ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Right to Strike-Has Supreme Court Moved Backward?

Two recent judgments of the Supreme Court have serious adverse implications for workers' right to stride and urgently need to be reviewed. ON May 4, the Supreme Court gave two landmark judgments. In both cases the employers had canvassed the issue of 'no work, no wages'. In the first appeal filed by the Bank of India against the judgment of the Bombay High Court, it was contended by the bank that it has a right to deduct wages for the period the employees are on strike and they do not do the work as per the contract of employment (Bank of India vs T S Kelawala and Ors). In the second appeal, a private limited company contended that they have a right to deduct wages proportionately as the workmen had resorted to go-slow and were not giving normal production which would entitle them to earn full wages in accordance with the contract of employment. The high court had taken the view that the bank had no power to make any deductions from the wages of the employees for the strike period. The court had taken this view on the ground that strikes and demonstrations were not banned in the country, that they were recognised as legitimate forms of protests for the workers and that the bank could not stifle the legitimate mode of protest allowed and recognised by law. The high court had taken a view that the deduction of wages for the day amounted to unilaterally changing the service conditions, depriving the workers of their fixed monthly wages under the contract of service. The court had further held that the bank could get the strike declared as il- legal and proceed against the employees in accordance with the regulations and impose necessary punishment. In the second judgment, the employer had challenged directly in the Supreme Court the order of the Industrial Court, Maharashtra, holding that the non-payment of full wages to the workmen was an act of unfair labour practice, rejecting the contention of the employer that he was entitled to deduct wages pro rata as the workmen had not given full production as they had resorted to go-slow tactics. The Supreme Court accepted the principle of "no work, no wages' and upheld the right of the employers to deduct wages proportionately for the strike period as well as for the go- slow tactics, it is further significant that the Supreme Court has held that no disciplinary proceeding is either necessary or feasible where misconduct was committed en masse by employees or workmen. This is the ratio of these two judgments. The retevant important portions of the judgments are reproduced below:
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