The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bandh holiday, if applied for

Calcutta, Nov. 19: When the court is not looking, forget the pay cut.

The government today issued a circular asking districts to ensure measures to foil the bandh called by a Naxalite group on Monday, but refrained from mentioning pay cut for employees absent that day.

The circular, second in the past week, skirted the pay cut, which it had been forced to incorporate in the first circular under pressure from Calcutta High Court.

Hearing a petition against the SUCI-sponsored strike on November 17, the court had asked the government to crack its whip on employees who treat bandhs as paid holidays.

However, the circular to senior officials issued by chief secretary Asok Gupta today says: 'Government employees who do not attend office on that day (November 22) shall be required to apply for leave in accordance with rules.'

It adds: 'All state government officers and employees should report for duty.'

The missive asks officials to take measures to ensure that there is no violation of law and order and that attempts to forcibly close offices, shops, markets, educational institutions and industries are dealt with firmly.

In the November 12 press note, also issued by Gupta, the high court order of November 10 saying salaries of employees who do not attend work on November 17 would not be paid was quoted.

Gupta said on Wednesday that salaries of employees absent that day would be deducted if the court asks the government not to allow them casual leave. 'If the court directs us not to allow leave to absentees, we will have to cut their pay...'

The government, Gupta said, will seek legal experts' opinion on how to strike a balance between the pay cut directive and the West Bengal Service Rules, which have provisions for both pay cuts and leave.

According to legal experts, the government has taken advantage of the limitation of the court's interim order. Manik Das, a senior government lawyer, said: 'The directive of the vacation division bench was meant only for the November 17 bandh. It did not mention that the same order would have to be followed in the future.'

However, Idris Ali, the lawyer for the All India Minority Forum that challenged the SUCI bandh, said: 'I will mention this before the bench of Justices Pratap Roy and Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya on November 22, when our case comes up for hearing again. The high court order should be followed in case of all bandhs in the state.'

A high court registrar today issued a circular for its employees saying the acting chief justice had announced that bandhs are illegal.

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