Irked with the Punjab Roadways Transport Corporation ( PRTC) for its re peated failure during past four years to pay hundreds of its employees their retirement benefits, the Punjab and Haryana high court has stopped release of salaries of its chairman, managing director and general manager till the release of pensionary benefits of retired employees.
Directions came from the court headed by justice Mahesh Grover on Wednesday on a bunch of 31 contempt petitions filed by Narinder Kumar and other retired PRTC employees.
It was on February 22 that justice Grover had granted the PRTC officials two months and a last chance to settle the pension claims of the petitioners.
Appearing for a large number of retired petitioners, advocate Vikas Chatrath infor med the court that despite the last oppor tunity granted by the court, PRTC officials had failed to ensure release of full pensionary benefits.
Justice Grover in his last order, while warning the authorities concerned had said, “It seems that the respondent corporation has developed a penchant for cushioning afforded by the cour t, little realising that this indulgence was given so that the claims of the petitioners could be satisfied without inconveniencing and jeopardising the overall interest of the corporation.”
The case has now been posted for submission of status report by the PRTC on August 26.
The officials, whose salaries have been attached included general managers of all PRTC depots, managing director Bhupinder Singh Rai and the recently appointed PRTC chairman Avtar Singh Brar.
The of ficials won’t be able to withdraw their salaries till further orders.
Giving a last chance to the PRTC management to settle pension claims on February 22, the high court had instructed the authorities concerned to release pending dues of their superannuated employees and strictly ordered them to make payments before May 7.
The high court had even made the Punjab government a party in the case by ordering to give over 45 crore of the g rantsin-aid to the PRTC for clearing some of its dues.
However, this is not for the first time the high court has taken such a decision as, in November 2010, besides salaries, cars of the officials were also attached.
PRTC of ficials said it has been estimated that the PRTC needed about 14 crore to clear pending dues of the complainants in the contempt cases before May 7 but the shortage of funds proved costlier for the authorities, making t he court to take harsher action against them.
Confirming the development, managing director Bhupinder Singh Rai said they have received the orders regarding the attachment of salaries on Wednesday morning.
“We have been taking up the matter with the chief minister’s of fice re g arding the orders, while we are also taking legal suggestions over the decision,” Rai said.
Rai added “The state government has already sanctioned a loan worth 35 crore, which we are hopeful of getting soon, to clear the dues of retired employees,” he said.