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Order to revise house rent rule

Calcutta, March 30: A husb- and and a wife who are government employees are both entitled to house rent allowance if one of them is posted a “reasonable distance” away from the other, Calcutta High Court has said.

The government now offers the allowance to either the husband or the wife if the distance between their workplaces is less than 250km.

But the court today ask- ed the government to redraw the house rent allowance policy using a “reasonable dis- tance” instead of 250km as the cut-off.

The matter came up during the hearing of a case moved by a Murshidabad teacher whose husband works for the railways in Calcutta.

Since Shukla Das’s hus-band stays 225km from her school in Kandi, she is not entitled to her house rent allowance, according to the rule that came into effect following a circular issued in October 2007. “She stays in a rented house at Purandarpur but she doesn’t get any rent allowance as her husband is already getting it,” said her lawyer Kaushik Chanda.

Das welcomed the order. “I had repeatedly told the authorities that I deserved the allowance but nothing happened. So, I moved court earlier this month.”

Opposing the petition, government lawyer Kamalesh Jha had said: “Fixing the house rent allowance for government employees is an administrative decision and the court should not interfere in the matter.”

However, Justice Biswanath Somadder said: “As the transport system and infrastructure in our country are not so developed that an employee can travel 450km a day to attend his/her place of work and return home, the government should fix a reasonable distance from home to the workplace if it wants to give house rent to only one of them.”

Before the 2007 circular, all state government employees were entitled to house rent allowance.

“When the government realised that working couples were drawing double house rent but sharing the same accommodation, it adopted the existing policy. But the 250km norm was impractical,” said Chanda.

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