Ker HC | “Striking workers cannot resort to strong-arm tactics and violence”; HC explains the ambit of Right to Protest

Kerala High Court: Raja Vijayaraghavan V, J., addressed the instant petition alleging illegal and unorganised exercise of right to strike. The Bench stated,

“In the guise of a strike, the union leaders as well as the striking workers cannot resort to strong arm tactics and violence to intimidate and force the management to succumb to their demands.”

The petitioner, Bharat Serum Vaccines Ltd., was a company engaged in manufacturing and marketing pharmaceutical and lifesaving products. Though their Regional Office was situated at Ernakulam, the company had business interest in all districts in the State of Kerala. In October, 2020, on account of administrative reasons as well as business exigencies, the petitioners had to redeploy their Territory Branch Managers to other parts of the country. The petitioner submitted that the service conditions clearly stated that the employees were transferable, the transfer being an incidence of service. Though most of the employees accepted the transfer and joined the respective stations, the respondents had refused to oblige.

The petitioners contended that the respondents, with aid of Kerala Medical and Sales Representatives Association, caused obstruction to the managerial staff, Regional Business Managers and Sales Representatives in carrying on their business. The petitioners further submitted that on 23-11-2020, the Regional Business Manager was obstructed while he was discharging his duty along with one Aneesh. Moreover,

The Union had raised an open threat that the petitioners would not be permitted to carry on their business activities in the State unless their demands were met with.  Threats were also made that the entire business of the petitioners will be brought to a standstill.

In spite of several complains no assistance was rendered by the police and the party respondents were having a field day intimidating and threatening the employees of the petitioners and disrupting their business.

The Bench, after considering above mentioned facts stated that there could not be any doubt that the workers had right to resort to strike or dharna to effectively bargain with the management and to ensure that unfair labour practices were avoided. However, in the guise of a strike, the union leaders as well as the striking workers could not resort to strong arm tactics and violence to intimidate and force the management to succumb to their demands. The Court expressed, even if the demand was legitimate if the management for one reason or the other did not accede to their demand, the only option was to resolve the dispute in a manner known to law,

Under no circumstances can the respondents resort to violence to further their cause. That would infringe the rights of the petitioners to carry on their business.

 In the light of above, the instant petition was disposed of with the direction to the petitioners to approach the jurisdictional police station, if any threat or intimidatory tactics is adopted by respondents and the officer concerned was directed to enquire the same and take appropriate action.[Bharat Serum Vaccines Ltd. v. State of Kerala, WP(C). No. 29084 of 2020, decided on 15-02-2021]

Appearance before the Court by:

For the Petitioners: Adv. K.Praveen Kumar

For the Respondents: Adv. PP Thajudeen

Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

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