconcile, “as the warring parties are not ready for reconcialiation, we have to decide the matter on merits”, the bench observed.
The bench divided the writ pleas into three groups; writ petitions filed challenging the government order which extended vacation, writ petitions seeking the court’s indulgence to call for negotiation between the TSRTC and the employees union and the other questioning privatisation of routes.
The bench observed that neither the corporation nor the employees union was ready to budge. Senior counsel Prakash Reddy appearing for the employees union told the court that the union was not being called for negotiations by the government. The bench questioned the counsel for the petitioner, Krishnaiah, whether it had the power to order the agitating empoyees union to call off strike or call the corporation to negotiate with employees union. The bench also stated that it was for the corporation to decide whether they want to call for a negotiation or not.
Krishnaiah, appearing for the corporation, informed the court that the Industrial Dispute Act is a pre-constitutional law, based only on private sector. He further stated RTC came under the purview of the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) as such the High Court could declare the strike as illegal.
The bench, however, wanted to know which government order declared the TSRTC as essential service under Section 2 (6) of ESMA and pointed out that “all public utility services cannot be considered as essential services”. “If the TSRTC does not come under ESMA, the court cannot declare the strike as illegal under the ESMA”, the bench asserted.
Senior counsel Vidyasagar, who was acting as an amicus curiae, pointed out that the conciliation officer has to report to government and then the government could approach Industrial Tribunal for declaring the strike illegal. When bench enquired as to what can be done by the corporation, if the government does not approach Industrial Tribunal, he said that the corporation could make a representation before government to approach Industrial Tribunal. Krishaniah argued that in matters of public interest litigations, the High Court could intervene.
The bench referred to an Apex Court judgment that said that the employees have a legal right under the statutory provisions of Industrial Disputes Act. Sashi Kiran, counsel for one of the petitioners, stated that when the fundamental rights of common people were taken away, the court had ample powers to rescue the rights of people. “There are certain limitations on our powers we cannot force parties to reconcile and remarked our first endeavour was to give enough time for the parties to reconcile, as the warring parties are not ready for reconciliation we have to decide the matter on merits”, the bench said.
“Had the Corporation approached us to direct the government to take action on strike, we would have the power to direct the government to consider taking an action on the issue”, the bench added. On the writ pleas which questioning the decision of Cabinet to privatise 5100 routes, the bench extended stay till the next date of hearing. The bench adjourned the case to Tuesday for further hearing.