In order to ensure physical and mental well-being of its employees, the Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) to undertake medical examination of those employees who are attending duty and even those who want to resume work.
A division bench of justices PB Varale and SM Modak asked the transport body to make arrangements for medical examination of its employees after they were informed that “many of the employees were in depression and had developed suicidal tendencies”.
Gunaratan Sadavarte, advocate for the workers informed the HC that more than 54 employees had died by suicide in last one year. Instead of terming it as a strike, they prefer calling it “in mourning” since several of their colleagues had taken their own life. “Over 48,000 employees are still in mourning (on strike) because of death of fellow colleagues and hence they are not discharging their duties. They are in depression and in suicidal tendencies,” said Sadavarte.
He further added argued: “Now the situation is like that of farmers who committed suicide due to draught. Time and again the transport minister Anil Parab is threatening with either suspension or disciplinary action. Service of nearly 5,000 employees has been terminated. Employees have been transferred midterm.”
HC noted its order: “In so far as three submissions are concerned, there is no material before us in form of medical certificate. There is no dispute that for assessment of mental health of a person, either counsel possesses requisite expertise or this court possesses such expertise to express opinions that ‘A’ or ‘B’ is suffering from issue of mental health or carrying a suicidal tendency.”
Expressing sympathy with the employees, the judges said that the stalemate cannot continue as general public is facing inconvenience, especially students, senior citizens and patients.
“In all humility and in all respect we may suggest that loss of human life is painful. But there can’t be a stage of indefinite mourning of a person from societal life or life in general. Even religious faith stipulates mourning of (maximum) 40 days. And one has to move on in life,” noted the HC.
The court expressed that it was aware of the situation faced by the MSRTC employees, but it cannot overlook the larger public interest.
“This court is also aware of the situation but we can’t lose sight of fact that due to ‘strike’ or ‘mourning’, the corporation is unable to ply the buses which is the most convenient and reasonable mode of transport for a large majority of public,” added HC.
The HC has also asked the MSRTC to publish a notice in all depots intimating employees about pendency of contempt petition.
The HC also took on record the report filed by three-member action committee which is looking into the issue of merger of MSRTC with state government. The report, without giving final opinion, said that such a merger would have larger implications and also to give effect there is need of finances to tune of Rs 360 crore.
The HC has kept the matter for hearing in January 2022.
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