Kolkata, Aug 31 : The Calcutta High Court today held that dearness allowance (DA) was a legal right of West Bengal government employees.

A division bench comprising Justices Debasish Kar Gupta and Sekhar Bobby Saraf set aside a State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) order that had said that DA cannot be claimed as a right by the state government employees.

The bench held that the employees’ claim for DA as per the central government DA rates would be decided by the SAT, which was asked by the court to rehear the issue.

It also asked the tribunal to decide whether the state government was justified to pay differential rates to its employees posted at Delhi and Chennai.

The division bench observed that the central government fixes DA of its employees across the country at the same rate without discriminating on the place of posting.

The court said it cannot be said that employees in Kolkata were affected differently from inflation compared to those posted in Delhi or Chennai.

During an argument of the case, the state Advocate General had claimed that DA was not a right of the employees, but a benevolence on the part of the government.

Observing that the tribunal had not considered the two issues properly and not invited affidavits from the state government with regard to its claim, the bench directed the West Bengal government to file an affidavit before SAT within three weeks.

The petitioners will be at liberty to file their reply to the state government’s affidavit within another week after that.

The bench also directed the tribunal to hear the issues relating to the rates of DA to be paid to the employees expeditiously without unnecessary adjournment and to conclude hearing in the matter within two months excluding holidays.

The Confederation of State Government Employees had moved the SAT, claiming disparity in rates of DA paid by the West Bengal government and the central government to their respective employees.

The SAT had held that DA was not a right of the state government employees and as such it could not question the rates at which it was paid to them.

The HC observed that as the government accepted the Fifth Pay Commission recommendation of 2009 that said that DA was part of salary and a legally enforceable right. (Courtesy: Ganashakti)