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T.K. Rangarajan vs. Government of Tamil Nadu & Others

 Citation  Appeal (civil) 5556 of 2003
 Date of Judgement  06/08/2003
 Court  Supreme Court Of India
 Case Type  Civil Original Jurisdiction
 Petitioners  T.K. Rangarajan 
 Respondent  Government of Tamil Nadu & others
 Bench   M.B. Shah.AR Lakshmanan.
 Referred   Article 226Article 227Article 32 


The Tamil Nadu Government terminated the services of all those employees who resorted to strikes for their demands. They challenged this action in the High Court under the Writ Petition of Articles 226/227 of the Constitution. The learned Single Judge, through an interim order, directed the State to put on hold all the suspensions and dismissals of the employees and directed them to resume their work until further notice. The State Government challenged this action in the way of writ appeals. On behalf of government employees, writ petitions were filed questioning the legal validity of the Tamil Nadu Essential Services Maintenance Act, 2002, as well as the Tamil Nadu Ordinance No.3 of 2003. The High Court’s Division Bench overturned the interim judgment, concluding that writ petitions were not maintainable unless the alternative remedy of addressing the Administrative Tribunal was exhausted. It was pointed out to the Court that the total number of detainees was 2211, of which 74 were ladies, and only 165 males and seven female staff have so far been released on bail, revealing the awful situation of the arrestees. The arrestees were mostly clerks and subordinates. As a result, the Court ordered that those detained and imprisoned should be released. That order was challenged by filing appeals and writ petition under Article 32, and since the facts of the case prove that this is an extraordinary case, this fell in the jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution. In view of this, the court referred to the case of  L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India and others and held that the petition of the employees was not maintainable and directed the employee to approach the administrative tribunal first. The order of the High Court was challenged by filing writ petitions under Article 32 and Article 226 of the Indian Constitution in the Supreme Court of India.


  1. Whether the employees have the Statutory right to strike?
  • Whether the Tamil Nadu Essential Services Maintenance Act, 2000, as well as the Tamil Nadu Ordinance No.3 of 2003, is constitutionally valid?


The case of Radhey Shyam Sharma v. The Post Master General Central Circle, Nagpur, was referred to where the petitioner was at work the day the employees of the Post and Telegraph Department of the Government went on a strike throughout India; in this context, a contention was made that Sections 3, 4 and 5 of the Essential Services Maintenance Ordinance No.1 of 1960 were violative of fundamental rights guaranteed by clauses (a) and (b) of Article 19(1) of the Constitution.

Further, it was contended by Mr. Venugopal, the learned senior counsel appearing for the State of Tamil Nadu, that the state employs approximately 12 lac government employees. Approximately 90% of the entire money from direct tax is spent on employee salaries. As a result, strikes cannot be justified on any equitable grounds in a society where there is widespread unemployment and a large number of skilled individuals eagerly awaiting employment in Government Departments or public sector businesses.


With regard to the question of whether the employees have the statutory right to strike fundamental, the court held that the government employees have no such right; on this ground, the court gave reference to the case of Kameshwar Prasad and others v. State of Bihar and another where it was held that the rule to prohibit strike was valid since no such right exists with the employees and in another case of Radhey Shyam Sharma v. The Post Master General Central Circle, Nagpur it was held that the Sections 3, 4 and 5 of the Essential Services Maintenance Ordinance No.1 of 1960 were not in violation of the clause (a) and (b) of  Article 19(1), the court also further added that the Article does not guarantee any right to employees to strike. The court further observed the case of Harish Uppal v. Union of India and Another where it was held that lawyers don’t have any right to strike, call for a boycott, or go for a token strike since, in the present situation, a strike for a just or unjust cause cannot be justified. The court emphasized the harm that society at large would face, and strikes in any field do more harm than justice. 

It was further added that there are no statutory provisions that empower the employees to go on a strike; also, the Tamil Nadu Government Servants Conduct Rules, 1973, prohibits employees from going on strike, therefore even when there is injustice at the workplace in a democratic welfare State, the employees must follow the established procedures and guidelines under various statutory provisions. The court emphasized the fact that this can be used as a weapon and harm society as a whole by giving situations where if teachers go on a strike, it will harm the whole educational, would affect the careers of many students, and in case doctors as a whole go on a strike then patients suffer, there are also certain occasions where public properties are destroyed or damaged which leads to bitterness against the people who are on strike. Therefore, as government employees, they owe a duty to society. In this view, the Court ordered the employees to be reinstated and carry out services by maintaining discipline since no right exists for a strike. They must follow the established procedures in case of any grievances. With regard to the second issue, the court made it clear that it did not deal with the constitutional validity of the Tamil Nadu Essential Services Maintenance Act, 2002, and the Tamil Nadu Ordinance No.3 of 2003 or the interpretation of any of the provisions.





This article is written by Sanjana Ramesh of Himachal Pradesh National Law University Shimla, an intern at Legal Vidhiya.


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