Recovery of excess amount paid held violative of Art. 14 of the Constitution

Himachal Pradesh High Court: In an interesting case where petitioner has filed a writ petition seeking quashing of order for recovery of vacation salary granted to the petitioner by the respondents, the division bench of Mansoor Ahmad Mir, C.J and Tarlok Singh Chauhan, J accordingly quashed the said order and directed the respondents not to effect the recovery of the said amount from the petitioner and if the recovery is already made, must be refunded to the petitioner. In the instant case the petitioner has not played any role, played fraud or misrepresentation in release of the vacation salary.

The Court while deciding the petition extensively relied on the judgment of the Supreme Court in State of Punjab v. Rafiq Masih (2015) 4 SCC 334, wherein the Court laid down the parameters of fact situations such that employees, who are beneficiaries of wrongful monetary gains at the hands of the employer, may not be compelled to refund the same. The Court further observed in the abovestated case that an action of the State, ordering a recovery from an employee would be fair, so long as it is not rendered iniquitous to the extent, that the action of recovery would be more wrongful, improper and more unwarranted, than the corresponding right of the employer, to recover the amount. The Court also noted that the recovery would be permissible till such time as it would not have a harsh and arbitrary effect on the employee.

Court also delved into explaining the doctrine of equality found in Articles 14 to 18 of the Constitution and stated that such an action would breach the obligations of the State, to citizens of this country, and renders the action arbitrary, and therefore, violative of the mandate contained in Article 14 of the Constitution of India. Seema Sharma v. State of Himachal Pradesh, 2015 SCC OnLine HP 918, decided on 20.04.2015


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