The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Strike order baffles Sorabjee

New Delhi, Aug. 10 (PTI): Attorney-general Soli J. Sorabjee today said the Supreme Court ruling that government employees had “no moral or equitable right to go on strike” was “uncalled for” and “beyond comprehension”.

The right of collective bargaining and the ancillary right to strike were invaluable rights of employees, he said. “It was secured after years of toil and effort.”

On the ruling that government employees did not even have the “moral or equitable right” to strike, Sorabjee said: “A court of law is concerned with legal and constitutional issues. The observation that the employees have no moral or equitable right to strike was really uncalled for and is beyond comprehension.”

Taking an overall view of working conditions in the country, he said: “There can be horrendous situations in which the employees have no effective mechanism for redressal of their grievances and are left with no option but to resort to strike.”

The attorney-general, however, agreed with the apex court’s view that strikes cause inconvenience to people.

“No one can dispute that strikes should not be indiscriminate and resorted to for trivial reasons,” he said.

“It is also undeniable that strikes cause grave inconvenience to public and also damage smooth functioning of administration,” Sorabjee said, when asked his views on the apex court’s recent judgement passed in the Tamil Nadu employees’ case.

When the apex court’s stand of 1962 that employees or trade unions had no fundamental right to strike was brought to his notice, Sorabjee said workers comprise a considerable section of society and a means of redressing their grievances and hardships must be kept in mind.

“One must not forget that employers can be unreasonable at times and are also intransigent and insensitive to fair demands of employees.”

While agreeing with the apex court’s view that “strike often results in chaos and causes total maladministration”, Sorabjee said “but it does not mean that strikes can be absolutely prohibited”.

Referring to an apex court judgement virtually banning strikes by lawyers, the attorney-general emphasised that the court, while deprecating indiscriminate strikes, had recognised there could be rare and exceptional situations where a short-duration strike could be permissible.

Citing one such situation, Sorabjee said the court had allowed lawyers to resort to a short-duration strike if government took measures eroding the independence of the judiciary.

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