The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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21.75 teacher wins court order

Calcutta, July 22: Justice is finally round the corner for Pranab Kumar Sengupta, the teacher who has been working in a city school for the last 29 years on a salary of Rs 21.75.

Calcutta High Court today quashed an appeal by the government to reopen the case and directed it to pay the Bengali teacher at Basakbagan Primary School in Patipukur in north Calcutta his dues.

A division bench of Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice Asim Banerjee asked the school education department to regularise his services, which the government did not despite a series of orders, and pay him his arrears, due from March 1974, within a month from the order.

The Telegraph had reported the plight of the 52-year-old teacher and his pleas to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee that went unheeded. Forced to disregard the ban on private tuition, it became the only means of survival for him and his family.

Sengupta’s travails began 29 years ago when he was selected by the Basakbagan Primary School’s managing committee to teach Bengali. His appointment letter — approved by the committee — was passed to the North 24-Parganas District Primary School Council, where it was apparently lost in the labyrinth of red tape.

Buoyed by the school management’s assurances that it would regularise his service, Sengupta continued to work for Rs 21.75. He appealed to the authorities from time to time to release his regularisation papers and salary before finally turning to the high court in 1993, his lawyer Saibalendu Bhaumik said.

On April 18 the next year, Justice P.K. Mukherjee directed the government to approve his appointment and pay him his arrears within a month.

Sengupta found out that a month in government offices could imply an indefinite period. Instead of obeying the verdict, the government appealed against the order in 1996. A division bench upheld the earlier order, giving the government another month to comply with it.

Nothing transpired within a month and Sengupta was forced to file his first contempt suit. A second suit followed as nothing came of the order in his favour. Justice D.K. Basu, in an order that hinted of the court’s mood, asked the government to produce a compliance order.

Next month (January 1997), the school education department produced that and said it had asked the district primary school council to act on the verdict. Again, nothing happened. Sengupta filed another contempt suit — this one against the council — which is pending.

As Sengupta was doing the rounds of courthouses in search for justice, the education department appealed to the division bench to reopen the case as it did not get enough time on earlier occasions to defend itself.

This appeal was quashed on Tuesday, signalling the end of Sengupta’s troubles.

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