The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Tuesday pulled up the State government for its failure to control the ongoing strike by APNGOs and Seemandhra Secretariat Forum protesting against the proposed division of the State. “It’s ‘culpable negligence’ on your (government) part. It appears the actions of the government show it is supporting the strike,” the court observed.
The government, on its part, told the court it was opposing the public interest litigation filed against the employees’ strike which began from Aug 12 midnight. A division bench comprising Chief Justice Kalyan Jyoti Sengupta and Justice K C Bhanu was hearing the PIL filed by V Ravi Kumar, an advocate, seeking to declare the strike illegal.
During the hearing, the Chief Justice asked the government counsel whether disciplinary action was taken against the employees. “The strike has been continuing as the government failed to control it,” he remarked.
In reply, government counsel Ch Naidu submitted that steps had been taken by constituting a committee with a group of ministers to hold discussions with the employees. The Chief Justice sought to know under which provisions of the law were the employees invited for discussions.
“Instead of issuing instructions, the government has requested them to control the strike. Do you know the amount of loss being suffered by the State? The rule book says employees cannot go on a strike. But the strike is going on. We want a justification,” the Chief Justice said. The government counsel informed the court that salaries were not paid to the striking employees as per the ‘No Work, No Pay’ rule. The Chief Justice asked the counsel to clarify whether the government wanted dismissal of the PIL to which he replied in the affirmative.
The bench then asked counsel for the Central Government to list out steps taken by it. Assistant solicitor general Ponnam Ashok Goud said the Centre had no role to play at this stage. The Central government would intervene and consider imposing President’s Rule under Article 356 if the State sends a report to it stating that the strike is illegal and concedes failure of law and order, he explained.
Earlier, the petitioner’s counsel S Satyam Reddy urged the court to compel the government to take steps against the striking employees and force them to resume their duties forthwith. “The government is like a trustee and cannot sit idle when the administration comes to a stand still. Rules framed by the government have to be implemented for smooth administration,” he argued and cited various rules of the AP Civil Services (Conduct) Rules that empower the government to take action against the employees for misconduct.
Senior counsel CV Mohan Reddy, arguing for the APNGOs’ association, defended the strike saying demonstrations undertaken by service associations had been peaceful and non-coercive.