The case against 89 of the 147 workers of Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL), accused of rioting in the company’s Manesar plant on July 18, 2012, could turn out to be an alphabet soup of sorts. The workers are lodged in Haryana’s Bhondsi jail for the past two years in connection with the violent labour unrest that caused the death of Awanish Kumar Dev, a manager at the plant.
The police claim four contractors who supply workers to Maruti witnessed the rioting as they were at the plant at the time. But going by the testimonies of the four witnesses, the alleged rioters ganged up in alphabetical order before going on the rampage.
Court documents show witness Virendra alias Rajender Yadav as having seen 25 workers indulge in arson at the factory, their names falling in the alphabetical range of A-G. Another witness, contractor Yaad Ram, has testified against 25 workers whose names are in G-P category.
A third witness, Ashok Rana, had named 26 workers whose names are in the P-S alphabet range. The last witness, Rakesh of Tirupati Associates, which has supplied 900 contract workers to MSIL, has claimed to have seen 13 workers whose names, continuing the alphabetic sequence, are in the S-Y range.
These four witnesses, however, failed to identify any of the 89 workers named by them in the district court on July 5.
“The (Maruti) management had originally named 52 persons in the FIR, mostly from the workers’ union body. The police picked up another 100 workers over the next two-three weeks and assigned 89 names alphabetically to the labour contractors with there being no other witnesses. They did not produce any witness at all against another 11 workers,” said defence counsel R.S. Hooda commenting on the evidence against 100 of the 147 workers.
The incident on July 18, 2012 was preceded by months of strikes by the workers demanding an independent union in 2011 that had caused a loss of over Rs. 2,500 crore to MSIL, India’s largest automobile manufacturer.
Special Public Prosecutor KTS Tulsi declined to comment on the pattern of the testimonies. Witness Virendra alias Rajender Yadav told The Hindu that his firm VGR Engineer Pvt. Ltd. supplied 700 workers to the Manesar plant in July 2012, and at present, it supplied 600 workers to Maruti’s Gurgaon plant. In all, 147 workers have been charged on 18 counts, including rioting, and under Section 302 of the IPC for murder of Mr. Dev. On Thursday, these workers will be waiting patiently for the decision of Punjab and Haryana High Court on bail pleas moved by two of them.