Union of India &
ANR. Vs. Tarsem Singh  INSC 1369 (13 August 2008)
Reportable IN THE
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CIVIL APPEAL NO.5151-5152
OF 2008 (Arising out of SLP [C] Nos.3820-3821 of 2008) Union of India & Ors.
... Appellants Tarsem Singh ... Respondent
granted. Heard learned counsel for the parties.
respondent while working in the Indian Army was invalidated out of Army
service, in medical category, on 13.11.1983. He approached the High Court in
1999 seeking a direction to the appellants to pay him disability pension. A
learned Single Judge by order dated 6.12.2000 allowed the writ petition and
directed the appellants to grant him disability pension at the rates permissible.
In so far as arrears, the relief was restricted to 38 months prior to the
filing of the writ petition. The respondent was also 2 directed to appear
before the Re-survey Medical Board as and when called upon by the appellants.
The appellants did not contest the said decision and granted disability pension
to respondents and also released the arrears of disability pension for 38
respondent however was not satisfied. According to him the disability pension
ought to be paid from the date it fell due on 13.11.1983.
He therefore filed a
Letters Patent Appeal. The said appeal was allowed by the Division Bench of the
High Court by judgment dated 6.12.2006. The Division Bench held that the
respondent was entitled to disability pension from the date it fell due, and it
should not be restricted to a period of three years and two months prior to the
filing of the writ petition. By a subsequent modification order dated
23.2.2007, the Division Bench also granted interest on the arrears at the rate
of 6% per annum. The said judgment and order of the Division Bench is
challenged in this appeal. The only question that therefore arises for our
consideration is whether the High Court was justified in directing payment of
arrears for a period of 16 years instead of restricting it to three years.
principles underlying continuing wrongs and recurring/ successive wrongs have
been applied to service law disputes. A `continuing 3 wrong' refers to a
single wrongful act which causes a continuing injury.
wrongs' are those which occur periodically, each wrong giving rise to a
distinct and separate cause of action. This Court in Balakrishna S.P. Waghmare
vs. Shree Dhyaneshwar Maharaj Sansthan - [AIR 1959 SC 798], explained the
concept of continuing wrong (in the context of section 23 of Limitation Act,
1908 corresponding to section 22 of Limitation Act, 1963) :
"It is the very
essence of a continuing wrong that it is an act which creates a continuing
source of injury and renders the doer of the act responsible and liable for the
continuance of the said injury. If the wrongful act causes an injury which is
complete, there is no continuing wrong even though the damage resulting from
the act may continue. If, however, a wrongful act is of such a character that
the injury caused by it itself continues, then the act constitutes a continuing
wrong. In this connection, it is necessary to draw a distinction between the
injury caused by the wrongful act and what may be described as the effect of
the said injury."
In M. R. Gupta vs.
Union of India [1995 (5) SCC 628], the appellant approached the High Court in
1989 with a grievance in regard to his initial pay fixation with effect from
1.8.1978. The claim was rejected as it was raised after 11 years. This Court
applied the principles of continuing wrong and recurring wrongs and reversed
the decision. This Court held :
grievance that his pay fixation was not in accordance with the rules, was the
assertion of a continuing wrong against him which gave rise to a recurring
cause of action each time he was paid a salary which was not computed in
accordance with the rules. So long as the appellant is in service, a fresh
cause of action arises every month when he is paid his monthly salary on the basis
of a wrong computation made 4 contrary to rules. It is no doubt true that if
the appellant's claim is found correct on merits, he would be entitled to be
paid according to the properly fixed pay scale in the future and the question
of limitation would arise for recovery of the arrears for the past period. In
other words, the appellant's claim, if any, for recovery of arrears calculated
on the basis of difference in the pay which has become time barred would not be
recoverable, but he would be entitled to proper fixation of his pay in
accordance with rules and to cessation of a continuing wrong if on merits his
claim is justified.
Similarly, any other
consequential relief claimed by him, such as, promotion etc., would also be
subject to the defence of laches etc. to disentitle him to those reliefs. The
pay fixation can be made only on the basis of the situation existing on
1.8.1978 without taking into account any other consequential relief which may
be barred by his laches and the bar of limitation. It is to this limited extent
of proper pay fixation, the application cannot be treated as time
In Shiv Dass vs.
Union of India - 2007 (9) SCC 274, this Court held:
"The High Court
does not ordinarily permit a belated resort to the extraordinary remedy because
it is likely to cause confusion and public inconvenience and bring in its train
new injustices, and if writ jurisdiction is exercised after unreasonable delay,
it may have the effect of inflicting not only hardship and inconvenience but
also injustice on third parties. It was pointed out that when writ jurisdiction
is invoked, unexplained delay coupled with the creation of third party rights
in the meantime is an important factor which also weighs with the High Court in
deciding whether or not to exercise such jurisdiction.
In the case of
pension the cause of action actually continues from month to month. That,
however, cannot be a ground to overlook delay in filing the petition..........
If petition is filed beyond a reasonable period say three years normally the
Court would reject the same or restrict the relief which could be granted to a
reasonable period of about three years."
summarise, normally, a belated service related claim will be rejected on the
ground of delay and laches (where remedy is sought by filing a writ petition)
or limitation (where remedy is sought by an application to the Administrative
Tribunal). One of the exceptions to the said rule is cases 5 relating to a
continuing wrong. Where a service related claim is based on a continuing wrong,
relief can be granted even if there is a long delay in seeking remedy, with
reference to the date on which the continuing wrong commenced, if such
continuing wrong creates a continuing source of injury.
But there is an
exception to the exception. If the grievance is in respect of any order or
administrative decision which related to or affected several others also, and
if the re-opening of the issue would affect the settled rights of third
parties, then the claim will not be entertained. For example, if the issue
relates to payment or re-fixation of pay or pension, relief may be granted in
spite of delay as it does not affect the rights of third parties. But if the
claim involved issues relating to seniority or promotion etc., affecting
others, delay would render the claim stale and doctrine of laches/limitation
will be applied. In so far as the consequential relief of recovery of arrears
for a past period, the principles relating to recurring/successive wrongs will
apply. As a consequence, High Courts will restrict the consequential relief
relating to arrears normally to a period of three years prior to the date of
filing of the writ petition.
this case, the delay of 16 years would affect the consequential claim for
arrears. The High Court was not justified in directing payment of 6 arrears
relating to 16 years, and that too with interest. It ought to have restricted
the relief relating to arrears to only three years before the date of writ
petition, or from the date of demand to date of writ petition, whichever was
lesser. It ought not to have granted interest on arrears in such circumstances.
view of the above, these appeals are allowed. The order of the Division Bench
directing payment of disability pension from the date it fell due, is set
aside. As a consequence, the order of the learned Single Judge is restored.
[R. V. Raveendran]
[Lokeshwar Singh Panta]