SC junks Kerala order that employees should donate month's salary to CMDRF

Apex court says government should understand that many employees may not be able to afford such an extent of monetary loss

The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a petition filed by the Kerala government challenging a State High Court decision staying a government order that employees should donate a month’s salary to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF).

A Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Vineet Saran said donations require a voluntary spirit and the government should keep in mind the fact that many employees may not be able to afford such an extent of monetary loss.

Justice Mishra then asked what guarantee is there that the money collected for the fund would be exclusively used only for disaster relief work.

“If some of us are not willing to give, why should we make it public and attract attention to ourselves? What is the guarantee the that money will go into disaster relief alone, Justice Mishra asked.

Justice Saran orally observed that people should be asked to give only what they can afford to give. Agreeing that the high court took the right decision, Justice Saran said governments should keep in the financial viability of its employees.

Senior advocate Jaideep Gupta, for Kerala, asked if the order could be modified and made to apply to persons voluntarily interested to donate money.

If necessary you may do that. That is the decision of the government, Justice Mishra responded.

Kerala had last week moved the Supreme Court against a decision of the Kerala High Court to stay a government order that employees should donate a month’s salary to the CMDRF.

The High Court had on October 9 stayed clause 10 of government order dated September 11, which formulated guidelines on the donation of a month’s salary by the State’s employees.

In its petition filed through State counsel G. Prakash, the government said the high court order has thwarted a "noble programme" and made it "unworkable".

It said the government has already deducted the first instalment out of the 10 instalments from employees who did not submit letter of dissent. The stay granted by the High Court has resulted in preventing the State government from deducting the subsequent instalments even from the employees who have not submitted their letter of dissent.

"Is the High Court right when the government has submitted that there is no compulsion for contribution of salary and that specific direction has been given to the Head of Departments not to prepare the list of unwilling employees?" the State asked the Supreme Court.

The Kerala Chief Secretary had issued a note on September 15, directing the fund to be realised strictly as contribution/donations and never to be effected by way of any compulsion, the petition contended, seeking an interim stay of the High Court order.

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