BY RAKESH BHATNAGAR IN DNA
New Delhi: The Supreme Court (SC) has flayed the political executive and the bureaucracy, stating that they are denying the marginalised, the weak, and the scheduled castes and tribes their legitimate constitutional guarantees.
The court made this extremely harsh observation in a case involving a tribal woman, Nila Die, whose land in Orissa had been acquired by the government for a railway project 19 years ago. Though Die was entitled to monetary compensation and a job in the railways for a member of her family, she received neither from either the South Eastern Railway (SER) or the Orissa government, who were parties to the case.
In 2001, Nila Die had moved a tribunal and the Orissa high court for her legitimate dues, spending a considerable amount of her limited resources in the process. The Orissa high court ruled in her favour in 2009 and directed the railway authorities and the state government to provide her son a job.
The government did not. Nor did it immediately file an appeal in the SC, but did so 203 days later.
A bench comprising justices GS Singh and Asok Kumar Ganguly on Thursday took strong exception to the attitude of both the Orissa government and SER, pointing out that when it came to “implementation of the legislative and executive measures intended to benefit that class of society, those involved in the operation of bureaucratic system, at times, make all-out efforts to deprive the have-nots of their legitimate dues”.
The court rejected the government’s plea that Nila Die’s file “was tossed between different functionaries of the railway administration and the advocates”, saying such excuses might have been accepted a decade-and-a-half ago, given the red tapism and lethargy in the government’s functioning.
“But such an approach is not compatible at a time when the people of the country are demanding accountability of all concerned with the functioning of public institutions,” the apex court added.
Upholding the HC order, the judges said, “It is most unfortunate that instead of adopting a sympathetic and humane approach towards a woman belonging to the scheduled tribe, who was deprived of the only source of livelihood in the name of public interest, the functionaries of the state administration and SER treated her with utter contempt and deprived her son of the legitimate right to be employed as per the policy of the Railway Board.”
“This is a sad commentary on the functioning of the state apparatus,” said the court.
The SC imposed a cost of Rs50, 000 on the Union government and ordered that this money be given to Nila Die within two months. Within the same period, the government was directed to get a job for Die’s son. The judges also asked for a report on the implementation of their order.