The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Two ‘wrongs’ for a right

New Delhi, Sept. 24: The precedents are “wrong”, say Citu leaders. But there is no harm in making use of them for a “good cause”.

They want to boost the “good cause” of overturning the Supreme Court judgment that denies workers the right to strike with the “wrong” precedents of Emergency and the Shah Bano case.

“We want the government to bring a legislation in Parliament to undo the Supreme Court order stripping workers of their ‘equitable, constitutional, legal and moral rights’ to strike,” said W.R. Waradharajan, a Citu leader.

He cited two controversial instances of the past to shore up this argument. “Indira Gandhi got Parliament to enact an executive order so that she could hang on to power and place Parliament above the judiciary,” said Waradharajan. It was also an executive order that presaged Emergency.

Socialist leader Raj Narain, who lost to Indira Gandhi in the Rae Bareli constituency in the 1971 polls, moved Allahabad High Court, accusing Indira Gandhi of foul play. The court upheld Narain’s contention two years later.

But she refused to give up the premiership and challenged the verdict in the Supreme Court. At the same time, she got Parliament to pass an executive order that placed the House outside the ambit of the judiciary — ensuring it immunity from any judicial decision.

Rajiv Gandhi set the next precedent with the Shah Bano case in 1986. “He brought a law in Parliament to negate a Supreme Court judgment sanctioning payment of maintenance for divorced Muslim,” said Waradharajan. The then Prime Minister said matters like maintenance for Muslim women should be guided by the Muslim personal law, which is against paying maintenance to divorced women. “These are wrong precedents but we are fighting for a just cause,” he underlined.

The Centre, however, is unlikely to lend a ear to the Citu plea. “So far, it has not spoken a word in favour of workers and their right to strike,” said Waradharajan. Senior CPM parliamentarian Somnath Chatterjee raised the demand in the Lok Sabha when the deputy Prime Minister was present. “But L.K. Advani turned a deaf ear,” said the Citu leader.

Even Union labour minister Sahib Singh Verma has shied away from any gesture that could be interpreted as supportive of strikes. Left unions had unsuccessfully tried to elicit a response from Verma at a meeting of the Standing Labour Committee after the apex court judgment.

“The labour minister refused to pass a resolution denouncing the judgment and upholding the right to strike,” said Waradharajan.

The trade unions are planning an offensive strike against the Supreme Court judgment.

“If the government refuses to listen to our plea, we will have to go for action,” Waradharajan warned.

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