The Delhi High Court on Tuesday restrained the All India Institute of Medical Sciences Nurses’ Union from continuing their indefinite strike, reported Bar and Bench. The order was passed by the single-judge Bench of Justice Navin Chawla on a petition by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

“Respondent is restrained from continuing with the strike till further orders,” the court said. The court passed the order after it was also informed that all the grievances raised by the nurses were being looked into in a sympathetic manner. The matter would be heard next on January 18, 2021.

In its plea, the AIIMS had alleged that the strike was illegal as it violated the Industrial Disputes Act as well as a Division Bench order prohibiting any such action by AIIMS employees. It added that AIIMS being a “public utility” the ongoing strike by its nurses was against public interest. “Nurses left their jobs, all clinical work. AIIMS is a Covid hospital,” said the hospital’s counsel.

About 5,000 nurses began their strike on Monday afternoon. Their demands include the correction of an anomaly in the fixation of the initial pay based on the Sixth Central Pay Commission, addressing various matters such as removal of gender-based reservation in the recruiting process of nursing officers, the abolishment of contractual appointments, enhancement of hospital accommodation and cadre restructuring.

After the court order, the AIIMS administration extended an invitation to the protesting nurses’ union for a meeting at 5 pm on Tuesday, reported ANI.

On Monday, the Union health ministry had directed the chief of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi to ensure there was no disruption in services as nurses of the institute went on an indefinite strike.

The health ministry also warned that non-compliance of the “code of conduct” would be treated as an offence under the Disaster Management Act and the Indian Penal Code. The ministry cited a 2002 Delhi High Court verdict that said no employee, staff or faculty member should cease work for any reason. Meanwhile, the AIIMS administration on Tuesday issued a letter to the protestors, saying that those who report for duty or are absent will be mandatorily recorded, reported ANI.

AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria appealed to the nurses to call off their agitation. “I appeal to all nurses and nursing officers not to go on strike, and not to make us feel embarrassed about the dignity that we have as far as the nurses are concerned,” he said. “I, therefore, appeal to all of you to come back and work and really help us get through this pandemic.”

AIIMS Nurses Union President Harish Kajla on Tuesday said that they were ready to talk with the institute’s administration. “We are feeling bad for patients but we’re helpless as our demands haven’t been met,” Kajla said. “We had given notice for strike a month ago but even then the administration didn’t listen to our demand.”

On Monday, Kajla had said that they have been asking the Centre to consider their demands but the government has turned it down, reported Mint. “Our demands were even agreed by Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan in the meeting held last year,” Kajla said.

Randeep Guleria, however, said that the AIIMS administration and the government have met almost all the 23 demands of the nurses’ unions. “There is one demand which they have insisted upon and this is basically a perceived anomaly in the fixation of the initial pay as per the sixth CPC [Central Pay Commission] is concerned,” he said, adding that the administration was currently in the process of implementing the seventh Central Pay Commission.

The health ministry said in its order to the AIIMS director that the union’s demand on pay fixation under the sixth Central Pay Commission was beyond the provisions in the gazette notification dated August 29, 2008, of the department of expenditure on Central Civil Services (Revised Pay) Rules, 2008. The order also said that repeated attempts were made to convince the union that their demands were not covered under the existing services rules.

“It was also stated that the ministry is open to placing the fresh demand before appropriate authorities for sympathetic consideration and therefore, the AIIMS Nurses’ Union may be requested to reconsider and withdraw call for any strike, especially during these trying times, due to the national priority of effectively tackling the Covid-19 pandemic,” it said.

Meanwhile, India reported 22,065 fresh coronavirus infections in 24 hours, taking the tally to 99,06,165, Union health ministry data showed. The toll has increased by 354 to 1,43,709. There are 3,39,820 active cases and 94,22,636 recoveries