The fate of hundreds of drivers of the state-run Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) would be decided next week by the Bombay High Court. The court would decide if these drivers, who are colour blind, can continue to work with an ‘alternate’ job.

A bench of Justices Shahrukh Kathawalla and Riyaz Chagla would also decide if the drivers can be given their pending wages.

This comes after many such drivers moved the bench challenging the “arbitrary” action of MSRTC asking them not to report to work. The drivers were forced to sit idle at homes from April 2018. Moreover, the corporation decided not to pay their salaries from April 2018.

Irked by this stand of MSRTC, the bench had in an earlier hearing said, “MSRTC needs to be sensitive towards the problems faced by these drivers and their dependants by offering them alternate jobs and start paying them their monthly salary, to enable them to take care of their families, including old parents and children, who are still attending schools or colleges.”

The bench had then ordered the corporation to formulate a policy for such employees. The policy, the court said, must specify if such employees can be given alternate jobs.

Accordingly, MSRTC has come up with a new policy wherein it has decided that such drivers can be deployed either as a chaprasi (peon) or a khansama (cook) or as a guest house attendant.

“However, the corporation has decided not to give the pending wages to these drivers. The wages are their salaries from April 2018, the month from when they were asked not to report to work,” senior counsel Milind Sathe told the Free Press Journal.

Sathe was appointed as an amicus curiae (friends or assistants of court) in the matter to help the court in deciding the issue.

Appearing as an amicus, Sathe told the court that while MSRTC’s policy was workable, its stand to not pay the salaries from April was incorrect.

“MSRTC has adopted a policy wherein it is ready to provide alternate jobs to such employees. It says that till the new jobs are not available it would not be paying any salaries to the drivers, which is completely wrong,” Sathe pointed out.

“Thus, I have suggested to the court that MSRTC must be ordered to pay the pending wages of these drivers. The corporation must also be ordered to ensure that the alternate jobs are given within four weeks,” Sathe submitted.

The bench has heard the submissions advanced by Sathe and also by MSRTC. It has posted the matter for passing orders on March 13.

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Free Press Journal