Set up ex-SC judges’ panel to end RTC stir: Telangana High Court

Hyderabad: The Telangana High Court has mooted a proposal to constitute a three-member committee of retired Supreme Court judges to break the impasse over the TSRTC strike, even while wondering about the effectiveness of such a committee.

The High Court Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Abhishek Reddy came up with this idea of constituting the committee comprising retired judges, while continuing to hear the arguments over the RTC strike. The proposal came from the bench which noticed that its attempts to bring the government and the agitating employees unions across the table to thrash out the issues ended in failure.

Advocate General BS Prasad Rao informed the court that this suggestion would be conveyed to the government and its response placed before the court on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, Amicus Curiae and senior counsel Vidyasagar told the court that the bench could not declare the strike illegal at the instance of the petitioners. He pointed out that the Industrial Tribunal would be the appropriate forum, if and when such dispute was referred to the tribunal by the government.

Provisions of ESMA

The Amicus Curiae told the court that the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) was declared an Essential Service under the provisions of the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) and by implication ESMA may apply to the TSRTC. The bench, however, pointed out that TSRTC was a creation after the notification under ESMA. When Amicus Curiae informed the court that the Conciliation Officer had reported failure of conciliation to the government in October, the bench observed that the Conciliation Officer had gone beyond his jurisdiction in declaring the strike illegal.

Counsel for the petitioners argued that the strike was illegal as it caused great hardship to the public. When the petitioner pointed out that the court had ample powers to ask the government for constitution of a committee, the bench replied that the High Court was not above the law. The Advocate General responded that the court could not constitute a committee, also in view of attitude of striking employees.

Bench poser to AG

In a quick rebuttal, senior counsel Prakash Reddy, representing the agitating unions, said that the unions were always willing to come to the negotiating table. The bench asked the AG, whether the government could accept the resolution of issue by a committee of three retired Apex Court judges. The bench also asked, as a last resort, if “there is any minute chance of reconciliation, can we refer the matter to three retired judges of Supreme Court as they may have better voice?”.

The AG sought time for instructions and pointed out that the union also wanted the matter to be referred to Industrial Tribunal. Prakash Reddy informed the court that the union was ready for reconciliation efforts and pointed out that the union was also ready to reconsider its stand on strike, if government came forward to accept the negotiation by a three-judge committee. The bench adjourned the case to Wednesday for the response of the government.

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