New Delhi/Port Blair: The Supreme Court today stayed the suspension of Keshav Chandra, the Chief Secretary (CS) of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, after the Circuit bench of the Calcutta High Court in Port Blair yesterday ordered his suspension and also asked Lieutenant Governor (LG) Admiral D K Joshi to deposit a fine of Rs 5 lakh from his own finds within 7 days in a case of contempt of court, for not implementing directions.
The case is related to paying enhanced wages to over 4800 daily wage employees of the local Public Works Department and other departments with retrospective effect from September 2017, when the local administration issued a memorandum stating that one-time wages would be given to the daily-rated mazdoors (DRMs), and they allegedly selectively chose the beneficiaries.
As per a Supreme Court order in 1986, (DRMs) discharging their duties on a par with regular employees are entitled to the financial benefit of 1/30th pay plus dearness allowances. In 2022, the Calcutta High Court passed an order that the DRMs were entitled to 1/30th of the pay at the minimum of the relevant pay scale plus dearness allowance (DA) for work of eight hours a day as specified by the Union government.
The matter was challenged in the High Court after the administration issued another memorandum stating that the left-out DRMs would receive their wages from May 9, 2023, onwards and not from 2017 as instructed by the court. The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) affiliated Andaman Sarvajanik Nirman Vibhag Mazdoor Sangh moved the Circuit bench of Calcutta High Court against the non-compliance of the grant of 1/30th of pay along with the DA benefits to the DRMs as ordered by the High Court.
Thereupon, the High Court bench asked the LG to appear on the adjourned date, in virtual mode, and the CS to appear personally in the court to explain why they should not be committed to prison for contempt of court. The court also directed Admiral Joshi to deposit a sum of Rs 5 lakh within seven days.
The High Court’s order read, “This court clearly finds flagrant and reprehensible contempt on the part of the contemnors Admiral DK Joshi, Lieutenant Governor, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Shri Keshav Chandra, Chief Secretary, Andaman and Nicobar Administration. In view of the above and in view of the conduct of the contemnors indicated hereinabove, this court is left with no option than to direct that Shri Keshav Chandra, Chief Secretary, Andaman and Nicobar Administration, be suspended forthwith. The next senior-most officer in the administration shall take over and discharge the functions of the Chief Secretary.”
Following the High Court order, the Union Home Ministry decided to move to Supreme Court and Attorney General R Venkataramani, appearing for the CS and the LG, made submissions before a bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud and justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra in this regard.
While staying the High Court order, the CJI remarked, “You must have done something drastic to get that order”. The next hearing will be on next Friday.
– global bihari bureau