Vs. State of Haryana & Anr  Insc 31 (9 January 2008)
Thakker & D.K. Jain
OUT OF SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (C) No. 21311 OF 2005 C.K Thakker, J.
This appeal is directed against an order passed by the High Court of Punjab & Haryana at Chandigarh on July 7, 2005 in Writ Petition (C) No. 10025 of 2005. By the impugned
order, the High Court dismissed the petition in limine relegating the appellant
writ petitioner to avail a remedy by approaching a Civil Court.
Facts in brief are that the appellant was working as an Engineer-in-Chief in
the Department of Irrigation, Haryana. According to him, he joined the service
in Irrigation Department of the erstwhile State of Punjab in August, 1961 and was allocated
to the Department of Irrigation and Power in the State of Haryana. He was promoted as Engineer-
in-Chief on May 31,
1996 and worked in
that capacity till he attained the age of superannuation in June, 1998. The
appellant had an unblemished record of service for 37 years. During the course
of his duties as Head of the Department, he submitted reports in or about
April-May, 1998 to the Government highlighting certain irregularities and mal-
practices said to have been committed by Mr. S.Y. Quraishi, the then Secretary,
Irrigation & Power and requested the Government to make enquiry through
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). According to the appellant, in pursuance
of the complaint made by him, the Government removed Mr. Quraishi as Secretary,
Irrigation allowing him to work only as Secretary, Department of Power.
appellant has alleged that, as a measure of vendetta, Mr. Quraishi organized to
send the appellant on deputation on May 15, 1998 to a lower and unimportant
specially created post of Engineer-in-Chief, Command Area Development Agency by
upgrading it just few weeks before his retirement. In addition to the said
action, the appellant was served with three charge-sheets/ show cause notices
in June, 1998, few days before his retirement.
appellant, however, retired on June 30, 1998
on reaching the age of superannuation.
appellant was paid provisional pension, but other retiral benefits were not
given to him which included Commuted Value of Pension, Leave Encashment,
Gratuity, etc. totaling to about Rs. 12 lakhs. They were withheld till
finalization of disciplinary proceedings. The appellant submitted replies to
the charge- sheets/ show cause notices, inter alia, denying allegations and
asserting that they were uncalled for and were issued with mala fide intention
and oblique motive. He further submitted that he had acted in public interest
in salvaging damage likely to be caused to public exchequer. The replies
submitted by the appellant were accepted by the authorities and the appellant
was exonerated of all the charges. All retiral benefits were thereafter given
to him between June 11 and July 18, 2002.
Thus, according to the appellant though he retired in June, 1998, retiral
benefits to which he was otherwise entitled, were given to him after four years
of his superannuation.
appellant has stated that, in the aforesaid circumstances, he was entitled to
interest on the amount which had been withheld by the respondents and paid to
him after considerable delay. He, therefore, made several representations. He
also issued legal notice on June 3, 2005
claiming interest at the rate of 18% per annum for delayed payment.
invited the attention of the Government to Administrative Instructions issued
by the Government under which an employee is entitled to claim interest. Even
otherwise, the action of non-payment of interest was arbitrary, unreasonable
and violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. There was, however, no
reply whatsoever from the Government. The appellant as a senior citizen of 65
years of age then approached the High Court of Punjab & Haryana by filing a writ petition under Article 226
of the Constitution. But the High Court summarily dismissed the writ petition
without even issuing notice to the respondents. The appellant has challenged
the said order in the present appeal.
6. On October 28, 2005, notice was issued by this Court.
Affidavits and further affidavits were filed thereafter and the Registry was
directed to place the matter for final hearing. Accordingly, the matter has
been placed before us for final disposal.
have heard learned counsel for the parties.
learned counsel for the appellant contended that the High Court was totally
unjustified in dismissing the writ petition in limine and the said order is
liable to be set aside. He submitted that no questions of fact, much less,
disputed questions of fact were involved in the petition and the High Court was
wrong in summarily dismissing it.
well settled law, submitted the counsel, that retiral benefits are not in the
nature of bounty and an employee is entitled as of right to get those benefits
immediately after superannuation unless they are withdrawn or withheld as a
matter of punishment. According to the appellant, he had always acted in the
interest of the Government and saved public exchequer by inviting the attention
to mal- practices committed by high ranking officers.
measure of revenge against the appellant, charge-sheets were issued, but after
considering the explanation submitted by the appellant, all proceedings against
him were dropped. In view of exoneration of the appellant, the Government ought
to have paid interest on retiral benefits which were given to him after long
time. As per the Guidelines and Administrative Instructions issued by the
Government, the appellant was entitled to such benefit with interest. The High
Court ought to have allowed the writ petition of the appellant and ought to
have awarded those benefits. It was, therefore, submitted that the appeal deserves
to be allowed by directing the respondents to pay interest on the retiral dues
payable to the appellant which were actually paid to him after considerable
affidavit in reply is filed by Special Secretary, Government of Haryana, Irrigation
Department. In the counter affidavit which was filed in January, 2005, the
deponent has stated that the appellant was paid all his retiral dues as soon as
he was exonerated of the charges levelled against him. The deponent referred to
the Haryana Civil Service (Punishment and Appeal) Rules, 1987 relating to
benefits to which an employee is entitled and contended that after the
charge-sheets were finally dropped, the appellant was paid all retiral benefits
within three months from the date of dropping of the charge-sheets. But it was
further stated that certain vigilance enquiries are still pending
against the appellant. In the circumstances, according to the deponent, the
appellant was not entitled to interest and the action taken by the Government
could not be said to be illegal or otherwise unreasonable.
