The Bombay high court (HC) on Saturday expressed displeasure over the adamant stand of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on deducting salaries of visually-impaired civic employees, although they were exempted from reporting on work due to Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is unfortunate that the municipal corporation has taken this stand (of deducting salary of visually-impaired employees),” said the bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Girish Kulkarni.
“We are fortunate that we can see. We are fortunate that we do not have any deformities or disabilities,” the bench reminded the counsel for the civic body, senior advocate BV Bukhari.
The bench was hearing a public interest litigation filed by the National Association of Blind, espousing the cause of the 287 visually-impaired BMC staffers, as the civic body started deducting their salaries for the Covid-19 lockdown period.
Their counsel, advocate Uday Warunjikar, submitted that BMC has treated their absence as paid leave and the recovery was being made from the salary of the employees for the excess period of absence which is over and above their sanctioned leaves.
Warunjikar further submitted that no transportation was available for the employees to reach their respective offices. Besides, he said the state government had issued a circular exempting the employees from attending offices.
Representing the civic body, Bukhari conceded that relaxation was given to visually-impaired employees from attending office but maintained that the state government circular was not applicable to civic employees. He said the relaxation did not mean that the employees were to be paid for absent days.
With regards to transportation, the senior advocate initially maintained that transportation was provided to civic employees throughout the lockdown period, but later said there was no question of providing transportation as the employees were granted relaxation.
The judges were irked by the technical objections raised by the civic body instead of considering the issues of the visually-impaired employees sympathetically.
“So you will give relaxation on one hand and take away the benefits on the other (by recovering salary paid for the absent days),” said the judges, commenting upon the civic body’s stand.
After hearing both the parties, the court on Saturday reserved its order on the PIL.
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