Other States

Can’t force employees to donate for relief fund: HC

The teachers’ union constantly at loggerheads with the present administration at Visva-Bharati has claimed moral victory with the Calcutta High Court holding that the university should not have automatically deducted a day’s salary of employees for cyclone relief.

After Cyclone Amphan battered parts of West Bengal in May 2020, Visva-Bharati had deducted a day’s salary of its employees to make a contribution to the relief fund. The decision was opposed by the Visva-Bharati University Faculty Association (VBUFA), which said while it was all for contributions being made for relief work, such donation can only be voluntary and not binding on the staff.

‘No scope for refund’

“The employer neither has the power nor the authority to deduct salary or any portion thereof of an employee, unilaterally, in the garb of donation. A person cannot be forced to donate,” Justice Amrita Sinha said on Tuesday. The judge, however, observed that since the petition was filed one year after the deduction was made — a group of 23 teachers belonging to the VBUFA filed the petition in May 2021 — there was no scope for refund.

When asked what took them so long to appeal in the court, a member of the VBUFA said the union was unable to garner sufficient support because of the pandemic and the lockdown.

The VBUFA, according to the member, now plans to approach a Division Bench of the High Court to seek a refund (of the amount deducted) from the personal account of Vice-Chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty and donate it to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.

It also intends to file another petition against the forcible deduction of half-day’s salary of employees in October 2020 for the upkeep of the historic prayer hall at Santiniketan.

According to the VBUFA, the prayer hall is the responsibility of the Santiniketan Trust and the Archaeological Survey of India and that the employees of Visva-Bharati, which has nothing to do with the structure, cannot be forced to pay for its maintenance.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 5:41:48 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/cant-force-employees-to-donate-for-relief-fund-hc/article35597324.ece

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