The Kerala High Court on Friday barred five unions from Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL), Kochi, from participating in a nationwide strike called by a joint forum of unions which was due to take place on March 28-29.
In addition to issuing a summary order, Judge Amit Rawal also advised the respondents of the case before admitting it.
“The apprehension expressed by the applicant cannot go unnoticed by the opinion of this Court in the exercise of the power of judicial review because it is probable that all the unions which had already issued an opinion may, despite having been advised by the conciliator , of the provisions mentioned above, cannot go on strike, which would hinder and hinder the proper functioning and work of the petitioner.”
The defendants are the trade unions representing the workers employed/engaged at the petitioner’s refinery in Ambalamugal and have issued strike notices advising that they are going on strike from 7.00 a.m. on 28.3.2022 to 7.00 a.m. on 30.3.2022 in support of the decision of the National Convention of Workers, jointly organized by the Central Unions and the Independent National Federations/Associations, held at Jantar-Mantar, New Delhi, on 11.11.2021, against the various issues related to the decisions taken by the Government of India.
The claimant applied to the Court for an interim order prohibiting the respondents from resorting to strike action on the said dates or on any other day contrary to section 22 of the Industrial Disputes Act 1947.
Lawyers P. Benny Thomas, D.Prem Kamath, thomas thomas, Abel Tom Benny, Jyotish Krishna and Jaikrishnan M Pisharodi argued on behalf of BPCL that upon receipt of the strike notices, the applicant’s general manager also received a conciliation procedure. It was argued that under section 22 strikes and lockouts relating to a public utility service are prohibited pending conciliation.
They argued that since BPCL is a public utility, the operation of its various units would be seriously affected by the strike. It was claimed that although in all the notices of conciliation, articles 22(1), 22(2) and 33 were mentioned, the unions would not adhere to this directive. Accordingly, the Applicant requested the Court to invoke its extraordinary jurisdiction.
The judge noted that in a similar circumstance, when the strike call was issued in 2020 and 2021, he barred such notices.
In addition, he observed that on reading Article 22, it was obvious that in the event of the suspension of a conciliation procedure before a conciliator, which is certainly in progress given the strike notices and that the conciliator has already issued notices, there is to be a provision for a strike.
Considering all these circumstances, the Court issued the interim order prohibiting the defendants from going on strike in accordance with their appeal given in the strike notices from 7:00 a.m. on 28.3.2022 to 7:00 a.m. on 30.3.2022.
Case title: Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd v. Cochin Refineries Employee’s Association & Ors.
Click here to read/download the Interim Order