Read Judgment: KARNATAKA RURAL INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT LIMITED & Anr vs. T.P. NATARAJA & ORS

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, September 22, 2021: The Supreme Court has observed that the employee is not entitled to any relief or change of date of birth on the ground of delay and laches, as the request for change of date of birth was made after lapse of 24 years since he joined the service.

A Division Bench of Justice M.R Shah and Justice A.S Bopanna observed that an application for change of date of birth can only be as per the relevant provisions/regulations and even if there is cogent evidence, the same cannot be claimed as a matter of right.

Such application can be rejected on the ground of delay and latches also more particularly when it is made at the fag end of service and/or when the employee is about to retire on attaining the age of superannuation, added the Bench.

The background of the case was that the respondent (employee) after the lapse of nearly 24 years, requested the appellant corporation (employer) for change of date of birth and thereafter filed a suit for declaration before Additional City Civil and Sessions Judge.

The suit was opposed by the appellant relying upon the Karnataka State Servants (Determination of Age) Act, 1974 and resolution dated May 17, 1991 passed by the appellant adopting the Karnataka Civil Service Rules and allied laws.

Relying upon Section 5(2) of the Act, the Trial Court however, dismissed the suit. On appeal, the High Court observed that it was highly impossible that the respondent should have availed the remedy within three years from the date of joining of service and also observed that the resolution passed by the appellant was not brought to notice of the plaintiff.

The Top Court noted that since the appellant corporation had adopted the provisions of the Act of 1974 by resolution dated May 17, 1991, therefore, the request for change of date of birth as per the Act of 1974 was required to be made by respondent employee within a period of one year from May 17, 1991, being the employee of the appellant.

However, the respondent had made the request for change of date of birth after the lapse of 24 years since he joined the service and nearly after the lapse of 16 years from the date of adoption of enactment (Act of 1974) by the appellant, added the Court.

Therefore, stating that ignorance of law cannot be an excuse to get out of the applicability of the statutory provisions, the Top Court opined that being the employee of the corporation, the respondent was supposed to know the rules and regulations applicable to the employees of the corporation.

The Apex Court therefore concluded that the application of the respondent for change of date of birth was liable to be rejected on the ground of delay and laches and therefore as such respondent employee was not entitled to the decree of declaration.

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