March 10th 2017 is a dark day for the working class of India and its struggle to keep alive the right to unionize. It is also a dark day for the democratic rights movement. Almost five years earlier, as the workers of the Manesar unit of Maruti Suzuki fought for their right to unionize, the MNC management succeeded in twisting this dispute into a violent criminal law and order incident on 18th July 2012. An Indian manager lost his life,148 workers were charged with murder, rioting etc. on a single charge sheet, and the MNC managed to get rid of over 2300 workers, the union leaders and the union. The police description of the incident itself stands testimony to the collusion between the police and the MNC management- 90 executives and police personnel injured and not a single worker with a scratch! The parallels with similar ‘law and order’ situations to wipe out workers’ struggles in other MNCs like Hero Honda, Graziano etc are too striking to ignore. It should be noted that the Govt. of both Haryana and the Centre ignored all demands of Trade Union Centres including IFTU for enquiry by a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court into the incident especially the circumstances leading to the death of the Manager.
On 10th March 2017, the Gurugram District Court totally acquitted 117 workers, many of whom have spent almost 4 years in jail on these serious charges. Of the 31 convicted, 18 are held guilty of rioting, causing injury. 13 others have been held guilty of murder (302), attempt to murder (307) and other sections of the IPC. These include all the office bearers of the Union, one workman named Jiya Lal who was at the centre of the dispute which finally flared up (the management sought to dismiss him) and a thirteenth worker who had earlier been granted bail by the courts.The sentence on them will be pronounced on 17th March 2017.
The fallacies of the judgement are glaring. The Judgement recognizes the arguments of the defence on collusion between the management and the police, about workers being picked up without a shred of evidence and of fabrication of evidence. By acquitting 117 workers, the Judgement has laid to rest the story of a huge riotous mob assaulting management personnel and actually killing one manager. All the prosecution witnesses named in the FIR appeared before the Court and denied that they were present during the incident, some even saying they were coerced by the factory management. The workers’ leaders have been convicted for murder despite the post mortem report not substantiating this charge, despite the absence of any circumstantial evidence. There are many, many other glaring discrepancies. Despite all this, the court has convicted the union’s office bearers of murder. It is in essence a political message to the working class to desist from exercising the right to unionize and challenging the MNCs in particular. It should also be seen against the attack of the Central Govt against the labour laws including the right to organize and also the growing impunity in wielding UAPA against people’s movements.
The National Committee of the IFTU condemns this pro MNC, anti worker judgement, without ground convicting the office bearers of the Union for murder. A Judicial Enquiry to determine the actual course of incidents that day which resulted in the death of the manager should be held.It calls upon its units to organize wide protests, uniting with other trade unions where possible, against
this Judgement, demanding acquittal of all workers. It calls upon its units and the workers at large to organise mass demonstrations on 16th March.
Aparna (President) Pradeep (General Secretary)
National Committee, Indian Federation of Trade Unions. Dated 11th March 2017s