15 Sep 2023 5:55 AM GMT
The Calcutta High Court has upheld the transfer of an ‘Anganwadi worker’ (“appellant”) despite absence of an express provision under the applicable scheme and rules.Appellant had argued that her transfer was bad in law, since the memorandum dated 25.01.2006 issued by the Government of West Bengal, Department of Women and Child Development and Social Welfare for recruitment of...
The Calcutta High Court has upheld the transfer of an ‘Anganwadi worker’ (“appellant”) despite absence of an express provision under the applicable scheme and rules.
Appellant had argued that her transfer was bad in law, since the memorandum dated 25.01.2006 issued by the Government of West Bengal, Department of Women and Child Development and Social Welfare for recruitment of Anganwadi workers, did not make any provisions for transfer, and laid down that only ‘local women” were to be appointed to Anganwadi centres.
In upholding the order of transfer, a division-bench of Justice Arijit Banerjee and Justice Apurba Sinha Ray observed:
[Villagers complained that] the appellant being the teacher of ICDS centre North Jambad was not regular in her duty though all the children used to be present in the concerned Anganwadi centre. Although all the children were entitled to a full egg but the appellant was providing half an egg to each of them. The water used for cooking was also not good for which they were apprehensive about the health of their children. Though they tried to discuss the matter with the appellant but she misbehaved with them…therefore, when public services are disrupted due to an Anganwadi worker’s attitude, the Authority can make appropriate order commensurate with the situation for the interest of the public. It is true that there is no express provision for transfer of an Anganwadi worker in the abovementioned Rules but at the same time, there is no express prohibition of transfer also.
It was claimed by the appellant that her transfer order dated 29th July 2021 had been issued without any cogent reasons, and that when she had approached the authorities to report a theft that had allegedly occurred at her centre on 26th June 2022, she had been turned away.
Appellant argued that thereafter when she visited the centre on 12th July 2022, she found that the door was broken open and that charge of the centre had been handed over to another local Anganwadi worker in her place.
Appellant claimed that she received no relief from local authorities, and that she was once again asked to report to Tilaboni Dangal Anganwadi centre immediately.
Counsel for appellant argued that there was no provision for transfer of Anganawadi workers in the memorandum issued by the state regarding the recruitment of such workers.
It was argued that Anganwadi centres always hired local people, and that her new centre being more than 30 kms from her residence would mitigate the ‘solemn purpose’ behind which provisions had been made for appointment of local people as Anganwadi workers.
It was submitted that such a move was going to be disadvantageous to not only the appellant, but also the centre to which she was being transferred and that her transfer was allegedly penal in nature.
Counsel for State submitted that several complaints from local villagers had been received against the appellant and that she had also been served a show-cause notice to explain the reasons behind abject negligence in performing her duties. It was also argued that an inspection found sever irregularities in her discharge of duties.
It was submitted that the appellant had disobeyed all the terms and conditions relating to her post and that her conduct had also been discussed with the Standing Committee of Sishu O-Nari Unnayan, Janakalyan-O- Tran Sathyee Samiti of Pandabeswar Panchayat Samiti in presence of the Block Development Officer.
State argued that the appellants transfer was in accordance with a 1989 government order which allowed the Child Development Project Officer to transfer Anganwadi workers in case they were satisfied that genuine public grievances existed against a particular worker.
It was submitted that the appellant had been grossly negligent in discharge of her duties and that she had also absented herself frequently from the Anganwadi centre, without informing her superiors, leading to the Sector Officer finding the centre locked during an enquiry.
It was submitted that due to her action of locking the centre since 27th June 2022, local and downtrodden had been deprived of the services of the centre, and that the lock had to be broken in consultation with the local panchayat and police authorities, before charge of the centre was transferred.
Upon hearing both sides, the Court noted that although the State memorandum did speak of empanelling local women as Anganwadi workers, the same was only a measure to ensure smooth functioning of the scheme, which enabled these women to be ‘frontline workers’ for their community.
It was held that in the present case, although the appellant was appointed from the local community, she had not been performing her duties, and that complaints against her by locals had been surfacing since 2019, accusing her of being irregular in attendance, misbehaving with locals, etc.
Court found that a letter from local villagers, complaining against the appellant had been sent to various functionaries, including the local MLA, BDO, as well as panchayat members.
Court noted: If the Anganwadi workers do not come in proper time, if they remain habitual absentees at the centre, if they do not give proper food in proper quantity to the beneficiaries, can the said recalcitrant Anganwadi workers claim that they cannot be transferred since the scheme provides for engagement of local woman…beneficiaries had suffered during the period when the appellant was in charge of the said centre. Therefore, if public interest warrants her transfer from the said centre, the concerned authority can do so for the sake of public service. The lackadaisical attitude of the appellant was palpable.
Accordingly, in finding no merit in the arguments made by the counsel for the appellant, the Court upheld the validity of the appellants transfer order and dismissed her writ petition.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Cal) 282
Case: Suily Banerjee -Vs.- The State of West Bengal & Ors.
Case No: MAT 1794 OF 2022
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