The Delhi High Court today directed the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) to disburse last month's salaries to its employees engaged in its helplines and rehabilitation cells.
Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva said various DCW cells were functioning and the workers cannot be expected to work 'pro- bono' (without charge) as they are dependent on the salary for subsistence.
"Since petitioners (DCW workers) are working in various cells of DCW and discharging their duties, some as per orders of this court, non-payment of salary would cause grave prejudice to the petitioners and the functioning of the cells of DCW," the court said and directed that the salaries for January be released.
The court was hearing an application by 97 DCW workers, claiming that they had not been paid the January salaries.
The application was moved in the main petition filed by them alleging they were not paid salaries from September last year. The matter is listed for hearing on February 28.
During the hearing today, the court said it had in December last year asked DCW to pay 50 per cent of the arrears of salary from September to December 2016, but with "the understanding that future payments would continue".
The office of Lieutenant Governor, represented by central government standing counsel Anurag Ahluwalia, opposed payment of salary, saying the LG has on February 13 set up a committee to examine the alleged irregular appointments in the Commission and it would give a report within 30 days.
He said that the salaries should not be disbursed till the panel's report was received.
The court, however, disagreed with the stand, saying the committee can scrutinise the appointments and terminate those which are illegal, but till the time the cells are functioning and the workers are working, they have to be paid.
Ahluwalia said that DCW has not yet submitted its report pertaining to an expenditure of Rs 6.8 crore given to it and till a utilisation certificate is not received from it, further amounts cannot be released.
He said that DCW has sent them a letter requesting for an additional Rs two crore.
DCW, on the other hand, said it had the funds to disburse salaries to its workers for January and the additional amount was sought in respect of some other projects.
DCW Chairperson Swati Maliwal, who was present in court, said the expenditure report has already been provided and any further records that is sought for, would be given.
DCW also expressed reservation over the constitution of
the committee as it was headed by the Secretary of Women and Child Development Department of the Delhi government, saying the Commission often sends notices to the department regarding its functioning, which could lead to a conflict.
The court, however, said it will not get into that issue and told the Commission to file a separate petition on it.
Recently, in an affidavit, DCW had alleged that the LG's office had "raked up" the issue of irregular appointments in the state women's panel to sidetrack the payment of salaries to people hired to work on various women's helplines.
It had contended that people were engaged on short-term contracts for three months to ensure that its various helplines, programmes and cells for women in distress continue to function till the Delhi government sanctions staff for the purpose.
The LG's office, in an earlier affidavit, had claimed that Maliwal had "no power or authority to arbitrarily, unilaterally, unauthorisedly engage or appoint employees" in DCW and should have approached the competent authority if more manpower was needed.
It had also told the high court that Anti Corruption Branch of Delhi government was probing alleged irregularities in the recruitment process of the DCW on orders of a trial court. Maliwal has refuted the allegations.