Right To Strike Work Is Fundamental To Workers Human Rights

Once again a justifiable campaign has hardened against the (2003) judgment of Supreme Court which has held that there is no fundamental or statutory provisions empowering the employees to go on strike. Some members of Parliament are in desperation, suggesting  the amendment of the Constitution for this purpose.  But some facts need to be clarified to put the debate on the right track.

The judgment in (2003) was given in the context of strike by employees of Tamil Nadu Government.  The observations therein are relevant to the right of Government employees only – it has no relevance to the right of other employees,  workmen of private sector  to go on strike.

The real villain is Central Government which by Rule 7 of Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964 mandates that no  Government  servant shall  resort to or in any way abet any form of strike.

Many Trade Unionists  were dismissed from service under this rule, but still it remained on Rule book,  notwithstanding that in the interval and even now many Central Governments apparently sympathetic to the labour and even supported by left forces have been in power.

In India, though there may not be a fundamental right to strike (so long as earlier decisions of the Supreme Court stand) it is not correct to say that workers have no statutory right to strike.  As a matter of fact the whole scheme and spirit of Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 would show that it recognizes strikes as a weapon in the armoury of labour in the process of collective bargaining.  The Act does not purport to take away the right to strike.  As a matter of fact, this right has been impliedly recognized by the Act, though by legislation it may be circumscribed on considerations of national security or public order.

There is therefore much misunderstanding when it is said that right to strike has been negatived by the Supreme Court.

I feel that, though feeling indignant at the interpretation by the Supreme Court judgment may not be objected to, one wishes that if  Trade Unionists were at the same time to express their ire at the real guilty party  i.e.  Central Government, which even in the face of such mass resentment by labour, still has not chosen to delete Rule 7 (which is the real mischief maker), they may find their task easy.

Of course, this is dependent on the political commitment and labour friendly attitude of U.P.A. Government. A sympathetic administration can straightaway repeal Rule 7 and thus remove a bitter fight with labour and also  give it a feeling of participation in the reconstruction of Nation.  The answer therefore for protection of the right to strike has to be given by Central Government – it is not necessary to engage in any tortuous long drawn fight of constitutional amendment.

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