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R. Sundaram vs. The Tamil Nadu State Level Scrutiny Committee and Ors. - (Supreme Court) (17 Mar 2023)

Burden of proof is on employer to disprove the nature of the certificate in order to deny benefits



The present Appeal is directed against the final order and judgment in Review Application passed by the High Court, and against order passed by the High Court whereby the Appellants’ challenge to the denial of his post-retirement benefits was dismissed.

In cases where employment is based on a fake community certificate the law is settled that post-retirement benefits cannot be granted. In the present case however, there exists a very clear difference. While the Respondents have claimed the Appellant’s community certificate to be fake, such a claim has not been proven. Even though two reports declaring the community certificate of the Appellant as fake were submitted after inordinate and unexplained delay, however, both the reports have not allowed the participation of the Appellant.

A community certificate in cases of scheduled tribe communities, unlike any other piece of paper, is an acknowledgment of a person belonging to a community which has faced years of oppression. The Constitution of India guarantees certain rights to people from Scheduled Tribe communities on grounds of historical injustice, and for the translation of such rights from paper to real life, the community certificate in most cases becomes an essential document. This certificate, whilst being an acknowledgment of history, is also a document that tries to rectify such historical injustice by becoming a tool that fabricates constitutional rights into reality. In such a scenario, where the validity of a community certificate is put to question, keeping in mind the importance of the document and the effect it has on people’s rights, the proceedings questioning the document cannot, except in the most exceptional circumstances, be done ex-parte.

Any person, whose entire identity, and their past, present and future rights are challenged, must at the least be given an opportunity to be fairly heard. In the case at hand however, such a right has been denied to the Appellant, and hence the burden of proof on the Respondents to disprove the nature of the certificate, has not been discharged. In the absence of the discharge of such burden of proof, this Court must presume the community certificate of the Appellant to be genuine.

The Appellant is held to be entitled to the post-retirement benefits accrued to him by way of his 38 year long service. The Respondent bank is directed to grant all post-retirement benefits to the Appellant which were denied to him along with 6% Simple Interest on account of unnecessary withholding of payment, from the date the payment was due to the date of actual payment. Appeal allowed.


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