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High court backs wife claim for husband dues

Burdwan, May 23: Twenty-six years after her husband went missing, Arati Gorai found succour in a high court order directing his employers to clear dues and hand them over to her.

Sudhir Chandra Gorai, a guard with the Durgapur Development Authority (DDA) since 1966, had left home for work on February 1, 1976, never to return again.

Since June that year, Arati has been running pillar to post, trying to goad the DDA, now incorporated in the Asansol Durgapur Development Authority, to hand over her husband’s dues.

Shattered and shunned by the DDA, police and the local panchayat, Arati began a life of penury with her daughter.

This January, Arati turned to lawyer Joyshankar Roy. But his letter to the Asansol Durgapur Development Authority urging them to declare Sudhir dead and hand over his dues was met with silence. Roy petitioned the high court in March.

Yesterday, Justice Pranab Kumar Chattopadhyay directed the chief executive officer of the Asansol Durgapur Development Authority to consider Arati’s representation and pass a “reasonable order” in two weeks.

Burdwan district magistrate Manoj Agarwal said: “The matter is in our knowledge but we have not received the court’s order yet. I can assure you that we will comply with the directions when we receive it.”

A triumphant Roy said the case would be a warning for government officials “harassing people in genuine need”. “The court has asked the Asansol Durgapur Development Authority to pass a reasonable order within two weeks. I will communicate the order to the chief executive officer and see to it that the verdict is complied with,” he said.

“According to law, if a person goes missing for seven years, he or she is presumed dead. 1983 was the seventh year after Sudhir Gorai went missing. We had appealed to the court to declare him dead and direct the authority to clear his dues.” They now amount to more than Rs 2 lakh. Added with interest, Gorai’s wife is likely to get more.

For Arati, now ailing, the wait has been tedious. “I had lodged a missing diary with the Kulti police station days after my husband went missing. Before that, I checked with relatives and friends,” she recounted. But soon after Gorai’s disappearance, the DDA sent a notice to the Gorai residence asking him to show cause why the agency should not take action against him for not showing up for work.

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