Grant of one annual increment earned one day prior to superannuation – Supreme Court Judgement dt 11.04.2023 in SLP (C) No. 6185/2020
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2471 OF 2023
(@ SLP (C) No. 6185/2020)
The Director (Admn. and HR)KPTCL & Ors.
C.P. Mundinamani & Ors.
J U D G M E N T
M.R. SHAH, J.
1. Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court of Karnataka at Bengaluru in Writ Appeal No. 4193/2017, by which, the Division Bench of the High Court has allowed the said appeal preferred by the employees respondents herein by quashing and setting aside the judgment and order passed by the learned Single Judge and directing the appellants to grant one annual increment which the respondents had earned one day prior to they retired on attaining the age of superannuation, the management – KPTCL has preferred the present appeal.
2. The undisputed facts are that one day earlier than the retirement and on completion of one year service preceding the date of retirement all the employees earned one annual increment. However, taking into consideration Regulation 40(1) of the Karnataka Electricity Board Employees Service Regulations, 1997 (hereinafter referred to as the Regulations), which provides that an increment accrues from the day following that on which it is earned, the appellants denied the annual increment on the ground that the day on which the increment accrued the respective employees – original writ petitioners were not in service. The writ petition(s) filed by the original writ petitioners claiming the annual increment came to be dismissed by the learned Single Judge. By the impugned judgment and order and following the decision of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in the case of Union of India and Ors. Vs. R. Malakondaiah and ors. reported in 2002(4) ALT 550 (D.B.) and relying upon the decisions of other High Courts, the Division Bench of the Karnataka High Court has allowed the appeal and has directed that the appellants to grant one annual increment to the respective employees-respondents by observing that the respective employees as such earned the increment for rendering their one-year service prior to their retirement.
2.1 Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned judgment and order passed by the Division Bench of the High Court, the management – KPTCL has preferred the present appeal.
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6. The short question which is posed for the consideration of this Court is whether an employee who has earned the annual increment is entitled to the same despite the fact that he has retired on the very next day of earning the increment?
6.1 In the present case, the relevant provision is Regulation 40(1) of the Regulations which reads as under: –
“Drawals and postponements of increments 40(1) An increment accrues from the day following that on which it is earned. An increment that has accrued shall ordinarily be drawn as a matter of course unless it is withheld. An increment may be withheld from an employee by the competent authority, if his conduct has not been good, or his work has not been satisfactory. In ordering the withholding of an increment, the withholding authority shall state the period for which it is withheld, and whether the postponement shall have the effect of postponing future increments.”
6.2 It is the case on behalf of the appellants that the word used in Regulation 40(1) is that an increment accrues from the day following that on which it is earned and in the present case the increment accrued on the day when they retired and therefore, on that day they were not in service and therefore, not entitled to the annual increment which they might have earned one day earlier. It is also the case on behalf of the appellants that as the increment is in the form of incentive and therefore, when the employees are not in service there is no question of granting them any annual increment which as such is in the form of incentive.
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6.7 Similar view has also been expressed by different High Courts, namely, the Gujarat High Court, the Madhya Pradesh High Court, the Orissa High Court and the Madras High Court. As observed hereinabove, to interpret Regulation 40(1) of the Regulations in the manner in which the appellants have understood and/or interpretated would lead to arbitrariness and denying a government servant the benefit of annual increment which he has already earned while rendering specified period of service with good conduct and efficiently in the last preceding year. It would be punishing a person for no fault of him. As observed hereinabove, the increment can be withheld only by way of punishment or he has not performed the duty efficiently. Any interpretation which would lead to arbitrariness and/or unreasonableness should be avoided. If the interpretation as suggested on behalf of the appellants and the view taken by the Full Bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court is accepted, in that case it would tantamount to denying a government servant the annual increment which he has earned for the services he has rendered over a year subject to his good behaviour. Theentitlement to receive increment therefore crystallises when the government servant completes requisite length of service with good conduct and becomes payable on the succeeding day. In the present case the word “accrue” should be understood liberally and would mean payable on the succeeding day. Any contrary view would lead to arbitrariness and unreasonableness and denying a government servant legitimate one annual increment though he is entitled to for rendering the services over a year with good behaviour and efficiently and therefore, such a narrow interpretation should be avoided. We are in complete agreement with the view taken by the Madras High Court in the case of P. Ayyamperumal (supra); the Delhi High Court in the case of Gopal Singh (supra); the Allahabad High Court in the case of Nand Vijay Singh (supra); the Madhya Pradesh High Court in the case of Yogendra Singh Bhadauria (supra); the Orissa High Court in the case of AFR Arun Kumar Biswal (supra); and the Gujarat High Court in the case of Takhatsinh Udesinh Songara (supra). We do not approve the contrary view taken by the Full Bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in the case of Principal Accountant-General, Andhra Pradesh (supra) and the decisions of the Kerala High Court in the case of Union of India Vs. Pavithran (O.P.(CAT) No. 111/2020 decided on 22.11.2022) and the Himachal Pradesh High Court in the case of Hari Prakash Vs. State of Himachal Pradesh & Ors. (CWP No. 2503/2016 decided on 06.11.2020).
7. In view of the above and for the reasons stated above, the Division Bench of the High Court has rightly directed the appellants to grant one annual increment which the original writ petitioners earned on the last day of their service for rendering their services preceding one year from the date of retirement with good behaviour and efficiently. We are in complete agreement with the view taken by the Division Bench of the High Court. Under the circumstances, the present appeal deserves to be dismissed and is accordingly dismissed. However, in the facts and circumstances of the case, there shall be no order as to costs.
I.A. No. 149091/2022 stands disposed of in terms of the above.
APRIL 11, 2023