Madras HC holds special sitting to hear case of alleged damage to FASTag readers, CCTV cameras at two toll plazas

After recording that the situation has improved after deployment of police at Sengurichi and Tirumandurai toll plazas, it orders maintenance of status quo until October 10

October 04, 2022 03:52 pm | Updated October 05, 2022 12:50 pm IST - Chennai

FASTag readers and CCTV cameras were damaged at Sengurichi and Tirumandurai toll plazas. File photo

FASTag readers and CCTV cameras were damaged at Sengurichi and Tirumandurai toll plazas. File photo | Photo Credit: S SIVA SARAVANAN

The Madras High Court held a special sitting on Tuesday, despite it being a holiday on account of Ayutha Puja, to hear a writ petition by Trichy Tollway Private Limited accusing a few retrenched workmen of having damaged the FASTag readers and closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras at Sengurichi and Tirumandurai toll plazas on National Highway-38 passing through Kallakurichi and Perambalur districts.

When the case was heard by Justice C. Saravanan through video conference, senior counsel AR.L. Sundaresan, representing the petitioner firm, said the FasTag readers and CCTV cameras in Sengurichi were restored at around midnight and those in Tirumandurai toll plazas were restored 20 minutes before the hearing of the case. Special Government Pleader A. Selvendran said, police had been deployed in both toll plazas.

Advocate Balan Haridas, representing Tamil Nadu Toll Gate Employees Federation (TNTGEF), denied any wrongdoing by the member of the federation and sought time to file a detailed counter affidavit. Hence, the judge adjourned the case to October 10 with a direction to all parties to maintain status quo till then. He made it clear that the retrenched workmen could protest without causing disturbance to the traffic at the toll plazas.

In an affidavit filed through its counsel on record Inthu Karunakaran, the petitioner firm said, it had entered into a concession agreement with National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) in 2006 to build, maintain and operate the two stretches of NH-38 for a period of two years. Recently, its sub contractor SKM Contractor and Services Private Limited had retrenched some surplus workmen engaged at the toll plazas.

This led to the intervention of TNTGEF and many undesirable events, it alleged and said that the FASTag readers and CCTV cameras were damaged on October 1 causing a loss of around Rs. 2 lakh per hour at every toll plaza besides posing a threat to national security due to non functioning cameras, the petitioner company alleged. It insisted on deploying Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to handle the situation.

On the other hand, Mr. Haridas told the court that the employees had raised an industrial dispute seeking hike in wages and to regularise their services. A conciliatory officer had ordered status quo on the issue. Yet, the employer had gone ahead and retrenched as many as 57 employees and also deposited the retrenchment compensation in their bank accounts though the employees were not wiling to accept it.

Denying the charge of the federation office-bearers having damaged the FASTag and CCTV cameras, he said, the intention behind the petitioner company having approached the court was to prevent the employees from protesting against the high handed actions of the employer. “It is an enigma or rather a paradox for the company to have approached the court after having snatched the livelihood of its employees,” he argued.

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