Bengal govt employees have right to DA: HC

State administrative tribunal asked to decide on central parity, differential rates in two months

By OUR LEGAL REPORTER in Calcutta
  • Published 1.09.18
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Calcutta High Court

Calcutta: Dearness allowance is the right of Bengal government employees, Calcutta High Court ruled on Friday, overturning a tribunal's order that it is the state's "discretion".

"Since the state finance department has accepted and disbursed DA to state government employees in accordance with the provision laid down in the Revision of Pay and Allowances (ROPA) Rules 2009, the DA has become their right," a division bench of Justices Debasish Kargupta and S.B. Saraf said in their verdict.

The ruling came on appeals by two major unions against the February 2017 order of the state administrative tribunal (SAT) that likened DA to a "donation".

The high court bench, however, sent back to the SAT the issue of DA on a par with central staff, and whether the state could give DA at higher rates to employees posted in New Delhi and Chennai.

"The tribunal had held that the state employees did not have the right to claim DA, but it did not adjudicate the above mentioned issues. Now, as this court holds that the DA is the right of employees, it sends the two issues to the tribunal for adjudication," the bench said, asking the tribunal to decide "preferably in two months".

Referring the issues, the division bench made certain observations.

"The state had pleaded that since the inflation rate in Delhi and Chennai was higher than that of Bengal, the employees working outside the state get DA at higher rates. But the reason showed by the state is not acceptable to us."

"The DA is fixed on the basis of a price index. The index is uniform throughout the country. The argument of giving DA at higher rate due to high inflation rate is not acceptable," the bench observed.

Employees posted Banga Bhavan in Delhi and the Youth Hostel in Chennai get DA on a par with central staff. "Since much delay has already taken place, the state authorities are directed to submit their documents and resolutions on the basis on which it fixes DA at different rates for the employees in Bengal and other states within two weeks. The unions would have to give their replies by one week thereafter. The tribunal is requested to adjudicate the issues preferably by two months," the bench said.

#In its February 2017 order, the SAT, comprising Justice Amit Kumar Talukdar and member Anup Chanda, had held that "dearness allowance is a kind of donation". "It is the discretion of the state government when it would increase the rate of dearness allowance of its employees," the tribunal added.

The Congress-backed Confederation of State Government Employees and the Left-aligned State Government Employees' Union had moved the high court in March last year.

"Though the division bench did not adjudicate the issues of parity of DA between the state employees posted in Bengal and other states and state employees and their counterparts in the central government, it had made its preliminary observations. That is very significant in the eyes of the law. The tribunal will have to keep in mind the high court's observations while adjudicating the issues," a legal expert said.

Currently, Bengal employees get 100 per cent DA.

Sources in Nabanna said they get 47 per cent less DA than their central counterparts. An additional Rs 14,000 crore will be required annually if the DA gap has to be bridged, the sources said.

"This is a huge amount considering the poor condition of the coffers. It appears the DA battle will continue longer as the state is ready to take the battle to the Supreme Court if the SAT judgment goes against it," said a senior official.