Read Judgment: RUSHIBHAI JAGDISHBHAI PATHAK v. BHAVNAGAR MUNICIPAL CORPORATION

Tulip  Kanth

New Delhi, May 19, 2022: Holding that the employees of the Bhavnagar Municipal Corporation (appellants) will be entitled to the arrears for three years before the date of filing of the Writ Petitions, the Supreme Court has clarified that the law recognises a continuing cause of action which may give rise to a recurring cause of action as in the case of salary or pension.

Stating that the doctrine of delay and laches or statutes of limitation are considered to be statutes of repose and statutes of peace, the Division Bench of Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna also referred to the Top Court’s judgment in Union of India and Others v. Tarsem Singh wherein the Court restricted the relief relating to arrears to only three years before the date of writ petition, or from the date of demand to date of writ petition, whichever was lesser.

The factual background of this case was such that the appellants were initially appointed to the post of Junior Clerk on an ad hoc basis and were granted the higher pay-scale of the next promotional post of Rs.5,000-8,000 from different dates. Pursuant to the order dated October 28, 2010, the benefit provided under the Scheme was revised by the Corporation and the excess payments made were recovered from the appellants.The appellants firstly, challenged the aforementioned order before the Gujarat High Court. Being aggrieved thereby the appellants, in these appeals challenged the judgment of the Division Bench of the High Court, whereby the appeal filed by the respondent-Corporation was partially allowed, in view of delay and laches on the part of the appellants in approaching the court.

The Bench was of the the view that the respondent-Corporation had accepted the interpretation rendered by the Gujarat High Court to the Scheme whereby the appellants would be entitled to the higher grade payscale of the next promotional post and the impugned judgment of the Division Bench granted the appellants the said pay-scale but restricted the benefit from the date of the judgment of the Single Judge in the Writ Petitions filed by the appellants, with effect from July 31,2018. 

According to the Apex Court, the Division Bench should not have taken the date of the decision/judgment of the Single Judge for grant of the said benefit in view of the decision and ratio in Tarsem Singh’s Case(supra). The Bench held that the appellants will be entitled to the arrears for three years before the date of filing of the Writ Petition and also asserted, “That apart, the date of the decision of the Single Judge is a fortuitous circumstance. Only the date of filing of the writ petition is relevant while examining the question of delay and laches or limitation.”

Hence, partly allowing the present appeals, the Bench directed that the appellants would be entitled to arrears in the pre-revised pay-scale of Rs 5,000-8,000 for three years prior to the date of filing of the Writ Petitions along with interest at the rate of 7% per annum with effect from September 1, 2017. 

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