prayer was, therefore, made to dismiss the appeal.
rejoinder affidavit, the appellant reiterated what he had pleaded in the
petition for leave to appeal and submitted that the stand taken by the
Government in counter- affidavit is misconceived and he is entitled to the
relief prayed in the petition before the High Court and in the present appeal.
Having heard the learned counsel for the parties, in our opinion, the appeal
deserves to be partly allowed. It is not in dispute by and between the parties
that the appellant retired from service on June 30, 1998. It is also un-disputed that at the
time of retirement from service, the appellant had completed more than three
decades in Government Service. Obviously, therefore, he was entitled to retiral
benefits in accordance with law. True it is that certain charge- sheets/ show
cause notices were issued against him and the appellant was called upon to show
cause why disciplinary proceedings should not be initiated against him. It is,
however, the case of the appellant that all those actions had been taken at the
instance of Mr. Quraishi against whom serious allegations of mal- practices and
mis-conduct had been levelled by the appellant which resulted in removal of Mr.
from the post of Secretary, Irrigation. The said Mr. Quraishi then became
Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister.
thereafter charge-sheets were issued to the appellant and proceedings were
initiated against him. The fact remains that proceedings were finally dropped
and all retiral benefits were extended to the appellant. But it also cannot be
denied that those benefits were given to the appellant after four years. In the
circumstances, prima facie, we are of the view that the grievance voiced by the
appellant appears to be well- founded that he would be entitled to interest on
such benefits. If there are Statutory Rules occupying the field, the appellant
could claim payment of interest relying on such Rules. If there are
Administrative Instructions, Guidelines or Norms prescribed for the purpose,
the appellant may claim benefit of interest on that basis. But even in absence
Statutory Rules, Administrative Instructions or Guidelines, an employee can
claim interest under Part III of the Constitution relying on Articles 14, 19
and 21 of the Constitution. The submission of the learned counsel for the
appellant, that retiral benefits are not in the nature of bounty is,
in our opinion, well-founded and needs no authority in support thereof. In that
view of the matter, in our considered opinion, the High Court was not right in
dismissing the petition in limine even without issuing notice to the
us, the plea of the learned counsel for the appellant that the High Court ought
to have entered into the merits of the matter which is based on documentary
evidence is well-taken. In our considered view, the writ petition ought to have
been admitted by issuing Rule nisi and ought to have been decided on merits.
The High Court, however, dismissed the petition by a cryptic order which reads
petitioner seeks only payment of interest on the delayed payment of retiral
benefits. We, however, relegate the petitioner to avail of his remedies before
the Civil Court, if so advised.
with the above observations.
The order passed by the High Court, therefore, must be quashed and set aside.
The learned counsel for the appellant submitted that an appropriate direction
may be issued to the Government to pay interest to the appellant who had
retired on June 30,
1998 and about a
decade has passed even thereafter.
therefore, submitted that the matter may be finally concluded by this Court by
passing appropriate orders. We would have certainly considered this aspect and
prayer made by the appellant but for the fact that the High Court had not
entertained the petition and it was summarily dismissed. The High Court thus
was not having the affidavit on behalf of the respondent Authorities. In the
affidavit filed by the State-Authorities in this Court, the stand taken by
Government is that vigilance enquiries are still pending
against the appellant. The said affidavit is of January, 2005. In the affidavit
in rejoinder, the writ-petitioner has stated that the alleged pendency of
the vigilance enquiry if any is insignificant. We are also not
aware as to what has happened thereafter though considerable period has
elapsed. In view of all these facts, in our opinion, it would be in the interest
of both the parties that we may remit the matter to the High Court so as to
enable the High Court to consider the matter on merits and pass an appropriate
order in accordance with law. We are mindful that the appellant is a senior
citizen and the prayer relates to interest on retiral dues paid to him after
in view the totality of facts and circumstances, we request the High Court to
give priority to the case and decide it finally as expeditiously as possible,
preferably before June
For the foregoing reasons, the appeal is partly allowed. The order passed by
the High Court is set aside and the matter is remitted to the High Court for
fresh disposal in accordance with law. In the facts and circumstances of the
case, however, there shall be no order as to costs.
Before parting with the matter, we may clarify that we may not be understood to
have expressed any opinion on the merits of the matter, one way or the other.
As and when the writ petition will be placed before the High Court, it will be
decided on its own merits without being influenced by any observations made by