The case has finally been won, but the cause has been lost.
For the past 12 years, Bhagabati Das Sarkar, a part-time research assistant at Calcutta University, has been fighting a case in the high court for appointment as a full-time lecturer in the geology department. But now, after the high court has removed all obstacles and directed the university to issue the appointment letter, she has realised that she can serve in that post for only six months. According to the university’s superannuation rules, she is due for retirement next March.
The Bhagabati Das Sarkar saga started much before she moved court. In 1984, she was selected lecturer in geology, along with two others, to be appointed readers. However, as there was a dispute over the appointment of one of the readers, the selection committee referred all three appointments to the Syndicate.
In early 1995, the Syndicate approved the appointment of Das Sarkar but once again, no letter was issued as the dispute over the reader’s appointment continued. The authorities assured her she would receive the letter, but it could take a while. The entire process was repeated in 1988, with the Syndicate clearing Das Sarkar’s appointment, but no letter being issued once again for the same reason.
In 1990, all her hopes were dashed when she saw an advertisement in the newspapers asking for applications for the post of a full-time lecturer in geology. She decided to move court. “Das Sarkar knew that the assurance given to her was worth nothing,” said her lawyer, Pradip Roy.
Justice K.M. Yusuf of Calcutta High Court heard her appeal and granted an interim stay on a fresh appointment to the post. He also directed the authorities not to appoint any lecturer in the geology department without prior approval of the court. “Thereafter,” said Roy, “the case went into cold storage, and did not come up for hearing till 2001.”
Last year, Justice Pinaki C. Ghosh heard the case, as Justice Yusuf had retired by then. Justice Ghosh asked the university to appoint Das Sarkar full-time lecturer with immediate effect. Initially, the university took no note, but after a year, filed an appeal against the judgment in the division bench of Justices A.K. Ganguly and H. Banerjee.
The judges were aghast that the university had not acted on the order of Justice Ghosh for a whole year. Last week, they asked the university for an explanation and said any appeal by it would be heard only after the appointment letter was issued. “But this will hardly help my client, because she can only serve as lecturer for six months. She retires in March 2003,” said Roy.
Vice-chancellor Ashis Bandopadhyay said: “I shall forward the court’s orders to the Syndicate for necessary action.”