A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Monday directed the State government to issue orders forthwith preventing government employees from going on strike. The Bench comprising Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chali passed the interim directive on a public interest litigation filed by Chandrachoodan Nair S, a retired government employee from Thiruvananthapuram, seeking compulsory attendance of government staff at their offices during the ongoing general strike.

Conduct rules

The court also directed the State Government to issue necessary orders to all the department heads to ensure that the Rule 86 of the Kerala Government Servants Conduct Rules, 1960 which barred government employees from resorting to strike was not violated. The court also ordered that in case of violation of the rules, appropriate action should be taken against the employees who violated the rules. The petitioner pointed out that the Rule 77(b) (2) the Kerala Government Servants Conduct Rules, 1960, association of government employees shall not resort to any strike or use threat of strike as a means of achieving any of its purposes or for any other reasons. Besides, Rule 86 expressly prohibited the employees from taking part in the strike. Thus, these rules restrained government servants from going on strike. Besides Rule 14 (a) of Part I of Kerala Service Rules treated the period of unauthoriszed absence of an officer on account of participation in strike as dies-non. Therefore, the government had a responsibility to impose dies-non on the striking employees on March 28 and 29.

‘Government inaction’

The petitioner pointed out that a Division Bench had earlier quashed an order regularising the absence on strike days as eligible with leave and salary. The Bench had also directed the government to verify the attendance register and take action in this regard in accordance with the law. However, no steps had been taken against those who availed themselves of the quashed regularisation order. Instead, the government had extended unbridled support to the strike on March 28 and 29 by not declaring dies non or even mandating compulsory attendance of government servants. The trade unions owing allegiance to the LDF, the political party in power, had openly declared their support and persuaded the employees to abstain from work.