Bombay High Court: Granting mass leave to striking employees will set bad precedent

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court recently said if mass leave is granted to public servants, it would set a wrong precedent. It added the Maharashtra govt must take an ‘appropriate decision’ against strikes by public servants. A bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice Nitin Jamdar also said the government must always hold talks with employees to ensure such ‘strikes or mass leave’ are not repeated.

The bench was seized with a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) by one Umesh Khandekar, who challenged the Re­v­enue dept decision for gran­ting mass leave to its staff. Khandekar highlighted the fact the workers’ union of the state’s revenue dept had called a 2-day strike in November 2012 and 3-day stir in February 2013.

He claimed though the issues between the revenue dept and workers were resolved, the government did not treat these five days as illegal leave and instead made it legal. Justifying the decision to grant ‘mass leave’ the department claimed to maintain ‘cordial relations’ in the administration, the government by invoking the provisions of the Maharashtra Civil Services (Leave) Rules, 1981, treated the period of protest as leave.

“The said decision is legal and justified under the law,” the department claimed. On this, CJ Patil said, “The petitioner, herein, has raised an issue concerning both the employees and employer, who need to work in harmony so public interest does not suffer and they are not deprived of basic rights of approaching public servants and government officers for a variety of reasons.”

Mass leave of this nature, would paralyse the administration and set a bad precedent. It is, therefore, necessary the state administration take an appropriate view of the matter so that such incidents do not recur,” the Chief Justice observed.

Disposing of the plea, the bench stressed on the need to have a ‘dialogue’ between the govt and its employees. “A dialogue between both employer ie the govt and its staff in such a situation is desirable so such extreme steps are avoided,” the bench ruled.

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