Bar on Government servants to engage in strikes? Ker HC elaborates

Kerala High Court

Kerala High Court: While expressing that, it is the duty of the welfare Government to protect not only the citizens, but to continue with, all the Government work as expected, the Division Bench of S. Manikumar, CJ and Shaji P. Chaly, J., directed that Government servants should be prevented from engaging in a strike.

An Advocate, S. Chandra Chooden Nair had filed the present public interest petition, in order to bring to the notice of this Court the mala fide and illegal attempt of respondents 1 to 3 to aid and assist the General strike by permitting eligible leave with salary to the State Government employees taking part in the General Strike by not declaring died non in terms of the directions of this Court in WP (C) No. 5752 of 2019. 

Against the policies of the Central Government, respondents 1 to 3 had acted hand in glove with the trade unions and encouraged the Government servants and teachers to participate in the general strike by offering to regularise the absence in strike days as eligible leave with salary.

In WP (C) No. 5752 of 2019, the Government Order granting eligible leave and salary to the striking employees was challenged, and the Court quashed the impugned order directing the respondent 1 to 3 to verify the attendance register and take action in accordance with law.

However, no such steps as stated above have been taken by the respondents to date and infact they have extended unbridled support to the strike by declaring dies-non nor even mandating the compulsory attendance of government servants on the days of proposed General Strike.

Trade Unions offered eligible to leave and salary to the Government servants for abstaining from office.

Analysis, Law and Decision

This Court expressed that it had struck down the Government Order which granted permission to the employer, to grant eligible casual leave to the Government employees and teachers, who has not attended duty during the national general strike, taking note of the statutory provisions, circulars and other decisions.

Further, Rules 86 of the Kerala Government Servants’ Conduct Rules, 1960 makes it clear that no Government servant shall engage himself in any strike or any similar activities.

Government servants should not engage themselves in any concerted or organised slowing down or attempt at slowing down Government work or in any act, which has the tendency to impede the reasonably efficient and speedy transaction of Government Work. Concerted or organised refusal on the part of Government servants to receive their pay will entail severe disciplinary action.

Bench opined that the Government Servant should also take adequate steps to prevent the Government servants to engage in any activity specified in Rule 86 of the Rules.

Whether trade unions can call for a nationwide strike, in matters not related to trade union dispute under the Trade Unions Act, 1926, and when there is no industrial dispute with the employees in Kerala, within the definition of Industrial Disputes Act, 1947?

High Court expressed that, it is the duty of the Government to prevent the Government servant from joining in strikes.

Trade union activities pertaining to the statutory provisions under the Trade Unions Act, 1926, cannot be allowed to impede governance.

Elaborating further, the High Court added that the disciplinary action can be taken if only there was the participation of the Government, which fact again requires a detailed enquiry.

Merely because there is disciplinary action provided, that does not absolve the State Government from taking preventive action. What is prohibited in Rule 86 is different from what is provided in rule 14A of the Kerala Service Rules.

Lastly, the Court found that Government did not issue orders in advance preventing Government servants from taking part in the strike nor provided any machinery enabling others to attend office.

Bench directed the Government of Kerala to issue appropriate orders to prevent the Government servants from engaging in the strike and also to issue necessary orders forthwith to all the Heads of the Departments, to ensure that Rule 86 of the Government Servants Conduct Rules, 1960 and circular extracted above are not violated. [Chandra Chooden Nair S v. State of Kerala, WP (C) 10478 of 2022, decided on 28-3-2022]

Advocates before the Court:


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