Kochi: Kerala High Court on Monday said that any forcible collection of one month salary from government servants for flood relief would amount to extortion and wondered how officials could issue such orders which do not have any legal backing.
The observation came on a plaint by Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) Employees Front against the decision of the TDB to collect money from the salary and festival allowance of staff towards the renovation of temples and the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF).
The court pointed out that the government was legally not empowered to collect even one day’s salary from its employees forcibly.
The division bench considering the Devaswom cases also asked whether certain officials are issuing such orders after discussing their validity with the law secretary.
The court also said that in the earlier order of the court staying forcible collection for CMDRF from Malabar Devaswom, it had made clear that it would amount to extortion.
The order of TDB is similar to that of Malabar Devaswom.
The court also pointed out that the chief secretary had issued a note asking district collectors and department heads not to collect money forcibly.
There was a spontaneous voluntary response to the chief minister’s appeal to contribute to his distress relief fund from various quarters within the country and abroad.
The order to forcibly collect money has been issued without understanding the tone and tenor of the CM’s appeal.
'Some people are being loyal than the king. There is a lot of government staff who have lost everything in the floods, and they should also be not forced to contribute, the court said.
The case was later posted to September 19 after the TDB counsel told the court that the order would be reviewed and inform the court of the proceedings.