Chennai, June 17, 2022: Quashing the recovery order issued by the third respondent-Assistant Director of Sericulture, in a case where action was initiated to recover the salary paid to the employee after a lapse of several years,the Madras High Court has opined that such amount cannot be recovered beyond reasonable period of time.
“The salary paid to the petitioner by the respondents several years back even by mistake, cannot be recovered beyond the reasonable period of time. Recovery in such circumstances may be issued only if there is a alleged malpractice or misrepresentation on the part of the employee concerned or in the event of undertaking by the employee that he will continue to receive the revision of scale of pay or arrears of pay or otherwise”, held the Bench of Justice S.M.Subramaniam.
The facts of this matter were such that the petitioner was appointed as Office Assistant in 1973 and promoted to the post of Sericulture Operator in 1977. The petitioner was subsequently promoted to the post of Junior Inspector of Sericulture in 1990. The petitioner reached the age of superannuation in 2012 and he was allowed to retire from service.It was the petitioner’s case that the petitioner passed the departmental test, namely, language test during the year 1993.
However, the respondents initiated action on the ground that the petitioner had not passed the language test during the relevant point of time i.e., in the year 1977 and accordingly, initiated action to recover the salary paid to the petitioner from October 1, 1977 to March 31, 2009 and a sum of Rs 2,33,355 was recovered from the terminal benefits of the petitioner in a lumpsum. The appeal filed by the petitioner against the order of recovery was also rejected by the first respondent. Thus, the petitioner was constrained to move the present writ petition.
Taking note of the fact that the revision of scale of pay and the consequential salary paid during the years 1977-2009 was recovered in the impugned order dated February 16, 2012 after a lapse of several years, the Bench held that there was no misrepresentation on the part of the writ petitioner. He passed the language test in the year 1993 and the said fact was informed to the departmental officials. During the fag end of his retirement, the impugned order of recovery had been passed and a lumpsum amount had been recovered from the retiral benefits, added the Bench.
Noting that in respect of retired employees, the excess amount if any paid long back, cannot be recovered, the Bench asserted that in the event of such recovery, the same will result in hardship to the petitioner. Thus, directing the respondents to repay the recovered amount of Rs 2,33,355 to the petitioner, the Bench quashed the original & appellate orders of recovery.