Hyderabad: The State government on Wednesday rejected the Telangana High Court’s proposal for constitution of a three-member committee comprising retired Supreme Court judges for arbitration to break the impasse following the indefinite strike by the workers and employees of the TSRTC.
Advocate General B S Prasad Rao submitted before the High Court that apart from the Industrial Tribunal Act, the strike was illegal even according to the Essential Services Maintenance Act. He referred to a Government Order issued in December, 2015, and argued that TSRTC comes under ESMA. He further stated the validity of the notification was extended from time to time every six months. The AG also argued that the involvement of the Central government was required only when the reorganised States have a dispute in asset sharing. The contentions of the AG based on Section 68 of Reorganisation Act that the State government has the power to reconstitute TSRTC, however, did not find favour with the bench.
The High Court bench comprising Chief Justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Abhishekh Reddy, seeking clarifications on the application of ESMA to TSRTC, enquired with the AG that even if RTC came under ESMA, who was to declare the strike illegal?
Senior Counsel D Prakash Reddy, appearing for the RTC unions, questioned the veracity and applicability of the GO and its extension prior to the very formation of TSRTC. The submission of the AG that under ESMA, transport was an essential service did not find favour with the bench.
Prasad Rao, informing the High Court about the government’s inability to accept the proposal for the committee, said an affidavit was filed before the court explaining the stance of the government.
The petitioners’ counsel, however, submitted that the workers had given their consent for the constitution of the committee and questioned the intentions of the government in denying its consent. They further submitted that the court had the power to constitute a committee for resolving the crisis. The counsel also brought to the notice of the court that one RTC driver had committed suicide in Mahabubabad on Wednesday and that overall, 27 workers had died till date.
The bench asked the AG to clarify if TSRTC was a by-product of APSRTC or a new Corporation, to which the latter replied that it is was a by-product and that 47 A of Reorganisation Act was not mandatory.
To the argument of the State that the Reorganisation Act alone prevails, the bench pointed out to such a contingency only when there was an inconsistency with the Parliamentary Act. The State reiterated its stand that the matter was considered by the authorities under the Industrial Disputes Act and the court should stay away from adjudication.
The AG further said affidavits have been filed by the authorities explaining the inability of government in rescuing the Corporation from the crisis. The AG, referring to an Apex Court judgment, pointed out that the appointment of a committee by the High Court in contentious matters was not suggested and prayed the court to close the case and leave it to a competent court. “If we have to relegate the matter to competent authority, there should be a direction to resolve the issue in a reasonable time. What would be the reasonable time according to government?” the bench questioned. The AG replied that four weeks would be reasonable time.
Additional Advocate General, Ramchandar Rao submitted that as per the Industrial Disputes Act, the workers were on an illegal strike and said the High Court had the power to declare the strike as illegal. The bench will now hear the issues relating to the privatisation of 5100 routes by the Corporation on Thursday and it would continue to hear the response of the unions on the aspect of illegal strike on November 18.