Dearness allowance (DA) is a legal right of state government employees and does not depend on the administration’s discretion, a division bench of Calcutta High Court ruled on Friday.
A bench of justices Debasish Kargupta and Sekhar Bobby Saraf upheld the contention of the INTUC-backed Confederation of State Government Employees Unity Forum that had appealed against a state administrative tribunal (SAT) order terming DA as a “form of donation”.
However, the court did not pass any order on their plea that state government employees be paid DA on a par with their central counterparts. It directed the SAT to pass a ruling in this regard within two months.
“In 2016, the SAT ruled that DA is a type of donation and state government employees could not claim it as a legal right. However, the forum challenged the decision, and now, the Calcutta high court has set aside the SAT order and upheld the forum’s contention that DA is a right of state government employees under the Revision of Pay and Allowances (ROPA) Rule-2009,” said Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, forum counsel and former Kolkata mayor.
Advocate general Kishore Dutta argued in court that DA payment is a matter of the administration’s discretion. Right now, the difference in DA paid to Bengal government employees and that to their counterparts in the Union government is 56%.
Payment of DA has been a vexed issue in West Bengal, with employees clamouring for parity with central government employees and the chief minister pointing at great fiscal stress. “The crucial issue is the condition of the state exchequer. Scoring political points on this issue is pointless,” said Trinamool Congress secretary general and education minister Partha Chatterjee.