Allahabad High Court: While deciding the petition in favour of the petitioner, Manish Kumar, J., prohibited the U.P. Government from adjusting the excess payment against gratuity.
The facts of the case are that the present petition had been filed by the petitioner for quashing the impugned order of District Development Officer, Sultanpur dated 21-01-2016 directing Senior Treasurer, Sultanpur to recover/adjust the excess payment made to the petitioner amounting to Rs 2,48,673 from his gratuity.
The petitioner retired from a Class III post on 31-01-2015. Vide order dated 31-1-2012 his grade pay was upgraded w.e.f. 01-12-2008 in pursuance of the Government orders at that point in time and the petitioner drew the increased grade pay till the date of his retirement.
Counsel for the petitioner, Vyas Narayan Shukla has contended that post one year of the petitioner’s retirement, the impugned order was passed in breach of the principles of natural justice as the petitioner was not served with any show cause, nor did he get any opportunity of hearing prior to the passing of the impugned order.
The State counsel argued that the impugned order has been passed in pursuance of the order dated 04-09-2013 passed by the Commissioner, Rural Development, Lucknow, U.P., wherein, the sanction of upgraded grade pay to the petitioner was held to be in contravention of relevant Government provisions, ordering the recovery of excess amount from the petitioner. The counsel for the respondent also exhibited a Request dated 06-07-2015 by the petitioner for fixation of his grade pay and sanction of pension after the necessary deduction of excess amount.
Upon careful examination of the facts, circumstances and arguments, the Court observed that the Commissioner was reticent about the manner in which relevant Government orders were transgressed.
The Court also remarked that even though the petitioner retired on 31-01-2015, his terminal benefits were withheld for a period of seven months, landing him in a predicament. It is clear that unpleasant treatment was meted out to the petitioner, exploiting his vulnerability thus compelling him into making the aforementioned request. Additionally, no person in his right frame of mind would go out of the way to give his assent for such an act of recovery.
Petitioner’s counsel cited the case of State of Punjab v. Rafiq Masih, (2015) 4 SCC 334 and the Court relied on the same while delivering the judgment in the present matter. The case lays down the circumstances under which recovery from retired employees is not permitted. The relevant para is quoted below for reference:
“18. It is not possible to postulate all situations of hardship, which would govern employees on the issue of recovery, where payments have mistakenly been made by the employer, in excess of their entitlement. Be that as it may, based on the decisions referred to herein above, we may, as a ready reference, summarise the following few situations, wherein recoveries by the employers, would be impermissible in law:
- Recovery from employees belonging to Class-III and Class-IV service (or Group ‘C’ and Group ‘D’ service).
- Recovery from retired employees, or employees who are due to retire within one year, of the order of recovery.
- Recovery from employees, when the excess payment has been made for a period in excess of five years, before the order of recovery is issued.
- Recovery in cases where an employee has wrongfully been required to discharge duties of a higher post, and has been paid accordingly, even though he should have rightfully been required to work against an inferior post.
- In any other case, where the Court arrives at the conclusion, that recovery if made from the employee, would be iniquitous or harsh or arbitrary to such an extent, as would far outweigh the equitable balance of the employer’s right to recover.”
Later, the Court while rendering the judgment held that the recovery via deduction from gratuity has been approved and executed in ignorance of the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 declaring the order dated 21-01-2016 as untenable. The respondents were directed to release the amount of Rs 2,48,673 along with an interest of 7% to the petitioner, calculated w.e.f. 31-01-2015 till the date of actual payment. Also, payment was to be effectuated within three months of service of a copy of the order.
In view of the above, the petition was allowed without costs.[Kapil Dev Chaturvedi v. State Of U.P, 2020 SCC OnLine All 933, decided on 24-07-2020]