HYDERABAD: A vacation bench of the Hyderabad High Court on Tuesday termed the ongoing RTC employees’ strike an issue of public interest and directed the staff to convey their decision on calling off the stir by 10.30 a.m. Wednesday.
The bench, while expressing displeasure over the failure of the employees to abide by its order of May 9 to call off the strike, observed that it was not an issue merely between the employees and the management. “People are suffering on account of the strike and hence, it is a public interest issue,” the bench, comprising Justice KC Bhanu and Justice MSK Jaiswal remarked and warned the unions of serious consequences if they failed to abide by its orders.
The bench, which was dealing with two public interest petitions filed by CL Venkat Rao and Mohammad Ghouse, had on May 9 declared the RTC strike illegal.
Senior counsel CV Mohan Reddy, appearing for Venkat Rao, submitted that the unions had no right to be heard in court as they had defied its orders. “First, they have to reply to the contempt petition,” he said, referring to a contempt plea filed against the striking employees.
Taking a serious note of the unions’ failure to obey its orders, the bench warned them that it would issue directions to Telangana and AP governments for making alternative arrangements to run bus services and take penal action against the striking employees if the latter continue to defy court orders.
RTC unions’ counsel Vedula Srinivas told the bench AP had invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) while Telangana did no such thing. “In fact, ESMA invoked by AP is not applicable in Telangana. Since the APSRTC is not yet bifurcated and its headquarters and corporate office are located in Hyderabad, it is to be decided whether AP has the power to invoke ESMA,” he argued.
The bench told the counsel all such issues will be addressed at the time of final hearing. “Now we are on the issue of contempt. Why didn’t your men comply with the order? Tell us by tomorrow whether they are willing to comply with it. Also tell your men it is our appeal to them as well because the people at large are suffering a lot,” the bench said. Srinivas, however, sought two days to respond which was opposed by the petitioners.
AP and Telangana governments, meanwhile, informed the court of the steps being taken by them to end the deadlock. While adjourning the case to Wednesday, the bench warned the unions of serious consequences if they failed to listen to the voice of the court and directed them to submit a compliance report.
Outside the court, however, the RTC unions vowed to continue their strike till their demand for 43 per cent fitment payment was accepted and said the same would be conveyed to the court.