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Justice for teacher, jolt to tormentors

Calcutta, Sept. 22: In a judgment that may set a precedent, Calcutta High Court today directed the government to compensate a headmaster for delayed payment of pension and other retirement benefits.

It said the compensation amount, nearly Rs 8 lakh, should be raised from the officials responsible for the delay.

Justice Amitava Lala ordered the state education department to pay the penalty in addition to the Rs 5 lakh the headmaster, Dharmanarayan Das, received as pension two weeks ago after a 10-year wait on an order from the same court.

“There should not be any mistake,” Justice Lala said while delivering the judgment.

“Receiving pension and other benefits after retirement is an employee’s right. This court will not sit idle if anybody tries to trivialise that right.”

Justice Lala’s directive asks the government to identify the persons responsible for the delay and either dock their salaries or raise the money by confiscating and auctioning their property, if any. The compensation has been calculated at a rate of interest of 18 per cent on the released pension amount over 10 years.

Das, now in his seventies, retired on November 30, 1992, from the state-aided Panihati Trananath High School at Sodepur in North 24-Parganas. But, for some unknown reason, he was not given his pension, provident fund and gratuity.

“This prompted Dharmanarayan to move the high court in July 1993,”said Alok Ghosh, his counsel. “He did not receive a single paisa in 10 years as pensioner’s benefit.”

Against that plea, Justice D.K. Basu ordered the district school inspector of North 24-Parganas to make a provisional payment of Rs 42,750 of the provident fund dues and Rs 7,250 of the outstanding gratuity to the headmaster. The court also directed payment of Rs 1,378 a month as ad hoc pension till disposal of the case.

The inspector informed the court that a memo had been issued asking the school to withdraw the money as it had already been sanctioned by the authorities. At the next hearing, the court was told that the school had taken the money but the petitioner alleged that he had not received it.

The court threatened the teacher-in-charge and the secretary of the school with contempt proceedings if the order was not carried out. But, after that, the case could not be heard for years.

In September last year, it came up again. The inspector informed the court that he had issued a fresh memo asking the school authorities to make the provisional payments without delay. Still, Das did not receive any money.

The judge asked the two school officials to be present in court on September 20, 2002. On September 19, a day before the hearing, the school informed the court that provisional payments had been made.

In January, the court directed the education department to pay the pension benefits to Das. It took six months to comply with that order. The lawyer of the petitioner then moved court, seeking compensation on the grounds of delay, a demand that has now been accepted.

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