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Sit-in-strike in employer premises is illegal

HC says those who stay beyond working hours can be prosecuted for criminal trespass.


Disapproving the practice of employees holding sit-in protests, the Madras High Court has held that no employee has a right to occupy the property of an employer beyond the working hours and that they could be prosecuted under Section 441 (criminal trespass) of Indian Penal Code if they indulge in any such activity.


Allowing a case filed by Hindustan Motor Finance Corporation, Justice N. Anand Venkatesh said: “The act of the employees remaining after the working hours inside the factory premises will amount to seizure and holding of the building, preventing the use of the premises by the employer and practically depriving the employer of his property.”


The judge stated that though the entry by an employee into a factory premises during working hours would be perfectly lawful, their stay on the premises after the working hours would certainly be unlawful and amount to trespass. Whatever be the object of a protest, the means adopted to achieve it must necessarily be lawful, he pointed out.


‘Intimidating act’

Recording the submission of the petitioner firm that a section of its employees were residing on its premises since May 2 and refusing to move out, the judge said, such act was clearly intended at annoying, insulting and intimidating the employer and therefore attract the offence under Section 441 of Indian Penal Code.


Explaining the petitioner’s case, senior counsel A.L. Somayaji told the court that the firm had been manufacturing Mitsubishi vehicles, under licence from the Japanese company, at its plant situated in Adhigathur village in Tiruvallur district. It stopped manufacturing the motor vehicles since November 17 due to dip in sales.


From January this year, the petitioner was not even in a position to pay full wages to its employees and hence terminated the services of some staff members including those holding managerial positions. The managerial staff filed a writ petition in the High Court and obtained an interim order restraining the firm from disengaging their services.


Parallelly conciliation proceedings were also taking place before a Joint Commission of Labour. Meanwhile about 20 managerial staff entered into the plant forcibly on May 2 and continued to stay there. “They were also threatening to commit suicide,” the petitioner said and sought police protection for the plant. Accepting the request, the judge granted time till Monday for the protesting staff to leave the petitioner’s premises. Else, the Kadampathur police was directed to evict them forcibly besides providing protection to the plant in order to ensure that no law and order problem erupts in and around the plant.


“In case of any strike or demonstration, the same can be conducted 200 metres away from the petitioner’s factory premises,” Justice Venkatesh ordered.


Source: The Hindu