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Maharashtra State Power Generation Company Limited Vs. Prabhakar - (High Court of Bombay) (27 Oct 2020)

Excess payments made to the employees during the pendency of the application before the Tribunal could not be recovered



By present writ petition, the employer has approached the Court challenging an order passed by the Industrial Court, whereby a Complaint filed by the Respondent-employee has been allowed and the employer has been restrained from recovering certain excess payments made to the Respondent.

It is an admitted position that, the first Complaint filed by the Respondent before the Industrial Court was partly allowed and it was held that, the Petitioner-Company was not entitled to recover the excess payments made to the Respondent on the basis of the initial office order. This was because such excess payments were made on the basis of the said office order issued by the Petitioner-Company itself and there was no question of the Respondent having wrongly claimed the same or that he had made any misrepresentation for claiming the same.

The record also shows that, the Petitioner-Company did take any immediate steps upon dismissal of the Writ Petition on 30th July, 2015. The Petitioner-Company admittedly continued to pay the excess amounts to the Respondent even after dismissal of the Writ Petition. It was only on 3rd November, 2018, i.e. more than 3 years and 3 months of dismissal of the Writ Petition that, the first order/communication was issued by the Petitioner-Company to the Respondent, claiming that the excess amount was now recoverable. Subsequent orders were issued to claim that amount of Rs. 5,90,352 was recoverable from the Respondent and that the same would be deducted from his salary and terminal benefits. The Respondent had placed on record the difficulties being faced by him due to his health condition and that of his wife and that their son was handicapped and undertaking education.

In the case of State of Punjab and Others Vs. Rafiq Masih (White Washer) and Others, the Hon'ble Supreme Court took into consideration various judgments on the question of entitlement of employers to recover excess amounts paid to the employees. The Hon'ble Supreme Court found that, excess amounts should not be recoverable where such amounts were paid not because of any misrepresentation by an employee. It was held that, if such amounts were paid by mistake, no recovery could be made from the employees.

In the facts and circumstances of the present case, it cannot be said that the Industrial Court committed an error in allowing the Complaint of the Respondent and setting aside the orders/communications issued by the Petitioner-Company for recovery of excess amounts paid to the Respondent, when he was admittedly on the verge of retirement. There is no doubt about the fact that, the Respondent was Class III employee and that when the orders/communications were issued by the Petitioner-Company for recovery of amounts, the Respondent was on the verge of retirement i.e. he was to retire within 10 months. The record also shows that the respondent and his wife are suffering from health issues requiring medical expenses and further that their son is handicapped, who also needs support.

The Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of Maruti Tukaram Bagawe and Others Vs. State of Maharashtra and Another held that, excess payments made to the employees during the pendency of the application before the Tribunal could not be recovered. In the present case, the Petitioner-Company continued to make excess payments to the respondent due to the order of status quo passed in favour of the Respondent and, therefore, till this Court ultimately dismissed the Writ Petition and upheld the order of the Industrial Court, the excess payment was being made on the basis of an express interim order granted by this Court.

It would be wholly iniquitous, harsh and arbitrary to permit the petitioner-Company to make recovery of excess amounts from the Respondent, considering the financial needs of the Respondent upon retirement, particularly when he is to look after his handicapped son. The approach adopted by the Industrial Court cannot be found fault with and that the impugned order does not deserve any interference. Writ Petition dismissed.


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