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The Supreme Court has pulled up the central government for denying a job to physically handicapped girl Pritilata Nanda of Orissa on the grounds that she did not get her name routed through an employment exchange. Nanda was also awarded damages of Rs.300,000.

Besides the central government, four officials of South Eastern Railways were also slammed for showing ‘lack of sensitivity’. Nanda suffers from paralysis of the lower limbs.

In a order delivered last Friday but released only Thursday, a bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly said getting the name sponsored by an employment exchange could not be equated with mandatory provision incorporated in a statute, the violation of which may make the person concerned liable to penal consequences.

The court said that the conduct of the railway officials was ‘constitutionally flawed’, thus depriving Nanda of her ‘legitimate right to be appointed on a class III post’. The court directed the central government to pay Nanda Rs.300,000 in damages as she was deprived of her rights for almost 21 years.

‘This appeal (by the centre and South Eastern Railway) is one of the many cases illustrative of lack of sensitivity on the part of those entrusted with the task of doing justice on the administrative side which is the sine qua non (condition) for good governance,’ the order said.

The court said that in her battle spanning over 21 years, Nanda ‘became so frustrated that even though she succeeded in convincing the high court to issue a direction to the competent authority to appoint her on a Class III post with retrospective effect, she has not thought it proper to appear and contest this appeal (filed by the central government and others) against the order passed by the division bench of the Orissa High Court’.

Besides the costs, the court directed the South Eastern Railway to issue, within two weeks, an order appointing Nanda to a class three post. Her appointment shall be made effective from the date the person placed at serial number 12 in the merit list was appointed, the order said.

Nanda’s pay shall be notionally fixed from the date of her appointment and she would be given actual monetary benefits with effect from Sep 5, 2008, the date specified in the high court’s order, the apex court said. Besides this, she would entitled to all other benefits including revision of pay from time and promotions, if any.

The court also directed the general manager, South Eastern Railways to ensure that she was not harassed by being posted to remote areas. The official has been asked to send the compliance report to the court by Nov 22.

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