State In Celebratory Mode For Onam; Hardworking Employees Without Salary: Kerala HC Criticises Govt For Delaying Salaries In KSRTC
The Kerala High Court has criticised the State Government over delay in disbursing salaries of KSRTC (Kerala State Road Transportation Corporation Ltd.) employees. It said that the entire State is in celebratory mode for Onam and the hardworking employees are without salary.
The Court was dealing with a writ petition preferred by the employees against the KSRTC whereby they were aggrieved with the delaying of their salaries.
A Single Bench of Justice Devan Ramachandran noted, “When the entire State is now in celebratory mode for Onam, this Court certainly cannot countenance that the hardworking employees of the KSRTC - especially its drivers and conductors - should remain even without salary for the month of July, 2023.”
The Bench said that it is rather intriguing that the Government is unable to inform the court of any alternative for the KSRTC, apart from the monthly assistance being given to them by them but still delays payment until the end of the month.
“This can only lead to unnecessary strife and controversy within the ranks of the KSRTC”, added the Court.
M/S. P. Nandakumar & Amrutha Sanjeev represented the petitioners while Special Government Pleader Santhosh Kumar and Standing Counsel Deepu Thankan represented the State and KSRTC respectively.
A writ petition (civil) was filed before the High Court praying that the court be pleased to direct the respondents to pay salary to the petitioners before 5th of every succeeding month, pending disposal of the said petition. The petitioners repeatedly complained that their salaries were not paid on time and the High Court had passed various orders that directed the KSRTC to release salaries and pay it by a fixed date, ideally by 5th or 10th of every month so that the employees don’t suffer.
In spite of the aforesaid orders, the KSRTC failed to fulfill its obligations in paying the employees due to which the petitioners approached the High Court. Earlier, the court in July month, had ordered KSRTC to pay the salaries of their employees and thereafter few days back, the Court adjourned the matter for the next hearing on August 21, 2023.
The High Court in the above context observed, “The learned Special Government Pleader - Sri.Santhosh Kumar, submitted that the High Level Meeting discussed many facets of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC); and that the Government is willing to make up for any shortfall for payment of salary, though it has been made clear to the Management of the KSRTC that the provisions for Festival Allowances will have to be found from its own resources.”
The Court said that once the Government has committed itself, at least temporarily, to keep the KSRTC out of the red, one fails to understand why they are delaying such payment which they could have done by the first or second week of every month, so that the earlier interim orders of the court could have been complied with.
“No cogent explanation is forthcoming, even though this question has been repeatedly asked by this Court”, the Court added.
The counsel for KSRTC, submitted before the court that at least another Rs.30 crores is required to honour the full salary of the employees for the month of July, 2023; and that a further 10 crores will be necessary to pay their festival bonuses and allowances.
“It is, therefore, now unexpendable that the Government and the KSRTC find Rs.40 crores; and this cannot brook any further delay, because ‘Thiruvonam’ is on 29.08.2023, while 28.08.2023 is a public holiday. … The learned Special Government Pleader – Sri.Santhosh Kumar, sought time till 24.08.2023 to respond”, said the Court.
Accordingly, the High Court adjourned the matter for the next hearing on August 24, 2023 clarifying that the provisions for the aforesaid amount or at least Rs. 30 crores be answered affirmatively on this date.
Cause Title- R. Baji & Ors. v. Kerala State Road Transport Corporation Ltd. & Ors.