“The logic of the action in the instant situation, is iniquitous, or arbitrary, or violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, because it would be almost impossible for an employee to bear the financial burden, of a refund of payment received wrongfully for a long span of time. It is apparent, that a government employee is primarily dependent on his wages, and if a deduction is to be made from his/her wages, it should not be a deduction which would make it difficult for the employee to provide for the needs of his family. Besides food, clothing and shelter, an employee has to cater, not only to the education needs of those dependent upon him, but also their medical requirements, and a variety of sundry expenses.”
The Court further justified its stand saying, “The right to recover being pursued by the employer, will have to be compared, with the effect of the recovery on the concerned employee. If the effect of the recovery from the concerned employee would be, more unfair, more wrongful, more improper, and more unwarranted, than the corresponding right of the employer to recover the amount, then it would be iniquitous and arbitrary, to effect the recovery. In such a situation, the employee’s right would outbalance, and therefore eclipse, the right of the employer to recover.”
The Court also took note of observations made by the Division Bench of three-judges of the apex Court, wherein the Court had observed, “In our considered view, the observations made by the Court not to recover the excess amount paid to the appellant-therein were in exercise of its extra-ordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India which vest the power in this Court to pass equitable orders in the ends of justice.”
The Court observed that the employee cannot enjoy the benefit of excessive payments, merely on the ground that “he was not an accessory to the mistake committed by the employer; or merely because the employee did not furnish any factually incorrect information, on the basis whereof the employer committed the mistake of paying the employee more than what was rightfully due to him; or for that matter, merely because the excessive payment was made to the employee, in absence of any fraud or misrepresentation at the behest of the employee.”
Consequently, the Bench observed, “As between two parties, if a determination is rendered in favor of the party, which is the weaker of the two, without any serious detriment to the other (which is truly a welfare State), the issue resolved would be in consonance with the concept of justice, which is assured to the citizens of India, even in the preamble of the Constitution of India.”
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