Why shouldn’t motormen be made to pay compensation to the commuters who were stranded when they went on strike on Monday, the high court has asked the railways.
Taking serious note of the strike that paralysed the city for over 24 hours, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday asked the railways to consider compensating commuters, funds which they could then recover from the motormen who went on strike.
Motormen on both the central and western railway lines struck work on Monday evening, demanding higher wages and better working conditions. They resumed work late on Tuesday, after the high court declared that they had no right to strike.
About 7 million daily commuters were affected by the stir.
“Ultimately, the commuters are the victims,” said Acting Chief Justice J.N. Patel. “Railways should compensate them and recover the amount from motormen. You can easily identify the valid pass holders. At least they can be compensated.”
The municipal corporation should also ensure the trains work in the monsoon, the court said, otherwise they too can offer compensation.
The division bench of Acting Chief Justice Patel and Justice S.C. Dharmadhikari, which was hearing the case filed by the central government on Tuesday morning, has now asked Additional Solicitor General Darius Khambata to consult the Centre on the compensation issue and file a reply by June 16.
Agreeing with the court, Khambata said that the motormen should pay.
“This cannot be allowed to happen again,” he said. “They hold city to ransom and then they cannot go scot free.”
Khambata added that the motormen have still not called off their strike. “They have merely deferred it till June 15, when a hearing is scheduled before the industrial court.”
Justice Patel concluded by saying that, if political parties could be fined for organising bandhs and disrupting civic life, the same logic should apply in this case.
“We believe in the rule of law,” said Justice Patel, adding that it could be telecom service providers or any other service providers who strike work.
The high court has asked the central government to add all the motormen who went on strike as respondents in the petition. They too must file their reply by June 16.