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Good cop, bad cop on bandh

Calcutta, Nov. 12: The state government has begun to explore the possibility of challenging the high court order to deduct salaries of employees found absent without intimation on a bandh day.

However, the government issued a notice in line with the court ruling, asking all district magistrates to resist the November 17 bandh called by the SUCI against the increase in fuel prices.

While issuing the notice, chief secretary Asok Gupta referred to the ruling of Justice Pratap Kumar Roy and Justice Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya and said the state government, being a constitutional functionary, was duty-bound to take steps to resist the bandh.

The legal obligation taken care of, another official said: 'We will challenge the court order on the next date of hearing.'

The government's lawyers also expressed confidence that an appeal might overturn the order.

'The court's order will be infructuous if the regular bench of the high court does not accept the case and feels it unfit for hearing,' standing counsel Subroto Mukhopadhyay told The Telegraph this evening after a strategy session.

The matter was discussed in the morning at a meeting chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee held at Writers' Buildings with Gupta and home secretary Amit Kiran Deb. Later, the press note was issued.

'A division bench of Calcutta High Court had earlier dismissed a similar petition. Another division bench of the same court can only send the matter before a larger bench but cannot pass any interim order,' Mukhopadhyay said.

Neither the chief minister nor the chief secretary wanted to comment on the court order. 'We have issued a press note. All that the government wants to say has been mentioned in the note,' Gupta said.

The press note was also sent to all divisional commissioners, zonal inspectors-general of police, railway inspectors-general, superintendents of police and superintendents of railway police of Howrah, Sealdah, Siliguri and Kharagpur.

The state's biggest union of government employees ' the CPM-backed Co-ordination Committee ' said it 'understands' that the administration 'had to follow the high court order under compulsion'.

'We are against the high court order,' general secretary Smarajit Roychowdhury said.

The All India Minority Forum, which challenged the SUCI bandh, has filed two petitions against the strikes called by the CPI(ML) and the Trinamul Congress on November 22 and December 3, respectively.

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