J. Venkatesan

SLP from terminated employee rejected

New Delhi: A government employee who unauthorisedly absents himself from duty for a number of years cannot claim the right of reinstatement in service by giving a representation that he should be taken back, the Supreme Court has held.

“Misplaced sympathy in such matters will encourage indiscipline, lead to unjust enrichment of the employee at fault and result in drain of the public exchequer. Many a time there is also no application of mind as to the extent of financial burden, as a result of a routine order for back wages” said a Bench of Justice R.R. Raveendran and Justice L.S. Panta.

Writing the judgment, Justice Raveendran said: “Every representation to the government for relief may not be replied on merits. Representations relating to matters which have become stale or barred by limitation, can be rejected on that ground alone, without examining the merits of the claim. The replies to such representations cannot furnish a fresh cause of action or revive a stale or dead claim.”

The Bench noted that in most cases a routine prayer was made in the State administrative tribunals/High Courts seeking quashing of the rejection of the representation. Such prayers were entertained ignoring the huge delay preceding the representation and proceedings went on to examine the claim on merits and grant relief. “In this manner, the bar of limitation or laches gets obliterated or ignored”, the Bench said.

In the instant case C. Jacob who was working in the erstwhile Geology branch of the Department of Industries and Commerce, Tamil Nadu was terminated from service in 1982. Nearly 18 years later in May 2000, he gave a representation to the government and it was rejected. An application challenging the rejection was filed in the Tribunal and it was later transferred to the Madras High Court.

A single judge allowed the application and directed the government to treat him as ‘deemed to have retired’ and grant him pension and back wages for about 20 years. However, a Division Bench allowed the government’s appeal. The present special leave petition by Mr. Jacob is directed against this judgment. Dismissing the SLP, the Bench said: “The present case is a typical example of ‘representation’ and relief. If the representation is on the face of it, stale, or does not contain particulars to show that it is regarding a live claim, courts should desist from directing ‘consideration’ of such claims.”