Calcutta, March 25: A Calcutta High Court judge today expanded the scope of a Supreme Court ruling and ordered the state education department to pay all statutory dues with an interest of 25 per cent to the widow of a Malda school teacher who died in harness 17 years ago.
In a ruling, the apex court had said if there is a delay in payment of statutory dues of any employee due to lapses of department officials, the government would have to pay 18 per cent interest on the amount.
Explaining his move to increase the interest rate, judge P.K. Roy said: “I know there is specific direction of the apex court about the rate of interest in such type of matter. But considering all aspects, I hold that it is a heinous crime on the part of the government to harass the widow of the teacher who is virtually starving with her two grown-up daughters for so many years.”
The judge also said the education department would have to identify the employees responsible for the unnatural delay in disbursing the teacher’s dues and realise the interest amount from their salaries. “If these persons have retired in the meantime, the amount should be recovered from their pensions and even family pensions,” Roy said.
Hailing the judgment, legal experts said the judge’s gesture would set a precedent.
Roy severely criticised the role of the state government in delayed payment of the statutory dues of its employees, particularly teachers, and said there should be an end to it. The judge said he had earlier dealt with similar cases in which teachers were not getting their dues long after retirement.
The order follows a petition by the widow of assistant teacher Shankar Prosad Pal of Kharba Agreel High School in Malda who died while in service on Mach 2, 1987.
After his death, Kanak Pal, 56, asked for her husband’s statutory dues, including pension, from the school authorities. Initially, they gave her Rs 17,000 as interim pension, but she received nothing thereafter.
Kanak Pal knocked on the doors of the district education department, but in vain. She came to Calcutta and approached Writers’ Buildings, again without result.
Harassed by the education department, Kanak Pal and her two daughters sank into economic hardship. The girls’ education was stopped midway due to the financial crisis.
Finally, Kanak Pal moved Calcutta High Court. In her petition before the court, she narrated how she was spending days of hardship along with her daughters aged between 24 and 26 due to the apathy of the education department.
The widow’s tale touched the heart of the judge, who went beyond a Supreme Court ruling and described the matter as “horrible”. Roy has asked the state government to carry out his order within 65 days.