She taught in a primary school until her retirement in 1983. Since then, it has been a pillar-to-post run for her, to retrieve her pension and other retirement benefits. Today, at 83, she suffers from various ailments, is roofless and starving.
Taking note of her plight, Calcutta High Court on Tuesday asked the education department to release Nirupama Gupta’s pension and retirement benefits.
Gupta’s career began in 1967 at Sammilani Udvastu Primary School, Bagha Jatin, in south Calcutta. After 16 years of service and on attaining the age of superannuation, Gupta retired.
The South 24-Parganas district primary school council refused to disburse her retirement benefits and pension on the grounds that her service records were not available. Her appeals to almost every senior official of the state education department went in vain.
After waiting for five years, Gupta filed a writ in Calcutta High Court. The trial bench, on March 19, 2000, admitted her petition and asked the district primary school council to disburse her pension and retirement benefits immediately (reported in The Telegraph on April 3, 2003).
The council filed an appeal against the order. Appearing on behalf of the council, lawyer Kallol Bose pointed out that all primary schools had been taken over by the primary school council under the West Bengal Primary Education Act of 1973.
“The petitioner’s service record is not available with us and she had not exercised her option for the age of retirement within 90 days,” Bose said.
The court was also told that the council had not received any papers relating to Gupta’s service in school. “So, it becomes difficult for us to determine her pension,” Bose argued.
Gupta’s counsel Satyendra Kumar Das told the court that as per a government circular of December 1983, if the service record of a primary schoolteacher was not available with the primary council, affidavits by two colleagues of the teacher, stating the joining date of service, would suffice.
The division bench of Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice Ashim Banerjee accepted the argument and stated in their verdict: “Our attention has been invited to the circular and the district primary school council shall take into consideration this circular at the time of determining the pension of the petitioner.” The judgment also said: “The district inspector of schools is directed to reconstitute the service records of the petitioner on the basis of the particulars to be provided by the petitioner, whatever available with her, within three months. All the papers shall be forwarded by the district inspector to the authority concerned for the release of her pension.”
The judgment could set a precedence, with hundreds of cases filed by retired teachers pending in court.