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K. Subramaniyan v/s The State of Tamil Nadu, Rep. by its Principal Secretary to Government, Municipal Administration & Water Supply Department, Chennai & Others

Company & Directors' Information:- K K S WATER PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U52100WB2014PTC199844

Company & Directors' Information:- OF WATER PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U51909MH2018PTC317142

Company & Directors' Information:- F & G SUPPLY PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U51900DL2012PTC239188

Company & Directors' Information:- T. G. S. WATER PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U51109DL2010PTC205948

Company & Directors' Information:- WATER INDIA PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74990DL2016PTC298912

    W.P. No. 26701 of 2017

    Decided On, 05 July 2021

    At, High Court of Judicature at Madras


    For the Petitioner: G. Sankaran, Advocate. For the Respondents: R2, S. Thamizharasi, Advocate.

Judgment Text

(Prayer: Writ Petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, praying to issue a Writ of Certiorarified Mandamus, calling for the records relating to the proceedings by the second respondent in Letter No.P6/60505/Pen/Ho/2010-10 dated 19.12.2016 and to quash the same and consequently direct the respondents to make the payment of interest @ 18% per annum for the delayed settlement of retirement benefits namely, Death cum Retirement Gratuity, Commuted Value of Pension and arrears of pay fixation pension from the date of retirement on 30.09.2010 till date, with all consequential and other attendant benefits within a time as fixed by this Court.)

1. The present Writ Petition is heard through Video Conferencing on 29.06.2021.

2. Heard the learned counsel for the parties.

3. The petitioner herein, while employed as an Assistant with the Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board, Thanjavur, retired from his services on 30.09.2010. On 27.10.2010, the third respondent had forwarded the pension proposal, determining the proposed pension at Rs.24,960/-. Based on certain Audit Objections dated 19.09.2010, the petitioner's pay was revised. Consequently, the third respondent sought for recovery of the excess payment. After obtaining the order from this Court in two Writ Petitions, the Audit Objections were dropped and the petitioner was sanctioned with the original proposed pension of Rs.24,960/- on 09.06.2016. Aggrieved against the delay in settling the pensionary benefits, the petitioner herein had sought for interest on the belated payment of retirement benefits, which came to be rejected by the second respondent on 19.12.2016, through the order impugned in the present Writ Petition.

4. The learned counsel for the petitioner submitted that the reduction in the pay of scale based on Audit Objections and the subsequent rectification of the mistake and restored the original pay scale is a mistake on the part of the respondents, owing to which, there was a delay of more than five years for disbursement of the pensionary benefits and therefore, the petitioner would be entitled for interest on such belated payments.

5. The learned Standing counsel for the respondent Board, however would submit that, the original reduction of the scale of pay was owing to Audit Objections and in view of the order passed by this Court, in the earlier Writ Petitions, the Audit Objections came to be dropped and consequently, the petitioner's scale of pay was restored and the retirement benefits were also immediately disbursed. In view of these administrative reasons and the pendency of the earlier two Writ Petitions, the delay cannot be attributed on the respondents and therefore the petitioner is not entitled for interest.

6. I have given careful consideration to the submissions made by the respective counsels.

7. It is no doubt true that the petitioner herein, who had retired from services on 30.09.2010, was sanctioned with the pension only on 09.06.2016, which is after more than six years. To determine as to whether the petitioner would be entitled to interest on the belated payments, the reason for the delay in disbursing the retirement benefits requires to be considered.

8. Just prior to the petitioner reaching his age of superannuation, there were Audit Objections on 19.09.2010, owing to which, the pay scale of the petitioner came to be revised. In the meantime, the petitioner had retired on 30.09.2010. As against the revision of the pay, the petitioner had filed a Writ Petition in W.P.No.4174 of 2011 and this Court had granted interim orders of stay on 01.03.2011 and finally disposed the Writ Petition on 23.12.2011, by remanding the issue back to the authorities for reconsideration. On reconsideration, the third respondent herein had passed orders on 03.04.2012, further revising the petitioner's pay scale. This order dated 03.04.2012 came to be challenged by the petitioner in W.P.(MD) No.6851 of 2012, wherein this Court had granted interim stay of the proceedings through an order dated 16.05.2012. Ultimately, on 17.06.2015, the Writ Petition came to be finally disposed of, whereby this Court had held that the respondents had the right to refix the salary of the petitioner, but however quashed the portion of the order, directing recovery of the excess payment. The relevant portion of the order reads as follows:

