Gratuity is a Constitutional Right: Bilaspur High Court

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RAIPUR: Chhattisgarh high court has ruled that Gratuity is a property within the meaning of Article 300-A of the Constitutional and as such constitutional right.

The high court passed the order a writ appeal filed by Karnal Singh, who retired from South Eastern Coal Fields Limited (SECL), after his amount of gratuity was not paid. He has filed an applicaton before the controlling authority claiming the amount of gratuity along with interest and CPF amount stating that SECL has anauthorisedly detained the amount t of gratuity which he is lawfully entitled for and therefore the respondent SECL be directed to make payment of the amount of gratuity along with interest.

SECL however filed a submission with the controlling authority with the appellant has superannuated from service on July 31, 2013 and he was required to obtain no dues certificate from the concerned department including the vacation of allotted official quarter, but the did not submit the same and the maximum permissible period of retention of the official quarter beyond the period of admissibility is three months. As he did not vacate SECL quarter, he is liable to pay a penal rent. Simultaneously, the SECL has deposited the gratuity dues of Rs 10 lakh before the controlling authority in May 2014 and argued that therefore, the appellant is not entitled for interest on gratuity amount.

However, the appellant submitted that there is no provision in the relevant Act for withholding of gratuity and the management – SECL has no power to withhold the gratuity for the any reason whatsoever including non-vacation of SECL quarter and he has caused no loss to the Company and he is also entitled for interest on gratuity amount. Later the controlling authority passed an order, declining to grant interest. An appeal was also filed which was also dismissed.

Later, Karnail Singh filed a writ petition but a single judge of high court declined to entertain the write petition on the ground that the writ court would not sit over the decision of the appellate authority as the finding recorded by the appellate authority as the finding recorded by the appellate authority is a plausible finding which can not be said to be illegal or contrary to law warranting any interference.

Citing Supreme Court judgments, the High Court observed that it is quite apparent that gratuity is a property of withing the meaning of Article 30-A of the Constitution of India and as such, it is a constitutional right which can not be taken away except by authority of law.

The High Court order said the only ground of denial of payment of statutory interest on the amount of gratuity by the employer SECL and the controlling as well as appellate authorities is retention/non-vacation of SECL allotted quarter by the employee appellant even after superannuation.

The Supreme Court had earlier held that overstaying in allotment in allotted residential quarter cannot be a ground for withholding of gratuity.

Thus, the controlling authority and the appellant authority are wholly and absolutely unjustified in declining to grant interest on the ground of non-vacation of the SECL quarter, the order said.

The High Court directed that SECL shall pay interest at the rate of 8% per annum to the appellant after one month from the date of his superannuation (August 31, 2013) till the amount is actually paid to his within four weeks failing which SECL would be liable to pay interest at the rate of 10% per annum.

(Times of India)

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