MY LIFE AND STRUGGLES – 28
SUSTAINED STRUGGLES AGAINST VICTIMISATION (CONTD)
Charge sheets were issued under Rule 14 of CCS (CCA) Rules against suspended officials, proposing major penalties including dismissal. Participation in strike, dharna, demonstration, intimidation of non-strikers etc. were the charges. Charge sheets were issued even to some of those officials who were not suspended.
Union adopted many tactics to delay enquiries, since early disposal meant serious punishments including dismissal. After some time, situation may become normal and punishments will be less.
Charged employee has got the right to nominate another official as Defence Assistant to assist him in enquiry. Usually union leaders, who knew rules and were expert in such matters, were nominated. They pointed out several omissions and remissions in the conduct of the enquiry, framing of charges etc. and delayed proceedings. Another tactic was to cross examine witnesses in such a manner so that they become frustrated and contradict themselves. Inquiry Officers and Presenting Officers were no match to these experts. Coms.K.P.Govindan Kutty, M.C.Ayyappakutty and some other senior leaders were nominated as DA. I attended as Defence Assistant in about 30 cases. Almost on all days, there were sittings of enquiries. The dates had to be fixed according to our availability.
Charges in many of these enquiries could not be proved. But Disciplinary Authorities, mostly DE and SDEs, invariably imposed punishments, whether found guilty or not. Fortunately, there were no dismissals except that of Com.N.P.Padmanabhan, Convener of P and T Co-ordination Committee of Kerala. He was reinstated only after the Janata Government came to power in 1977. Gradually, situation improved and severity of punishments got reduced. However, union leaders were imposed with serious penalties.
Most of the suspended workers were reinstated after some months, except a section of senior leaders. They continued to be under suspension. I was one among them.
There was no court cases filed against striking employees, since state government has already declared that no action will be taken under ESMO in the state. To overcome this situation, officers of various departments were directed by central government to file criminal cases against those participated and/or instigated. 13 such criminal cases were filed in Calicut involving all leaders and some other officials. These cases continued for years. Well known advocates S/Shri P.K.Kunhirama Poduval, Bhaskaran Nambiar, Balakrishnan Nair and K.Jayaraj attended these cases, without charging any fee. Shri Raman Nair, Vakil Clerk of Adv. Poduval was of great help.
Advocate Poduval was unable to attend on the day of final hearing of a serious case as he was laid up. Charges included gherao of an officer and forcible cancellation of a charge sheet. Poduval directed us to Senior Advocate Shri Kunhirama Menon, his partner in the firm, requesting him to attend final hearing. We met him. He agreed to attend. Exactly at 10.00 hours he reached Magistrate Court, which he might not have visited for many decades. He usually attended High Court only. He was respected even by senior judges. Magistrate and advocates were surprised at his presence. Immediately our case was taken. He argued for half an hour in such a way that even we thought that such an incident never occurred. APP had nothing to say. Case was dismissed then there. All cases were over by about two years. Except the first case, all others were dismissed. On appeal, punishment was cancelled in that case also.
We arranged a reception for the advocates at Hotel Alakapuri, but nothing more than tea they will have. We thanked them for their invaluable assistance.
At the initiative of Advocate Shri T.C.N.Menon, M.P., who was also Chairman of Kerala P and T Co-ordinating Committee, cases were filed against termination of all 300 temporary officials. As per direction of Com.Menon, local co-ordinating committee conveners reached Ernakulam, where High Court is situated, prepared petitions and all were filed on the same day. It was almost miraculous. After about two years, these cases came up for hearing. All termination orders were cancelled since the provisions in CCS (CCA) Rules that either payment of one month’s advance salary is to be paid before termination or that a notice of one month should be there was not followed by authorities. This was a great victory. All terminated employees were reinstated and arrears of salary paid.
During the entire period, many agitational programmes were organised as per call of NFPTE as also Co-Ordinating Committee of P and T Unions Kerala. As a result, a good number of young workers became very active in union. They became big asset for union.I have mentioned about the strike and post-strike situation of Calicut only. It was almost same in other stations of Kerala. All these have been mentioned in the book on 19th September Strike written and published by Com.P.V.Chandrasekharan and me.Within 2 – 3 years, normalcy returned. Of course, scars of victimisation continued for some more time (to be continued)