Read Order: Munesh Devi v. State of Haryana and Others
Chandigarh, April 26, 2022: While dealing with a plea of a widow seeking the grant of ex-gratia amount keeping in view the death of her husband, who was employed with the respondents, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that the payment of the amount was released after delay which was completely attributable to the respondents who made an unsuccessful attempt at taking shelter behind an argument that delay was procedural, so as to not grant the payment of interest.
The Bench of Justice Harsimran Singh Sethi added that if the respondents acted swiftly, payment of the amount could have been done in favour of the petitioner within time.
“The widow had to survive after the lone bread winner died in a road accident. The plight of the widow can only be compensated at this stage by award of interest keeping in view the settled principle of law noticed hereinbefore”, asserted Justice Sethi.
Thus, interest @ 6% per annum from the date the amount became due (2018) onwards till the actual date of the payment of the same, was awarded.
As per the facts mentioned in the petition, the husband of the petitioner namely Narender Kumar was appointed as JBT Teacher in 2011 and he unfortunately died in a motor accident in 2018. After the death of her husband, the petitioner completed all the formalities for the grant of ex-gratia pay as well as other benefits so as to maintain herself and two minor children but the respondents did not release the benefits to her, which led to the filing of the present petition.
In the present petition, the prayer of the petitioner was for the grant of ex-gratia amount keeping in view the death of her husband, who was employed with the respondents and also the benefits for which the petitioner became entitled for including the family pension.
The counsel for the respondents submitted that though reply was not filed but the payments were released to the petitioner starting from January, 2021 onwards till March, 2022. It was further submitted that the delay which has occured in releasing the benefits to the petitioner was procedural and was not intentional, hence, claim of the petitioner for the grant of interest may kindly be declined.
On the contrary, the Counsel for the petitioner submitted that as the benefits were extended to the petitioner after inordinate delay of more than four years, the petitioner was entitled for the grant of interest on the delayed release of benefits even if the delay was procedural as the same was attributable to the respondents only.
After having heard the counsel for the parties and having gone through the record with their assistance, the Court made reference to the case of A.S. Randhawa Vs. State of Punjab and others, 1997(3) SCT 468, wherein it was held that the retiral benefits are to be computed and released within a period of two months from the date of the retirement, in case there is no impediment.
Further reference was made to J.S. Cheema Vs. State of Haryana wherein it was held that where an amount belonging to an employee, has been retained and used by the respondents, upon the release of the said amount, on a later date, the interest has to be given.
From the above, the Court observed that in the present case, nothing was brought to the notice of the Court highlighting that there was any impediment in release of the benefits which was released to the petitioner after a delay. In fact in the circumstances the Court attributed the delay to the respondents only.
The Court was in fact of the view that the respondents could not be permitted to take shelter behind an argument that delay was procedural so as to not grant the payment of interest. Justice Sethi added that if the respondents would have acted swiftly, payment of the amount could have been done in favour of the petitioner within time. The widow had to survive after the lone bread winner died in a road accident and her plight can only be compensated at this stage by award of interest keeping in view the settled principle of law noticed herein before, asserted the Court.
Resultantly, the prayer of the petitioner was allowed. Petitioner was held entitled for the grant of interest @ 6% per annum from the date the amount became due i.e. June 01, 2018 onwards till the actual date of the payment of the same.
“Let the computation of interest under this order be done by the respondents within a period of two months from the receipt of certified copy of this order and the amount so calculated shall be paid to the petitioner within a period of one month thereafter”, held the Court.