During the testing times of Covid-19 pandemic, which had “deleterious effects” of many lives, because of which many humans acted in the manner in which they would not have acted if things were normal, observed the Bombay High Court in its 26-page judgment directing striking Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) workers to resume duty by April 22.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice MS Karnik also directed MSRTC not to take any action against those employees who report to duty on or before April 22 and also take back any disciplinary action initiated.
“Apart from other deleterious effects that the unprecedented pandemic brought about in the lives of our countrymen, surely the crises that unfolded had its effect on the working of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) and its employees as well,” said the HC in its detailed order which was made available on Friday.
On Thursday, the HC had disposed of the contempt petition filed by MSRTC against the workers after giving various directions observing that these were “extraordinary circumstances” which call for “extraordinary measures”.
MSRTC workers have been on strike since November 2021 demanding that the corporation be merged with the state government and that they be treated on par with government employees.
The HC said that there was no need to find out who was at fault and that the situation necessitated a balance to be struck between the employees and the suffering of the public due to the absence of state transport bus services.
“We need not delve deep to find out who between the two (MSRTC and its employees) was at fault. Suffice it to note, during the testing times of the pandemic, humans may not have acted in the manner they would have acted if things were normal,” read the order.
The bench noted that the frailties from which humans suffer gave rise to differences and disputes erupting into a situation that tended to go out of control.
The judges noted that the one-off situation in the present case “necessitates the court to attempt an approach for striking a balance to provide immediate succour to the employees and, at the same time, ensure that the activity of providing public transport services for the benefit of the common man is resumed at the earliest with full strength."
While asking the employees to resume duty by April 22, the court has asked the corporation to permit them to join duty and not take any disciplinary action against them. The court further added that “any action, if already initiated against such employees, shall stand withdrawn."
The court also directed the state government to decide expeditiously the applications made for compensation for the death of an employee due to COVID-19.
Noting that it expects the striking employees to abide by the directions, the HC has said, “Any failure to abide by these directions would expose employees to be proceeded against by MSRTC in accordance with law.”