Calcutta High Court last week questioned the Bengal government’s argument that dearness allowances was not the fundamental right of its employees and that it was its “discretion” to fix special rates for its staff working in other states.
The court observed that in an independent country like India, judges could not sit idle after watching the government discriminate against a section of staff in terms of the DA.
“After Independence, a police state turned into a welfare state. If the state does not keep parity among the employees of the same category, it is not possible for us, the judges, with the Constitution in hand, to remain mum,” Justice Debasish Kargupta, the senior judge on a division bench, said after hearing the state’s argument.
Advocate-general Kishore Dutta, who had spelt out the state’s stand, ended his submission on Tuesday. The case will be heard again on July 17, when the lawyers representing two employees’ unions will counter the state’s argument.
During the previous hearing on July 3, the division bench had put three questions to the state: 1. Which law empowers the state to claim that DA is not the right of employees? 2. How does the state differentiate between employees working in Bengal and other states, where they get higher DA? 3. Why does the state think the DA for state government employees cannot be on a par with their central counterparts?
In his reply, the advocate-general cited some orders to substantiate his claim that the DA could not be the right of the employees and it was merely a grace and the government had the right to give the allowance at different rates to a section of its employees.
But Justice Kargupta and Justice S. B. Saraf, the other judge on the bench, repeatedly asked the advocate-general on what basis the state paid DA to its employees working in other states at the rates equal to those of central employees.
Dutta claimed that since there were some findings by the Supreme Court that the DA was not the fundamental right of employees, the government had fixed a separate rate for its employees working outside the state.