DA is legal right of Bengal govt employees, says Calcutta HC

The Asian Age.

Metros, Kolkata

In 2016 the SAT had ordered that the state government employees could not claim it as their right as it was a ‘kind donation’ by the state government.

Calcutta High Court (Photo: File)

Kolkata: In a major blow to the Mamata Banerjee government the Calcutta High Court has certified the dearness allowance (DA) as the “legal right” of the West Bengal government employees after quashing the state administrative tribunal (SAT)’s ruling that the DA was a ‘kind donation’ by the state government. In 2016 the SAT had ordered that the state government employees could not claim it as their right as it was a ‘kind donation’ by the state government.

After hearing the matter for past 17 months a division bench of Justice Debasis Kar Gupta and Justice Sekhar Bobby Saraf on Friday noted, “Getting the dearness allowance had become the legal right of the government employees after introduction of the Revision of the Pay and Allowances (ROPA) Rules, 2009.”

It underlined that the West Bengal government already accepted the Fifth Pay Commission recommendations of 2009 that mentioned that the DA was part of the salary and a legally enforceable right.

The division bench however observed that the state government employees’ claim for the DA at per with the central government DA rates would be decided by the SAT. It also directed the SAT to pass an order within next two months considering the existing law while rehear the matter. According to the bench, the central government decides the DA for its employees across the country at the same rate without discriminating on the location of their posting.

It held that it cannot be stated that the state government employees in Kolkata were affected differently from inflation compared to those posted in Delhi or Chennai. The bench also asked the panel to decide whether it would be justified for the state government to pay the DA at differential rates to its employees when they are posted at Delhi and Chennai.

Trinamul Congress secretary general and education minister Partha Chatterjee said, “When there is money with the exchequer, the amount becomes due. In my working life also, I saw we were told we would get our dues later. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has already been giving DA at the rate of 25 per cent. The difference with the central DA is around 22 per cent. It was earlier around 60 per cent.”

CPI(M) lawyer Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya said, “It is an important verdict. The state government employees are now free of the dishonour they got in context of DA being termed as a ‘kind donation.’ It is now proven that it is their legal right. As it has become a legal right, the government will have to act following the law.”

State BJP president Dilip Ghosh said, “We often hear that there is a DA arrear of around 52 per cent. There is a huge difference between the central DA and state DA. The government is looting its employees’ rights. So they should get it. And the court has given its ruling in their favour. But the problem lies in the government’s thought that it.”

State Congress president Adhir Choudhury said, “DA is a right of the government employees. Even the court has said. I ask the chief minister if it is not the victory of democracy. If it is a win, she should make arrangements to pay it. If the government employees are not paid properly, they would not develop the mentality to work.”