HC asks BMC to pay its physically challenged staff's lockdown salary dues

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Mumbai, Oct 28 (PTI) Terming as 'illegal' the Mumbai civic body's decision to not pay salary to its physically challenged employees for the days they failed to report to work during lockdown, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday asked it to pay the arrears to such staffers in two instalments.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni gave this direction to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

The first of the two instalments must be paid before Diwali, the bench said.

The bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the National Association for the Blind (NAB) over the BMC not paying its 268 visually-impaired civic employees their full salaries during the lockdown period.

As per the plea filed through advocate Uday Warunjikar, the BMC initially exempted its physically disabled staff members from having to report to work during the lockdown.

The plea said that on May 21, the civic body issued a circular informing such employees that they were entitled to a special leave without loss of pay.

However, on May 26, the civic body issued another circular saying that it was not a special leave, but a 'permissible leave', which as per civic rules, needed to be sanctioned and involved a loss of pay for the days that the employees failed to show up for work.

The circular said that the permissible leave needed to be sanctioned by senior authorities, and for the days that such leave was not sanctioned, an employee would have to undergo a loss of pay.

On Wednesday, the HC bench held this May 26 circular as illegal.

'The circular requires judicial intervention. The circular and its action of withholding pay is held illegal,' the bench said.

It added that physically-disabled employees, including the petitioners, were eligible for all monetary benefits and directed the BMC to pay its physically disabled employees, even those 'who could not report to duty during the pandemic,' all salary arrears and due monetary benefits.

The amount must be paid in two instalments, first before Diwali and second instalment to be paid within 45 days from the date of first instalment, the high court said.

As per the plea, while the disabled employees were paid in full for the period between March 23 and May 31 this year, in the subsequent months, the civic body began to make deductions for the days that they missed work, the petitioner said.

The BMC, however, had claimed during the previous hearings before the HC that it took 'very good care' of its disabled staff.

It said that the BMC had around 1,150 physically disabled people, including the 268 visually-impaired ones as its staff members, and that it had started bus services for them.

Its staff was also permitted to use the local train services in the city, the BMC had said.

It had said that the system of permissible leaves was in accordance with its rules. PTI AYA NP NP

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