The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CPM seeks strike shield

New Delhi, Aug. 8: The CPM today urged the Centre to come up with a legislative measure to nullify the Supreme Court ruling outlawing strike by government workers.

Raising the issue in the Lok Sabha, party leader Somnath Chatterjee said the judgment was virtually a negation of the fundamental rights of workers. The order, which would have the effect of enslaving employees after 56 years of Independence, had disturbed democratic citizens, he said.

Strike constituted the ultimate instrument of workers, Chatterjee said. “If it is now denied to them, they will be left with no remedial steps.” He disagreed with the apex court’s view that strike disturbed people’s lives and cited the thousands of cases pending before courts, including innumerable pension cases, to drive home his point.

Party colleague Basudev Acharya said the ruling went against the letter and spirit of the Industrial Disputes Act and the International Labour Organisation convention. Chatterjee urged deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, who was present in the House, to clarify the Centre’s views on the judgment.

Shivraj Patil, the Congress’ deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, said the right to work was among the “natural rights” of citizens which should not be misused. Evading a direct comment on the ruling, he said the apex court could always review its judgment. The House, Patil said, could discuss the issue.

Chidambaram opinion

Former Union minister P. Chidambaram said he believed the apex court ruling that government workers had no “fundamental, statutory or moral right to strike” was not a “definitive judgment”.

“These are observations worthy of our highest respect. But I do not think they constitute a definitive judgment” on the “fundamental, philosophical issue” of whether striking work was legal or illegal, he said at a press conference in Chennai.

Chidambaram was one of the senior counsels for the DMK-affiliated Labour Progressive Federation in the Tamil Nadu employees’ case in which the apex court had passed the judgment.

Very careful with his words, Chidambaram pointed out that the appeals before the apex court had only challenged the earlier ruling of Madras High Court declining to interfere in the dismissal of nearly 200,000 workers without an inquiry.

The question of the strike’s legality was not before the apex court, he said, and neither was this aspect argued before the bench. The relevant portions of the order were “only observations in my humble view”, he said.

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