S.B. Civil Misc. Application Nos.:-103/2020 to 129/2020, 131/2020 to 156/2020, 160/2020 to 171/2020, 173/2020 to 178/2020, 181/2020 to 184/2020, 186/2020 to 194/2020, 196/2020 to 205/2020.
Heard on the applications filed under Section 5 of the Limitation Act.
2. Applications are allowed for the reasons stated therein. Delay in filing the appeals is condoned.
D.B. Civil Special Appeal (Writ) No. 155/2020 and other connected appeals:-
3. Vide this order, above mentioned appeals would be disposed of, as they have arisen out of common order passed by the learned Single Judge dated 7.11.2019.
4. Learned counsel for the appellants has submitted that there was no question of paying any interest to the respondents, as they had received the amount of gratuity by way of full and final settlement of the claim.
5. Learned counsel for the appellants has placed reliance on the decision of Punjab and Haryana High Court in Civil Writ Petition No. 2579/2011 titled as Satish Kumar Goel & Anr. v. HMT Machine Tools Ltd. & Anr. decided on 5.10.2012, wherein it was held that once the employees had been paid gratuity and they had signed the receipt stating therein that the same were in full and final settlement of their claim, no order was required to be passed with regard to the payment of interest. The said order was upheld by the Division Bench of Punjab and Haryana High Court vide order dated 25.1.2013.
6. Learned Single Judge while disposing of the writ petitions filed by the appellants challenging the orders passed by the Assistant Labour Commissioner (Central) Controlling Authority under the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 has taken in consideration the fact that on an earlier occasion consent had been given on behalf of the appellants that the payment of gratuity and interest would be made within a period of three months. It was the case of the employees that in similar writ petitions direction had been given by this Court for release of gratuity, if any, alongwith interest to the employees, as had been ordered by the Controlling Authority. Learned Single Judge, keeping in view the orders passed in similar writ petitions, allowed three months' time to the appellants to make the payment of gratuity alongwith interest, if any, to the employees.
7. The order passed in S.B. Civil Writ Petition No. 6989/2019 (The General Manager, HMT Ltd. v. Shri Ranjan Sharma) decided on 13.5.2019, reads as under:-
"This batch of writ petitions has been filed by the petitioner-employer challenging the order passed by the Assistant Labour Commissioner (Central), Ajmer - Controlling Authority under Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 (for short "the Act of 1972").
Learned counsel, at the outset, submitted that the petitioner-employer is not challenging the amount of gratuity, which has been granted to the employees and further the interest @ 10% Per Annum is also not challenged. The only prayer while arguing the case is to grant some more time to make payment.
Learned counsel submitted that the petitioner company was declared as Sick Industrial Unit in terms of Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985 in the year 2006 and further a Rehabilitation Scheme was prepared and the same is under implementation.
Learned counsel submitted that the principal amount of gratuity has been paid to the employees and since, the petitioner company had not received the funds from the authorities concerned to make payment, the financial position of the petitioner company being very critical, the interest part has not been paid so far.
Learned counsel submitted that the petitioner company has been making earnest efforts to release the amount enabling it to pay the statutory dues of gratuity to the superannuated employees of the Unit at Ajmer.
Learned counsel for the petitioner company has produced a letter dated 14th February, 2019 written by the General Manager of HMT Machine Tools Ltd., Ajmer to the Director Finance, HMT Limited, Bangalore whereby a request was made to release Rs. 3 Crore immediately in order to pay the prolonged statutory dues of gratuity and to avoid the unsolicited legal action/attachment of bank accounts.
Learned counsel submitted that the employee concerned has approached the District Collector for making recovery under the provisions of the Rajasthan Land Revenue Act, 1956 (for short "the Act of 1956").
Learned counsel also produced one letter by SDO, Ajmer giving date of appearance before the Court on 10th May, 2019 for making payment of interest and gratuity.
Learned counsel argued that at least, some reasonable time may be granted to the petitioner company to pay the interest, as has been awarded by the Controlling Authority under the Act of 1972.
Learned counsel further submitted that due to paucity of funds, even the petitioner company was restrained from filing statutory appeal before the Appellate Authority against order passed by the Controlling Authority, as there is a condition of fore deposit.
Learned counsel submitted that the petitioner company is in no way denying entitlement of the employees to receive gratuity and the interest part can also be paid but sometime is required to be given to the petitioner company to meet out the obligation, which has been imposed by the Controlling Authority.
I have considered the submissions made by learned counsel for the petitioner and perused the record.
This Court finds that since the petitioner company has made payment of amount of gratuity, as ordered by the Controlling Authority. The issue is with regard to payment of interest @ 10% Per Annum, as has been awarded till the date of payment, this Court finds that the petitioner company has made earnest efforts by writing letters to the Headquarters at Bangalore and since, sufficient funds have not been released, the petitioner company is facing difficulty to pay the amount of interest.
This Court, in no way, is questioning the order passed by the Controlling Authority and the amount of gratuity as well as interest, are required to be paid to the employees concerned.
This Court also cannot become oblivious of the fact that the petitioner company was declared as Sick Industrial Unit and under the Rehabilitation Scheme, the process for implementation is still on.
Accordingly, the prayer of learned counsel for the petitioner company seems to be reasonable and this Court finds that the petitioner company is required to be given some more time to make payment of interest and as such, three months' time is granted to the petitioner company to make payment of interest, as has been awarded by the Controlling Authority.
The respondents-employee are entitled to get their amount of gratuity and interest thereof and for a period of three months, no coercive action would be taken by the Revenue Authorities for recovering the amount under the provisions of the Act of 1956.
The writ petitions stand disposed of with the aforesaid."
8. The order passed by the learned Single Judge while relying on decision dated 13.5.2019 reproduced above, in the facts and circumstances of the present case, appears to be just and fair. In-fact, it is the employer / appellants itself who had sought three months time in connected petitions to p
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ay the gratuity amount and interest, as it was pleaded that the appellants were facing great financial hardship. Learned Single Judge while disposing of the writ petitions has granted further period of three months' time to the appellants to pay the amount of gratuity alongwith interest to the employees. 9. We have gone through the judgment relied upon by the learned counsel for the appellants but the same fails to advance the case of the appellants as before this Court, in similar matters, appellants had given their consent and had sought three months time to pay the gratuity alongwith interest to the employees. The employees involved in the present appeals cannot be treated differently. 10. Hence, in the facts and circumstances of the case, no ground for interference is made out. Dismissed.