On 18 March, the Gurgaon district court delivered its sentencing for the 31 Maruti Suzuki workers, sentencing 13 union officials to life imprisonment. To express their dissent against the judgment, workers in six different Maruti Suzuki plants downed their tools for one hour on 20 March.
Four other workers were sentenced to five years in jail. Most of them have already been incarcerated for more than four years, while their families have suffered indescribable hardship.
A nominal fine was imposed. The remaining 14 workers are to be released immediately with a Rs 2,500 (US$38) fine, on the account of prior incarceration.
After the verdict, the workers’ lawyer, Vrinda Grover stated:
The state prosecution astonishingly sought capital punishment for the convicted workers. During the trial the defence lawyer strenuously argued that 117 workers were subjected to illegal and wrongful confinement at the behest of the company without any evidence, which the court upheld.
We will be filing appeals against all convictions and are confident of securing justice in the superior court. There is no evidence to link these convicted 13 workers to the murder. It is important to remember that they were the leaders of the union; therefore it is clear case of targeted framing by the state.
Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL South Asia Regional Secretary said:
We are deeply troubled by the district court sentencing 13 workers, who were all union office bearers, to life imprisonment
The acquittal of 117 workers clearly proves workers were falsely implicated in the case. Maruti Suzuki workers are paying the price for asserting their constitutional right to freedom of association. All this could have been avoided, had the management and the state administration handled workers demands in a mature manner. We hope that the workers' appeal in the high court will deliver justice to workers.
On 23 March a large public meeting of workers in the Delhi-Gurgaon region is planned to protest against the judgment and to plan future activities.
Background Maruti Suzuki
A violent incident at Maruti Suzuki on 18 July 2012 resulted in the death of a manager. Subsequently, the company fired 546 permanent workers and 1,800 contract workers. Scores of workers were arrested and 139 workers were jailed for more than three and a half years, while eleven workers never got bail.