New Delhi, April 15: The Bihar salary non-payment case has taken another turn with the Supreme Court issuing notice to the Centre on a fresh petition seeking “interim relief” to thousands of state employees who have not been paid salary for over 10 years.
The court told the petitioner it would hear the attorney-general’s views after Bihar’s counsel Shanti Bhushan said the state was in no position to pay the dues and it was for the Centre to decide on interim relief, if any.
Chief Justice V.N. Khare and Justices S.B. Sinha and A. Lakshmanan asked the attorney-general to submit his views within two weeks, the same time it gave the Central government to reply on why salaries have not been paid to the employees for so long.
“We will hear the attorney-general on the issue and the Centre to reply to the notice by two weeks,” the judges said in a brief order after the fresh petition came up for hearing yesterday.
Kapila Hingorani, a Supreme Court lawyer, had filed the original petition seeking the court’s intervention in the issue.
Hingorani wanted a directive from the court to the state government to release part of the salaries to the starving employees, but the bench gave no orders. It appointed senior advocate P.S. Mishra as amicus curiae to assist the court in the matter.
The fresh petition, filed by the Federation of Public Undertaking Employees and Workers Union, contended that 1,398 employees had already died as a result of non-payment of salary since 1993.
It said that 19 out of 49 government corporations did not pay salaries to its employees and if interim relief was not granted there would be “further deaths”.
Bhushan, a designated senior counsel of the court and a former Union law minister, countered, saying the Centre should be held responsible for the situation as well as all starvation deaths in India.
“If anybody is dying of starvation, then, it is the liability of the Centre.... It (the Centre) has lots of funds... but it is spending the funds extravagantly” he told the bench.
The apex court issued the notice to the Centre after the Bihar government refused to accept any liability for the situation.