July 15: Nearly two lakh sacked Tamil Nadu government employees today moved the Supreme Court against a Madras High Court judgment that refused to interfere in their dismissal for striking work earlier this month.
Petitioner T.K. Rangarajan, a leader of the Tamil Nadu State Transport Employees’ Federation, contended that the Jayalalithaa government had illegally terminated the services of the employees by invoking the Essential Services Maintenance Act with retrospective effect.
In a related writ petition, Chennai advocate Hasan Fizal challenged the validity of the act, which was amended by the government recently. Under the amendment, even employees who did not report for duty because of some other reason were deemed to have participated in the strike.
Both petitions will be “mentioned” tomorrow during the mention hour of the apex court. Only then would it be known if and when the petitions will be taken up for hearing.
Even three days after calling off their strike, representatives of staff unions are waiting for an appointment to meet the chief minister to urge her to reinstate them. The sacked employees, who have been hanging around office complexes the last two days, are not being allowed to enter. Only those employees whose names have not been struck off the rolls and given new identity slips are permitted entry.
A deep sense of uncertainty haunts the corridors of Fort St. George, the seat of power, while official work is virtually paralysed in many departments, including key ones like commercial tax.
Though the government has completed the recruitment of 15,500 temporary employees on a contract basis, with a monthly consolidated pay of Rs 4,000, sources said most of the new hands are still learning the “ABC of file reading”.
Nearly three lakh employees, including teachers, are said to have been dismissed for taking part in the strike that began on July 2, though the official figure is 169,670.
Representatives of staff unions appeared chastened but hopeful. “We are waiting for a word from the chief minister and we have full faith in her,” Sooryamurthi, one of the union representatives, said.
“The strike has taught us a very bitter lesson and we do not want to politicise the issue. We strongly believe only the chief minister can now come to our rescue by revoking the en masse dismissal orders.”
However, there has been no word from the chief minister’s office and union representatives were able to reach only the chief secretary and the finance secretary. Jayalalithaa will be away in Namakkal tomorrow for a government function. So nothing concrete is expected till Friday.
In a related development, the vice-chairman of the state administrative tribunal today issued notice to the state government on a petition filed by a dismissed employee, K. Maran, of the Sattur Panchayat Union. The tribunal asked the government to reply within a week.