The Calcutta High Court on Thursday dismissed the West Bengal government’s review petition to reconsider an earlier judgement that ordered payment of dearness allowance (DA) and pending arrears to its employees within three months.
The bench comprising Justices Harish Tandon and Rabindranath Samanta directed the government to clear the pending DA arrears to the employees within three months.
Upholding an order of the West Bengal Administrative Tribunal, an HC bench comprising the same judges on May 20 had directed the state government to release DA and arrears to its employees as per the West Bengal Services (Revision of Pay and Allowance) Rules, 2009.
The state government had filed the review application criticising the May 20 judgement, claiming an error in it. The state claimed that there was a mistake on the part of the arguing counsel in not referring to several government orders issued by the finance department and releasing of installments of DA to its employees from April 1, 2008 to January 1, 2019.
The bench said the judgement has taken into account various factors. The unanimous decision taken was that the state government cannot depart from the provision of the statutory rules framed after accepting the recommendation of the Fifth Pay Commission to the extent enumerated in it.
It said the mistake as claimed by the state government did not impact the decision and therefore cannot be regarded to be of the magnitude that required the court to review its own decision. “Such mistake is of inconsequential import and, therefore, the review is not maintainable,” it held.
The bench said the government orders which the state claimed were not argued by its counsel “did not appear to be a seminal point in the case”.
Passing a separate order on a contempt application moved by the Confederation of State Government Employees against the chief secretary and another state government official, the HC directed that the alleged contemnors “must explain by way of an affidavit as to why the rule of contempt shall not be issued against them”. The affidavit will have to be filed by November 4, the bench directed and said the contempt application will be taken up for hearing again on November 9. The confederation had filed a contempt of court petition against the state government for missing the deadline for clearing the DA arrears.
Confederation president Shyamal Kumar Mitra said, “Following the May 20 order, we requested the state government to cooperate with us and clear the pending DA arrears as directed by the court. But the state government ignored our plea.”
Reacting to the HC’s Thursday order, Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Sougata Roy said that the state government was left with no other option but to challenge the decision in the Supreme Court. TMC MLA Tapas Roy said, “The government is very sensitive to employees’ demand. It had already paid part of the pending DA. But keeping the state’s financial health in mind, the government is delaying the payment. But it never said that DA will not be paid.”
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Leader of Opposition in Assembly and BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari said, “DA is the right of state government employees who should be paid all dues. Our party had raised the issue in the state Assembly also.”
BJP state president Sukanta Majumder accused the Chief Minister of remaining busy with “festivals and other unnecessary things”. “We do not have problem with that. She should clear the employees’ dues,” he said.
CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said, “This government never played a positive role on the rights of the state employees. Their only interest is to loot people.”