They can’t be denied the right to form associations…
The essence of Indian constitution lies in the articles related to fundamental rights of citizens. Article 19 of constitution of India enshrines protection of certain rights; titled ‘Right to freedom’. It protects the rights of freedom of expression, speech, peaceful assembly; right to form associations and unions; right of freedom of movement and settlement within the country and practice any profession, carry on any occupation or trade. Challenging any association or ridiculing any act of association is not only unlawful but against the fundamentals of natural justice and social order unless it affect the sovereignty and integrity of the nation. The recent intentions and acts of government to belittle the significance of trade unions particularly those pleading interests of state employees can be termed as an act of closing eyes to constitutional provisions.
The way certain elements within the government cast aspersions on the veracity and legitimacy of the existing trade unions and their leadership speaks volumes of vindictiveness and oppression. Even natural justice envisages an idea of association, where a group of aggrieved with a common interest can assemble and plead their case before the powers that be and seek redressal within the existing system of authority.
The present scenario of face-off between the administration and the employees unions and the subsequent coercive attitude of government is not an isolated case or an exceptional confrontation but such attitude is very common. Recently an aggrieved organization of officers of agriculture department was agitating against the derogatory remarks of one of the senior most officers of the department against their colleague. Their act of showing concern in no way affected the sovereignty or integrity of the country or created any situation of public order. Instead of listening to the woes of these agitating officers the authorities rebuked, intimidated and ridiculed them and were ordered to prove their credentials as an association and establish legality of their demand. They were coerced to seek an apology for an act that in no way was against the constitution. And after a week some of these officers who pleaded their case more vigorously were shifted to far-flung areas as a punishment. The arbitrary and vague ruling ‘interest of administration’ was invoked to enforce the punitive shift. Isn’t it violation of article 19 of the constitution of India and act of subverting the fundamental rights as envisaged in the constitution?
I am not here to defend elements who exploit provisions of the law to exploit gullible people to further their own nefarious designs and interests. Yet, if any individual or a group of people join hands for their legitimate rights within the provisions of the constitution and obstacles are put in their way of empowerment it becomes necessary to speak for such suppressed people. Associations and unions are part of a pluralistic concept that check autocracy and egoistic mindset and denounces narcissism. However, deceitful overindulgence in unionism leads to anarchy. That is why while protecting the right of freedom of association almost every egalitarian and civilized constitution put riders of integrity and sovereignty of state and public order in its constitutional structure. Trade unions and their leaders in the state who have been agitating for their demands can be unreasonable at occasions while pursuing their demands but that does not qualify them for renouncement as unlawful pleaders and deny them the protection guaranteed within the provisions of the constitution. Their acts at occasions can be infuriating for the administration and uncomfortable for common man but their genuine grievances have to be accommodated and their rights acknowledged within the law.