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Netram Sahu Vs. State of Chhattisgarh and Ors. - (Supreme Court) (23 Mar 2018)

Duty of state is to voluntarily pay gratuity amount to employee rather than to force him to approach court to get his genuine claim



Present appeal is against the final judgment passed by the High Court of whereby the High Court dismissed the appeal filed by the Appellant herein and affirmed the judgment passed by the Single Judge of the High Court by which the Single Judge allowed the petition preferred by the Respondents herein and set aside the orders of the Controlling Authority and Appellate Authority by which the claim of the Appellant herein of gratuity for the period from 1st April, 1986 to 23rd May, 2008 was allowed.

The short question, which arises for consideration in this appeal, is whether the High Court (Single Judge/Division Bench) was justified in holding that, the Appellant (employee) was not entitled to claim gratuity from the State for the services rendered by him or in other words, the question arises for consideration is whether the Appellant can be held to have rendered qualified service, i.e., continuous service as specified in Section 2(e) read with Section 2A of the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 so as to make him eligible to claim gratuity, as provided under the Act, from the State.

The Appellant has actually rendered the service for a period of 25 years. The State actually regularized his services by passing the order dated 6th May, 2008. Having regularized the services, the Appellant became entitled to claim its benefit for counting the period of 22 years regardless of the post and the capacity on which he worked for 22 years. No provision under the Act was brought to notice which disentitled the Appellant from claiming the gratuity and nor any provision was brought to notice which prohibits the Appellant from taking benefit of his long and continuous period of 22 years of service, which he rendered prior to his regularization for calculating his continuous service of five years.

Once the State regularized the services of the Appellant while he was in State services, the Appellant became entitled to count his total period of service for claiming the gratuity amount subject to his proving continuous service of 5 years as specified under Section 2A of the Act which, in this case, the Appellant has duly proved.

It was indeed the State who took 22 years to regularize the service of the Appellant and went on taking work from the Appellant on payment of a meagre salary of Rs. 2776 per month for 22 long years uninterruptedly and only in the last three years, the State started paying a salary of Rs. 11,107/- per month to the Appellant. Having regularized the services of the Appellant, the State had no justifiable reason to deny the benefit of gratuity to the Appellant which was his statutory right under the Act. It being a welfare legislation meant for the benefit of the employees, who serve their employer for a long time, it is the duty of the State to voluntarily pay the gratuity amount to the Appellant rather than to force the employee to approach the Court to get his genuine claim.

In the case of Firm Kaluram Sitaram v. The Dominion of India, the learned Chief Justice observed that, when the State deals with a citizen it should not ordinarily reply on technicalities, and if the State is satisfied that, the case of the citizen is a just one, even though legal defences may be open to it, it must act, as has been said by eminent Judges, as an honest person.

These observations apply in full force against the State in present case because just case of the Appellant was being opposed by the State on technical grounds. Impugned judgment/order passed by the High Court are set aside and the orders of the Controlling Authority and Appellate Authority are restored with cost of Rs. 25,000 payable by the State to the Appellant. The Respondent-State is directed to release/pay the gratuity amount as determined by the Controlling Authority within three months to the Appellant.

Relevant : Firm Kaluram Sitaram v. The Dominion of India (MANU/MH/0008/1954): AIR 1954 Bombay 50


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