Ambika Charan Awasthy vs State Of M.P. And Ors. on 22 March, 2002

Madhya Pradesh High Court
Ambika Charan Awasthy vs State Of M.P. And Ors. on 22 March, 2002
Equivalent citations: (2003) ILLJ 470 MP, 2002 (5) MPHT 392
Author: D Misra
Bench: D Misra, U N Singh


ORDER

Dipak Misra, J.

1. Defensibility of the order dated October 19, 2001 passed by the learned single Judge in W.P. No. 3211/2001 is called in question in this appeal preferred under Clause 10 of the Letters Patent.

2. Sans unnecessary details the essential facts which need (sic) to be stated are that the petitioner worked as a Lower Division Clerk in the Janpad Panchayat, Raheli in the district of Sagar. He availed voluntary retirement w.e.f. May 31, 1992. As his gratuity amount was not paid in spite of his entitlement to receive he visited this Court in the aforesaid writ petition. During the pendency of the writ petition a sum of Rs. 26,565/- was quantified towards gratuity and the same was sent by a cheque dated July 31, 2001 by registered post with acknowledgment due. The said amount was not received by the appellant but later on it was received. The writ petition was filed on the ground that the petitioner was entitled to gratuity from the very beginning and hence he should have been paid and as there had been substantial delay in payment of such gratuity he is entitled to interest at the rate of 18% per annum. In addition to claim of interest there was also prayer for payment of compensation of Rs. 50,000/-.

3. It was contended before the learned single Judge that the delay caused by respondent No. 4 was absolutely unwarranted and, therefore, the interest should be granted. It was also putforth that the quantification of gratuity at Rs. 26,565/- is erroneous as the appellant is entitled to a sum of Rs. 31,878/-. Reliance was placed on the decision rendered in the case of Luxmi Kishore Gupta v. M.P.S.R.T.C. and 2 Ors., W.P. No. 88672000.

4. On behalf of respondent No. 4 it was canvassed before the learned single Judge that the respondent No. 4 came to know about the liability on March 15, 2001 as per Annexure R. 472 and thereafter immediately computed the amount and sent the cheque but the appellant refused to accept the amount in question and hence, the liability for payment of interest did not ensue. The assertion with regard to quantification of the sum by the appellant was controverted by the respondent No. 4.

5. Considering the submissions raised, the learned single Judge distinguished the decision rendered in the case of Luxmi Kishore Gupta (supra) on the ground that it related to an employee of M.P.S.R.T.C. and such an employee was entitled to gratuity from the very entry of service, whereas the case of the petitioner was determined after delivery of the judgment by this Court. A finding was also recorded by the learned single Judge that the respondent No. 4 came to know about the liability on May 31, 2001 and thereafter without any loss of time sent the cheque to the petitioner and, therefore, it cannot be saddled with interest for the period as claimed by the petitioner.

6. We have heard Ms. Vandana Dubey learned counsel for the petitioner and Mr. K. C. Ghildiyal learned counsel for respondent No. 4.

7. It is submitted by Ms. Vandana Dubey that this Court in the case of Janpad Panchayat and Zilla Panchayat Karmachari Sangh and Ors. v. State of M.P. and Ors., 1997 M.P.L.S.R. 853 came to hold that the employees of Panchayat are entitled to gratuity and, therefore, the same should have been paid from that date. Learned counsel has also placed reliance on the decision rendered in the case of State of Kerala and Ors. v. M. Padmanabhan Nair, AIR 1985 SC 356 : 1985 (1) SCC 429 : 1985-I-LLJ-530 to highlight that the retiral dues are to be paid in quite promptitude otherwise penal market rate should be imposed. She has also drawn the attention of this Court to Annexure P. 6 to highlight that the Collector, Sagar on September 21, 1999 directed the respondent No. 4 to comply with the order by end of September, 1999 and, therefore, the plea taken by the respondent No. 4 with regard to lack of knowledge is devoid of substance.

