Commuters in the city will be spared inconvenience on Wednesday as the auto unions have called off their strike, after the Bombay high court came down hard on them on Tuesday.
While calling the strike unjustified, the court indicated that it would pass an injunction banning it, after which counsel for the Sharad Rao-led auto union, the biggest in the city, said they would not continue with the protest.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by the NGO Mumbai Grahak Panchayat, challenging the implementation of an additional fare hike based on recommendations made by the Hakim Committee. The committee, last year, had recommended an annual fare hike every May, based on which Rao’s union issued a 72-hour strike call demanding an increase in auto fares. The strike was scheduled for Wednesday.
The petitioners contended that since a challenge to the previous fare hike is still pending in court, another hike cannot be implemented.
The division bench of justice DY Chandrachud and justice SC Gupte observed that threatening to strike when the previous case was sub-judice amounts to distrust in the judicial process and cannot be justified.
The state advocate general said that though an immediate decision on the fare hike is not possible, the state is willing to hold a high-level meeting with the transport secretary, the union, and other stakeholders.
However, the petitioners’ advocate, Uday Warunjikar, countered this saying that if the government was willing to talk to the union in light of the strike threat, there is no guarantee that such frequent demands for hike would not recur.
The state, however, argued that the decision to talk to unions was not taking under the pressure of the strike call.
The state further said various authorities, including the civic and state transport authorities, the collector, and the police, had been spoken to about measures to be taken in case of a strike. The state indicated it would invoke the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA) and Motor Vehicles Act to allow private vehicles to ferry passengers.
The court agreed hasty decisions on a fare hike could not be taken without objective considerations. The court has adjourned the hearing till September 25.
Rao, meanwhile, at a press conference held at the union’s office at Currey road, told the media that they have decided to defer the strike scheduled from to start at midnight on Wednesday, but did not give a date for another agitation.