KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Tuesday stayed the state government’s order, sanctioning eligible leave with salary for its employees who had not attended duty during the nationwide general strike called by the joint trade union against the Central Government’s policies on January 8 and 9.
The court observed the strike in question was not a legally permissible one. Even if it was legal and justified, there cannot be a blanket order by the government by which employees would be made to feel so and those who failed to turn up for work were entitled to eligible leave including casual leave. The court also sought a response from the government on the petition.
‘Govt not encouraging participation in strike’
A Division Bench headed by the Chief Justice issued the order on a petition filed by High Court lawyer G Balagopalan, challenging the government move. Petitioner’s counsel V Sajith Kumar contended the government employees’ participation in the general strike by staying away from duties cannot be encouraged and impression cannot be given to anyone that such action would be legally permitted. This was particularly so as only when a strike was found to be legal and justified, the government employee who participated in the strike can expect their service benefits.
Citing a Supreme court order, the petitioner submitted the participation in general strike should not be treated as a condonable activity by the government. He also informed the two-day strike had led to violence in several places, resulting in damage to public properties. Senior Government Pleader P Narayanan submitted that permission to grant eligible leave cannot be perceived as a government act encouraging participation in the general strike.
The order, at best, should be seen as a justification for the government employees who could not attend duty on those particular dates due to various exigencies. The petitioner pointed out that the order sanctioning casual and eligible leave by spending around `180 crore from the exchequer which was facing a financial crisis after floods was arbitrary and illegal.