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D.D. Tewari (D) through LRS. Vs. Uttar Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam Ltd. & Ors.

[Civil Appeal No. 7113 of 2014 arising out of SLP (C) No. 25015 of 2011]

V.GOPALA GOWDA, J.

1. Leave granted.

2. Heard learned counsel on behalf of the parties. The appellant (since deceased) is aggrieved by the impugned order dated 14.03.2011 passed by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh in LPA No. 1818 of 2010 in affirming the judgment of the learned single Judge passed in C.W.P. No. 1048 of 2010 wherein he was not awarded interest for the delayed payment of pension and gratuity amount, for which he was legally entitled to. Therefore, the appellant approached this Court for grant of interest on the delayed payment on the retiral benefits of pension and gratuity payable to him by the respondents.

3. The appellant was appointed to the post of Line Superintendent on 30.08.1968 with the Uttar Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam Ltd. In the year 1990, he was promoted to the post of Junior Engineer-I. During his service, the appellant remained in charge of number of transformers after getting issued them from the stores and deposited a number of damaged transformers in the stores. While depositing the damaged transformers in the stores, some shortage in transformers oil and breakages of the parts of damaged transformers were erroneously debited to the account of the appellant and later on it was held that for the shortages and breakages there is no negligence on the part of the appellant.

On attaining the age of superannuation, he retired from service on 31.10.2006. The retiral benefits of the appellant were withheld by the respondents on the alleged ground that some amount was due to the employer. The disciplinary proceedings were not pending against the appellant on the date of his retirement. Therefore, the appellant approached the High Court seeking for issuance of a direction to the respondents regarding payment of pension and release of the gratuity amount which are retiral benefits with an interest at the rate of 18% on the delayed payments. The learned single Judge has allowed the Writ Petition vide order dated 25.08.2010, after setting aside the action of the respondents in withholding the amount of gratuity and directing the respondents to release the withheld amount of gratuity within three months without awarding interest as claimed by the appellant.

The High Court has adverted to the judgments of this Court particularly, in the case of State of Kerala & Ors. Vs. M. Padmanabhan Nair[1], wherein this Court reiterated its earlier view holding that the pension and gratuity are no longer any bounty to be distributed by the Government to its employees on their retirement, but, have become, under the decisions of this Court, valuable rights and property in their hands and any culpable delay in settlement and disbursement thereof must be dealt with the penalty of payment of interest at the current market rate till actual payment to the employees. The said legal principle laid down by this Court still holds good in so far as awarding the interest on the delayed payments to the appellant is concerned.

This aspect of the matter was adverted to in the judgment of the learned single Judge without assigning any reason for not awarding the interest as claimed by the appellant. That is why that portion of the judgment of the learned single Judge was aggrieved of by the appellant and he had filed L.P.A. before Division Bench of the High Court. The Division Bench of the High Court has passed a cryptic order which is impugned in this appeal. It has adverted to the fact that there is no order passed by the learned single Judge with regard to the payment of interest and the appellant has not raised any plea which was rejected by him, therefore, the Division Bench did not find fault with the judgment of the learned single Judge in the appeal and the Letters Patent Appeal was dismissed. The correctness of the order is under challenge in this appeal before this Court urging various legal grounds.

4. It is an undisputed fact that the appellant retired from service on attaining the age of superannuation on 31.10.2006 and the order of the learned single Judge after adverting to the relevant facts and the legal position has given a direction to the employer-respondent to pay the erroneously withheld pensionary benefits and the gratuity amount to the legal representatives of the deceased employee without awarding interest for which the appellant is legally entitled, therefore, this Court has to exercise its appellate jurisdiction as there is a miscarriage of justice in denying the interest to be paid or payable by the employer from the date of the entitlement of the deceased employee till the date of payment as per the aforesaid legal principle laid down by this Court in the judgment referred to supra. We have to award interest at the rate of 9% per annum both on the amount of pension due and the gratuity amount which are to be paid by the respondent.

5. It is needless to mention that the respondents have erroneously withheld payment of gratuity amount for which the appellants herein are entitled in law for payment of penal amount on the delayed payment of gratuity under the provisions of the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972. Having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case, we do not propose to do that in the case in hand.

6. For the reasons stated above, we award interest at the rate of 9% on the delayed payment of pension and gratuity amount from the date of entitlement till the date of the actual payment. If this amount is not paid within six weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order, the same shall carry interest at the rate of 18% per annum from the date of amount falls due to the deceased employee. With the above directions, this appeal is allowed.

............................J. [DIPAK MISRA]

............................J. [V. GOPALA GOWDA]

New Delhi,

August 1, 2014

[1]

[2] (1985) 1 SCC 429


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