31 workers found guilty, 117 acquitted in 2012 Manesar plant violence

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Manesar violenceA Gurugram court on March 10 convicted 31 workers and acquitted 117 others for the violence at the Maurti Suzuki factory in Manesar in 2012 in which a manager was set on fire. The quantum of punishment in the case will be announced later.

Advocate Vikas Pahwa, representing Maruti, said the union gathered unlawfully in the factory premises to kill management officials. A criminal conspiracy was hatched on July 18 afternoon (2012), when the workers were asked in the first shift to not return home, but to continue assembling in the plant.

Arguing that there were several loopholes and falsehoods in the prosecution’s case, defence lawyers, Rebecca John, Vrinda Grover, and RS Cheema,  said that several questions remain (unanswered) over the fairness of the probe by the police. The prosecution all but failed in proving to the court as to who lit the fire on factory premises and if any flammable substance was used.

The trial in the case lasted four years. Around 50 management personnel and nine police officers were injured during the violence.

The riot began over a disciplinary issue with an employee. The issue went out of control and the workers immediately began attacking senior management during talks, while the workers’ union maintained that its representatives were attacked first. The violence lasted over several hours and as many as 1,200 policemen were called in to secure the factory.

“Armed with iron rods, the mob spread out in groups across the plant area targeting the supervisors, managers and executives,” Maruti said in a statement.

The Manesar factory, which manufactures 5.5 lakh cars a year, was shut down for a month. The Maruti’s Manesar plant accounts for around a third of the car maker’s total output.

The police went through CCTV footage with a sieve and interviewed several witnesses to identify people responsible for the riot. A special probe team to handle the inquiry was formed by the Haryana government.

Maruti Suzuki was accused by the union of engaging in “anti-worker and anti-union activities. The gates were closed by the security on management’s behest and bouncers brutally attacked the workers, the union said.

Maruti suffered a loss of more than $500 million last year due to weeks of labour troubles at Manesar plant. Production could restart only after the company entered into a deal with the workers.