Twenty-five years of service, followed by 21 years of struggle. For 83-year-old Nirupama Gupta, retired life has been one long battle for justice.
The teacher of a government-aided primary school on the southern fringes of the city retired in 1982. But she has not received a paisa by way of retirement benefits or pension, despite a court order in her favour last year.
Nirupama has been fighting the battle in the high court since retirement, but the district primary school council, instead of carrying out the order, has decided to continue with the case.
On Wednesday, the district primary school council appealed and obtained time from the court to resume a fresh argument. Distraught, Nirupama broke down. “There is no God, no government, no justice. I don’t know why I am still alive,” she cried outside the courtroom of Chief Justice A.K. Mathur.
Nirupama had joined Chittaranjan Colony Udbastu Balika Vidyalaya in 1957 as a teacher. She was confirmed in 1967, the year the school got recognition. She retired at 60 on November 20, 1980. But the authorities concerned allowed her to continue for two more years. In December 1982, Nirupama wrote to the school managing committee, seeking another year’s extension.
“The school committee granted her prayer but, after few days, it rolled back its decision and asked Nirupama to retire. The committee’s sudden change of decision prompted my client to move court,” said lawyer Satyen Das. Since 1982, Nirupama’s case has shuttled from one high court room to another, till it finally came up for hearing before Justice Barin Ghosh in 2001.
After hearing both the parties, Justice Ghosh passed a judgment on March 19, 2002, directing the district primary school council of South 24-Parganas to disburse the pension, provident fund and other retirement dues of Nirupama within three months. “If the payments were not made, the council will have to pay 12 per cent interest on the arrears,” the verdict added.
Before Justice Ghosh’s order, the council had made a submission that Nirupama’s payment was not made as she had not filled an “optional form” circulated in 1982 to teachers of government-aided schools. These forms would convey to the government whether the teacher wanted to retire at 60 with a new pay-scale or continue in service till 65 with the old pay-scale.
In counter-argument, Nirupama’s lawyers Subroto Mookherjee and Das claimed that the form had been duly filled and submitted.
But, the district primary school council did not carry out Justice Ghosh’s order. Nirupama then filed a contempt petition. The council appealed before the division bench. The case came up for hearing on Wednesday before Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice J. Biswas for the first time, when the respondent sought and was granted more time.