Kerala Kaumudi Online
Sunday, 23 January 2022 10.32 AM IST

Attempt to demand Nokkukooli shall be treated as extortion, says HC; 'No Nokkukooli 2021' campaign begun, says govt


KOCHI: A 'No Nokkukooli 2021' is a campaign started by the Kerala government which is strictly against the demand of gawking wages and would not be protecting anyone who indulges in this activity, the Kerala High Court was told on Monday.

The court, welcoming the government initiative, said without strong action against nokkukooli or gawking wages, confidence in Kerala as an investor-friendly State cannot be firmly established.

"I hope the government is firm in its resolve and trade unions will be reined in appropriately for future generations," Justice Devan Ramachandran said.

The court said those indulging in such practices should be made to understand that their conduct of extorting money under the euphemism of nokkukooli would visit them with very serious consequences.

The judge said any attempt to demand gawking wages indirectly or in a veiled manner shall always be treated as extortion which is a penal offence and therefore, its consequences -- prosecution and punishment -- should follow, besides suspension of the headload workers licences of such persons.

The observations of the court came during hearing of a hotel owner's plea for police protection to carry out his business without intervention from some persons who were allegedly demanding gawking wages.

The court said what is at stake here was not the business interests of an individual, but the collective interest of the State as a whole.

"Unless deleterious tendencies like nokkukooli are not done away with once and for all, the industrial and business atmosphere of Kerala can never get better. No government can countenance any tendency which can destroy the economic wellbeing of its people," it added.

During the hearing, the State government told the court that starting from Chief Minister Pinararyi Vijayan, all the Ministers of the Left government are firm against the demand of gawking wages and have made it clear that those indulging in such practices shall not be protected.

"A 'No Nokkukooli 2021' campaign has been started," a lawyer appearing for the State government lawyer told the court.

Meanwhile, the lawyer for the Headload Workers Welfare Board told the court that it has been conducting awareness programmes for its members to educate them against demanding gawking wages.

The lawyer also said in cases where workers have demanded gawking wages, action -- like suspension -- has been taken against them.

After hearing all the stakeholders, the court listed the matter for further hearing on November 22 by when all the steps taken by the State government and the board pursuant to its orders have to be placed on record.

On October 7, the High Court said continuing instances of gawking wages were giving the State a reputation of militant trade unionism which was deterring investors from coming here and therefore, such practices should be eradicated.

The court said it no longer wants to hear the term nokkukooli in the State and directed the police to take action against anyone, irrespective of party affiliations, who demands gawking wages as the same was illegal and unlawful.

On May 1, 2018, the government banned the practice of demanding gawking wages.

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