Wednesday, Aug 06, 2003
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By Our Legal Correspondent
Appearing for the DMK MP, C. Kuppusami, Mr. Andhyarujina told a Bench, comprising Justice M.B. Shah and Justice A.R. Lakshmanan, that the Centre, having accepted the State's proposal, sent it to the Madras High Court for a final decision.
When this was the position, how could the tribunal, with only the Vice-Chairman, deal with the cases of dismissed Government employees, asked counsel. At this juncture, the Bench suggested the setting up of a panel of three retired High Court judges to consider and dispose of the representations made by the sacked staff.
K.K. Venugopal, senior counsel for the State, intervened and said that pending a final decision, steps had been taken to appoint one member so that the tribunal could start functioning. The appointment would be through shortly.
Counsel said that as some of the employees had exceeded their rights, the court should not condone their acts, as doing so would send a wrong message to the public and the Government. Explaining the role of the Secretariat staff, he said they came out of their seats and held a demonstration within the Secretariat complex and raised vituperative slogans.
The speakers made clear during the demonstration that the strike would continue indefinitely until the demands of the employees were met. Mr. Venugopal submitted that it was the Secretariat staff who were responsible for good administration and they played a pivotal role in the administration of the State.
When P. Chidambaram, senior counsel, said there could not be a dismissal without proper enquiry as contemplated under Article 311 (2) of the Constitution, the Bench reminded him: ``You talk about the rights and sufferings of employees, but do you know how much suffering you had put on the government and the public by your strike''.
The Bench reiterated that employees had no fundamental, legal or moral right to go on strike. It said this strike was a pointer to other employees that a ``strike has to be taken with a pinch of salt. If you go on strike, you suffer and face the consequences''.
When Mr. Chidambaram said the validity of the ordinance amending the Essential Services Maintenance Act had to be gone into by the High Court, the Bench said only those who were affected by it could challenge it, and it could not be challenged by way of public interest litigation.
However, counsel said that trade unions must have the right to challenge the ordinance and this aspect should be made clear in the detailed order to be passed tomorrow.
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