The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday opined that in light of the surge in COVID-19 cases in the State, the Karnataka State Road Transport Employees League (Union) has picked the worst time to go on strike.
The Court made this observation while issuing notice to the Employees Union, which had called for an indefinite strike of all bus services run by four road transport corporations in the State from April 7.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka Justice Suraj Govindraj opined,
“Perhaps this is possibly the worst time to take recourse to the strike assuming that demands made by the Union are legitimate.”
The Court further said its observations were not on the correctness or legitimacy of the Union’s strike, but that it was only concerned about the rights of the citizens.
“Practically the entire State is in the grip of a sudden surge of COVID-19 cases…People have to go for reporting to their duty, to get vaccinated at vaccination centres. This is a time when the service available to common man is most needed. We are not on the correctness or legitimacy of the demands put forward by the Union. But we are of the view that apart from legality or illegality in the present difficult situation faced due to COVID-19, such strikes will affect the fundamental rights of citizens under Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” Chief Justice Oka observed.
The buses run by these four entities offer one of the cheapest modes of transport available for the common man, the Bench further pointed out.
The Court thus expressed hope that the Union would come forward with an assurance that the services offered by the four entities will be resumed immediately.
“We hope and trust that without compromising the demands which are made by the Union, it will come forward before the Court with an assurance to everybody that operations of these four entities (KSRTC, NEKRTC BMTC, NWKRTC) will be immediately resumed so that common man, who is already under huge stress does not suffer further inconvenience.”
“Though the Union’s demands may be legitimate, with COVID-19 in place, now is not the time for a strike,” the Court added as the matter drew to a close.
Advocate General Prabhuling K Navadgi informed the Court that the State has invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) under which persons have been booked. He submitted that almost 90 per cent of the bus services in the State have been paralysed as a result of the call for strike.
The State government had moved the labour court, which has declared the strike as illegal, the Court was told.
Advocate GR Mohan, appearing for one of the petitioners, informed the Court about the hardship faced by the common man. He added that inter-city movement of citizens has been totally stopped due to the ongoing strike.
The matter will be heard next on June 22.
Employees of the Union have been demanding a hike in their salaries, as recommended by the Sixth Pay Commission. The State, however, has refused the same, given the COVID-19 pandemic and its financial situation.