KOCHI: Stressing the need to take stringent action against the practice of ‘nokkukooli’ (notional wages), the Kerala High Court on Thursday directed the police to arrest loading and unloading union workers if they obstruct movement of goods following failure to pay ‘nokkukooli’.“The practice of demanding ‘nokkukooli’ had been deprecated by the court for decades now. But it still persists,” the court observed.A Division Bench of the court passed the judgment while closing a contempt of court petition filed by Shahul Hameed, a timber merchant at Kanjirapally in Kottayam.
The petitioner said the Headload Workers Association, CITU, Kottayam unit, had threatened him and dissuaded him from using cranes for loading and unloading at his depot. They insisted only workers registered with them should be allowed to do the work. Despite lodging a complaint with the police, no action was taken. As a result, the petitioner was being forced to pay `25,000 to the union as ‘nokkukooli’, the plea stated.The court cited though payment to the unions will be reduced if the crane is used, it will make the work more efficient and quicker, and it may be more economical too. But this, obviously, is not the concern of the unions. Their only concern is to extract as much money as possible and, therefore, they make every effort to obstruct the use of cranes, it said.
The court observed the unions generally want to obstruct the petitioner from using the crane. However, the petitioner will have to pay wages to the workers even if they don’t work; in other words, pay ‘nokkukooli’, it said.If the petitioner makes a complaint against any members of AICTU or CITU about restrictions on the use of crane or obstruction of loading and unloading of timber by crane or any mechanical device, the police should arrest those persons and report to the High Court which alone will deal with their bail applications. If the petitioner complains about the laxity on the part of the police to take any action, the court will take appropriate action against the police, it said.The court issued the orders in the presence of CITU union leaders who appeared before the court.