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Science sets the record right
- Doctors help court peg man’s date of birth to the day

Calcutta High Court — now exactly 141 years old — scored an important first on Tuesday, when it delivered a verdict after using forensic science to fix the date of birth of a man embroiled in an age dispute.

Taraknath Ghosh, a driver with the South Bengal State Transport Corporation (SBSTC) since the mid-1960s, was asked in 1992 to fill up a form specifying who would get his post-retirement benefits, in the case of his death.

After getting that form — in which he had mentioned a certain date as his birthday — the SBSTC tried to match it with the date he had given when he had joined service.

Unfortunately, that figure had been rendered illegible by the intervening years, forcing the transport corporation to ask Ghosh to submit proof of his age. Ghosh did so, but his employers were not ready to accept the proof he gave: a horoscope prepared by the family astrologer.

The state-run corporation, now working under a government led by a party that looks at horoscopes with a great deal of suspicion, said this document would not do. Ghosh would have to submit “proper” proof of age.

Ghosh protested that the government had accepted the horoscope as proof of age when he had joined service. But there was no convincing the corporation.

The state transport corporation employee, however, had no other document and moved Calcutta High Court to get his dues and ensure that his nominees were not harassed, in the case of his death.

The court was told that Ghosh retired on December 19, 1997, when — he claimed — he was 58. But he did not get any post-retirement benefit as a decision on the age factor was pending with his employer.

The case finally moved to Justice Barin Ghosh’s court and the judge asked SSKM Hospital to verify his age.

“Send us the report as soon as possible,” he directed.

SSKM doctors conducted the relevant tests and found that Ghosh was off the mark about his date of birth by one whole year. He actually turned 58 on December 19, 1996, which implied that he had worked for a year beyond retirement age.

Justice Ghosh, after receiving a copy of the SSKM report, delivered his verdict on Tuesday. He decreed that Ghosh get his post-retirement dues without any delay.

But the salary he got for that extra year’s work, as well as the difference that it would make to his post-retirement dues, should be deducted, the judge added.

“Science has progressed a lot since the time this court has been functioning,” observed Justice Ghosh. “The judiciary should take advantage of that progress as much as possible,” he added.

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