| Pal at home. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
Calcutta, July 20: The judges thought he looked too young to be 95. Keshab Pal today proved he was just 81, winning a 35-year-old legal battle against employers who had forced him to retire in 1971, claiming he had crossed 60.
The results of an ossification test convinced Calcutta High Court that Pal was just 46 when the Central Public Works Department shut its door on the Group D employee.
After decades of running from court to tribunal to court, the petitioner today said he was “glad it’s over”.
“Too many years have been wasted, but I am happy that justice has finally been done,” Pal said at his modest tiled house in Ashoknagar, North 24-Parganas.
“There is nothing more to say; I can barely speak these days.”
CPWD must now pay him 14 years’ salary and retirement benefits at 12 per cent interest ' Rs 16 lakh in all ' plus Rs 5,000 as compensation for mental agony.
“It is a matter of surprise that a government employee had to suffer so many years for a wrong decision of his employer,” the court said.
Pal said the root of the problem was that the birth certificate he had submitted contained an error, and this was suddenly detected one day in 1971.
CPWD forced him to undergo a medical test by its own doctors who decided he was all of 60.
Pal, who believed himself to be 47, moved the Sealdah civil court which ' after lengthy delays ' rejected the medical test as not entirely scientific and asked the department to reinstate him. But it was already 1999, and Pal was 74.
While the case was dragging on, the Centre had set up the Central Administrative Tribunal to settle disputes with its employees, and CPWD said it would only accept the tribunal’s judgment.
But when the tribunal asked for the medical report, the civil court cited jurisdiction and refused to part with it. It needed a high court directive to solve the problem, but the tribunal, after hearing the case, refused to pass a verdict.
Pal again moved the high court, which ruled that an order had to be passed. After another hearing, in 2000, the tribunal dismissed Pal’s petition. For the third time, Pal moved the high court.
After the judges demanded a look at Pal, his lawyer produced him in court in April this year.
“If he were 60 in 1971, he should now be 95. But his appearance doesn’t say so,” the bench said, suggesting an ossification test at SSKM Hospital.