Ori HC highlights need for equity in cases of deferred payments; Interest to be paid in delayed payment of arrears due to administrative laches

Orissa High Court

Orissa High Court: S. K Panigrahi, J. directed the State to pay simple interest computed at the rate of 6% per annum on account of deferred salaries within a period of 30 days from today.

The facts of the case are such that the petitioner joined service as the Headmaster in a government school and was rendering his services as a Government servant till his superannuation in year 2001. The Petitioner, being a 74-year-old man, was made to run from pillar to post to get his legitimate dues but owing to administrative latches, the same couldn’t materialize. The instant petition was filed as insofar as payment of arrears is concerned, has already been redressed but the interest component of the amount which has been held up for the last twenty-one years, is required to be paid.

Counsel for petitioner submitted that the redressal of grievance of the Petitioner will remain incomplete if he were to be denied of the interest component that is payable to him as a result of delay.

The Court observed that that salaries and pensions are due as a matter of right to employees, and, as the case maybe, to former employees who have served the State. Since, the petitioner rendered his services till superannuation as a government servant; his entitlement to the payment of salary is intrinsic to the right to life under Article 21 and to right to property which is recognized by Article 300A of the Constitution.

The Court further noted that the late decision taken by the opposite party is attributable to administrative latches across different levels and the same cannot be the reason to withhold the payment to the employees who admittedly worked at the relevant time. The employees, had the payment received within time and/or on due dates, could have utilized the same for various purposes.

The Court relied on judgment SK Dua v State of Haryana, (2008) 3 SCC 44 and observed that in the present case there is a delay of about 21 years in settling the salary arrears payable to the petitioner due to administrative latches is not acceptable. The present case is a clear example of inexcusable departmental delay. Even if it is assumed that the representations made by the petitioner were actively catered to, this cannot be an excuse for lethargy of the department because rules/instructions provide for initiation of process much before retirement. The exercise which was to be completed much before retirement was in fact started long after petitioner’s retirement.

The Court held the relief sought at the rate of 18% per annum be suitably scaled down”[Sovakur Guru v. State of Odisha, WPC (OA) No. 1553 of 2017, decided on 27-05-2022]


*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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