Justice delayed, but not denied. In a significant judgment, Calcutta High Court on Thursday directed the secondary school education department to pay Rs 40,000 as compensation for a delay in disbursing the gratuity and family pension dues of a teacher, who died 10 years ago, in addition to the amount itself.
Lakshmi Biswas, a teacher of Manimala Girls’ Higher Secondary School, at Chellidanga, in Burdwan, died in a road accident on July 15, 1993. She was appointed in March 1978 and served the school for 15 years.
After her death, Lakshmi’s husband Samiran Biswas and sons, Sayan and Samrat, made repeated appeals before the district inspector of schools and other state departments for payment of Lakshmi’s family pension and gratuity dues. But to no avail.
The Biswas family then moved Calcutta High Court. Their counsel, Pradip Roy, argued before the court that the school authorities were refusing to pay the legitimate dues of the deceased. Advocate Shanti Das appeared on behalf of the school education department.
After hearing both parties, Justice Maharaja Sinha directed the respondents to pay the family pension, gratuity and other dues of Lakshmi Biswas, with an interest of six per cent on the amount within three months of the communication of the order.
“For no fault of the petitioners, the death gratuity and family pension were not released by the respondents for about 10 years,” the judgment stated, terming the action a “wilful and inordinate delay”.
The judgment also observed that if the authorities concerned had disbursed the dues to the petitioner at the right time, the family might have earned more by depositing it in a bank.
“The compensation should be paid to the petitioners within a month of the judgment,’’ the court verdict said. Later in the evening, Roy, the petitioners’ advocate, said he had already communicated the order to the appropriate authority.
An increasing number of cases have been coming up in the high court relating to delayed or no payment of pension and other retirement benefits and dues. As a result, the court has appointed a special judge to handle all such cases, so that there is no delay in disposing of them. “The idea is that justice should be reached to as many people as fast as possible,” a court official said.