Kerala

Salary challenge cannot be forced on employees: HC

A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Wednesday took the State government to task for including the provision in the salary challenge order mandating government employees who did not give one month’s salary toward the Chief Minister Relief Fund (CMDRF) to make a declaration to the effect.

The Bench comprising Justice C.T. Ravikumar and Justice A.M. Babu orally observed that there was an element of ‘compulsion’ in the salary challenge order as the unwilling employees had been directed to submit a declaration to the effect that they had not contributed one month’s salary to the CMDRF with all their details.

The Bench made the oral observation when a public interest litigation filed by S.K. Jayakumar, general secretary, Kerala NGO Sangh, against the order of the Kerala Administrative Tribunal refusing to stay the salary challenge order.

The petitioners pointed out that the High Court had already stayed the Travancore Devaswom and Malabar Devaswom Board orders asking their employees to contribute one month’s salary towards the CMDRF. As a result, those orders were withdrawn by the boards after realising that recovery of one month salary from the government servants was legally unsustainable.

When the petition came up for hearing, the Bench wondered why the government was insisting on a declaration from those employees who were unwilling to contribute the amount. The court further orally observed that such a stipulation in the order issued on September 11 was against the very ‘‘spirit of the exhortations” made by the Chief Minister.

‘‘How can the government compel a person, who is unwilling to contribute, to submit a declaration?’’ the court asked. It was unfair to ask a person who could not afford to contribute the amount to "raise his hands." The government must give liberty to a person to contribute what he would like to, the court said.

Advocate General C.P. Sudhakara Prasad submitted that there was no compulsory deduction of salary and the government had made only a request.

The petitioner said that though the Chief Minister had only made a request to the government employees to contribute to the relief fund, the government order was compulsory in nature. A donation could not be treated as a compulsory contribution. In fact, the contribution could be made only based on the financial capacity of each and every employee. The organisation pointed out that some of the government employees affected by the flood could not afford to contribute towards the relief fund. The order made it mandatory for all the employees to donate one month’s salary toward the relief fund. The contribution could be voluntary and not compulsory.

The petitioner also sought a directive that the employees be allowed to give a donation to CMDRF based on their financial capacity.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2020 8:23:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/salary-challenge-cannot-be-forced-on-employees-hc/article25049393.ece

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