8. Mr. Ghildiyal, learned counsel for respondent No. 4 in his turn has contended that the respondent No. 4 came to know about the liability on this score on March 15, 2001 as per Annexure R. 472 which was a communication by Joint Director, Panchayat Social Welfare, Sagar and the question of payment of interest does not arise as action was taken in quite promptitude on the basis of the said letter.

9. To appreciate the rival submissions raised at the Bar, we have carefully perused the Judgment delivered by the learned single Judge. He has placed reliance on Annexure R. 472 and come to hold that the immediate steps were taken by respondent No. 4 and hence, the question of payment of interest did not entail. As has been indicated herein before this Court in the case of Janpad Panchayat and Zilla Panchayat Sangh (supra) in paragraph 12 held as under:

“Now, coming to the question regarding extending the benefits of pension and gratuity etc. to the employees of the Panchayats, it may be stated that they are governed by the Rules framed by the State under the Panchayat Act, 1993. The Panchayat Act has come into force on January 25, 1994 but no rules have been brought to our notice governing payment of pension and gratuity etc. to the employees of the Panchayats. What has been brought to our notice is the rules of 1976 and no other rules have been brought to our notice despite our direction, with regard to payment of pension and gratuity etc. to the employees of the Panchayats. The Rules of 1976 do not provide payment of pension. The Rules of 1976 provide payment of gratuity only. If any amendment has been made in these rules, we do not know. If the Rules of 1976 hold good, then in that case the service conditions of the incumbents shall be governed by these rules of 1976.”

10. The said judgment was delivered on June 27, 1997. The Janpad Panchayat and the State of M. P. were aware of the decision of this Court. Thereafter vide Annexure P. 6 the Collector intimated respondent No. 4. No reason has been ascribed why respondent No. 4 did not react and chose to sleep like a ‘Kumbhakarna’. They waited till they received the communication from the authority in the Panchayat Raj Department. It is apposite to state here that when communication was sent by the Collector they should have taken steps and found out about their liability. An Organisation cannot ignore the liability and sleep over the claims of a retired employee as a retired employee needs money more urgently than a person who is in job. He is dependant upon his pension and gratuity. When the law confers a benefit on an employee and it was brought to the notice of respondent No. 4 in the year 1999 the same should have been attended to without procrastination and no laxness should have been shown. It is well settled that law does not tolerate any kind of lakadaisicalness. Annexure P. 6 is dated September 29, 1999. Considering the import of the law and granting a reasonable time to respondent No. 4 we think it apposite that the cheque should have been prepared by end of October 31, 1999 and sent to the petitioner. The same was not done. The reasons ascribed by the respondent No. 4 are neither cogent nor germane. On the contrary it is quite appalling that respondent No. 4 slept over the matter till a further communication was received by it vide Annexure P. 4/2. Thus we are of the considered opinion that the petitioner is entitled to interest from November 1, 1999 till July 31, 2001. Though Ms. Dubey learned counsel for the petitioner impressed upon this Court that 18% interest should be granted, considering the nature of the case we fix the rate of interest at 12% per annum. The same should be computed and paid to the appellant within a period of two months from the date of receipt of the order passed today.

11. Another aspect which has been canvassed before us needs mention. Mr. Ghildiyal also has no objection for dealing with the same. The said fact is whether the petitioner is entitled to gratuity of Rs. 31,878/-. Mr. Ghildiyal learned counsel for respondent No. 4 has disputed the aforesaid claim. We cannot enter into the area of accounts and accordingly we deem it fit to direct the respondent No. 4 to send the accounts to the petitioner so that his grievance is mitigated. If eventually on scrutiny of accounts, it becomes clear that more is to be paid the same shall be paid within a period of two months from the determination of the sum. Needless to emphasise, if an extra sum would become payable it shall carry interest at the rate of 12% per annum.

12. The L.P. A. is allowed to the aforesaid extent. However, there shall be no order as to costs.

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