“16. Applying these principles, I hold that the respondents have a right to re-fix the salary of the petitioner and they are entitled to rectify their mistake even after lapse of 25 years. As far as recovery is concerned, the respondents are not entitled to recover the excess amount, as the petitioner had retired on attaining the age of superannuation on 30.09.2010 itself and excess amounts paid to the petitioner had been arrived at only on 08.02.2011, which was set aside by this Court and subsequently, by the impugned order, dated 03.04.2012. The order of the third respondent to recover the excess amounts in one lumpsum from the gratuity amounts payable to the petitioner no doubt causes hardship to the petitioner, as he is depending upon the terminal benefits and pensionary benefits to maintain himself.

17. In the result, the impugned order insofar as recovery of excess amount in one lumpsum from the petitioner’s gratuity and other dues payable by the respondent Board alone is quashed. It is open to the Board to work out the pension and other terminal benefits payable to the petitioner based on the revised pay fixed in the impugned order. The respondents are directed to complete the process within twelve weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order and send a proposal to the Accountant General. On receipt of such proposal, the Accountant General is directed to consider the said proposal and sanction eligible pension and terminal benefits to the petitioner within four weeks thereafter. The writ petition is partly allowed. No costs. Consequently, connected M.P.(MD) No.1 of 2012 is closed.”

9. On perusal of the aforesaid order of this Court, it is seen that this Court had recognised the right of the respondents to revise the pay scale of its employees, but however found fault with the consequential recovery made. On an overall appraisal of the delay between 30.09.2010, on which date, the petitioner had retired and 17.06.2015, on which date, the final orders passed in W.P.(MD) No.6851 of 2012, the reason for withholding the petitioner's retirement benefits was owing to the pendency of the Writ Petitions in W.P.No.4174 of 2011 and W.P.(MD) No.6851 of 2012, wherein interim orders of stay was in force. Furthermore, till 17.06.2015, the High Court had not found fault with the respondents' right to revise the scale of pay, though the grounds raised by the petitioner before these two Writ Courts, was precisely questioning the reduction of the petitioner's pay of scale.

10. In this background, after the final orders had passed in W.P.(MD) No.6851 of 2012 on 17.06.2015, the Audit Officer had by his letter dated 03.08.2010, had remarked that “para is treated as settled”. Consequently, the petitioner's sanction was approved on 18.08.2015 and 03.11.2015 and the revised pension was sanctioned on 09.06.2016. I do not find any inordinate delay between 17.06.2015 and 03.11.2015, when the respondent Audit Officer had thought it fit to drop the objections on 03.08.2015, pursuant to the directions of this Court passed in W.P.(MD) No.6851 of 2012, inspite of this Court recognising the right of the respondents to revise the pay of scale to its employees, the sanctioning of the petitioner's pension within the period of 12 weeks as stipulated by this Court in W.P.(MD) No.6851 of 2012, cannot be construed as a delay.

11. In fine, the period between 01.10.2010 to 17.06.2015, when the retirement benefits were withheld was purely because of the decision taken by the respondents to revise the petitioner's scale of pay, pursuant to Audit Objections and the pendency of the Writ Petitions in W.P

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.4174 of 2011 and W.P.(MD) No.6851 of 2012, which delay cannot be attributed on the respondents. After 17.06.2015, the audit paras were dropped and the pension was sanctioned on 18.08.2015 and 03.11.2015, which is within the period of 12 weeks fixed by this Court and hence, this period also cannot be termed as “a delay” on the part of the respondents. When there is justifiable reason for belated payment of the retirement/pensionary benefits, it would not be appropriate to direct the respondents to pay interest on such belated disbursement of the monetary benefits. It is also not the case of the petitioner that the respondents had wantonly or with an ulterior motive withheld the retirement benefits of the petitioner. While that being so, the claim for interest is unjustifiable. 12. For all the foregoing reasons, the Writ Petition stands dismissed. There shall be no orders as to costs.