As the man spearheading the metro rail project, E. Sreedharan revolutionised the way Delhites travelled. He was also the brain behind another engineering marvel — the Konkan railway.
The Centre, it seems, does not think the 77-year-old internationally renowned technocrat merits special consideration and has made him run from pillar to post to reclaim illegal deduction of Rs 4,000 per month from his salary as Chairman of the Konkan Railway from where he retired in 1997 to head Delhi Metro.
The Delhi High Court finally put a stop to it on Tuesday.
After retiring from the Indian railways in 1990, Sreedharan joined Konkan Railway on a pay scale of Rs 9,000-10,000 for a period of five years.
Without his permission, Konkan Railway deducted Rs 4,000 from his salary contending that it was a re-employment under the central government and he could not draw pension and salary from two government departments at the same time. This went on for five years till he retired.
Shreedharan’s lawyer Tarun Johri told the Delhi High Court that the deduction meant that at one point, after all other deductions like income tax, Provident Fund, house rent allowance and car conveyance, Sreedharan took home just Rs 1,080 per month.
More than the amount, what was at stake for Sreedharan was his prestige. “My salary was less than half of that of Konkan rail executives. How did the government expect me to function as a CEO of an important public sector with such a meager income?” Sreedharan had asked the court.
In December 2008, a Bench termed Sreedharan’s appointment to Konkan as a fresh appointment and asked the Centre to pay Sreedharan the amount of approximately Rs 10 lakh and a cost of Rs 30,000.
Not ready to give up, the Centre challenged the order. But it was forced to withdraw the appeal on Tuesday, after an angry bench of Chief Justice A.P. Shah and Justice Manmohan threatened to impose heavy costs on it.
“You should be ashamed. We feel we should impose heavy cost on the official who advised you to file this appeal,” the judges told the Centre’s lawyer, adding a person who has rendered exemplary service to the nation should not have been treated in this manner.
Sreedharan, who is travelling, could not be contacted for comments.