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delhi high court

Where a service related claim is based on a continuing wrong, relief can be granted even if there is a long delay in seeking remedy: Delhi High Court

In matter pertaining to administrative law, it held by the Delhi High Court bench of Rajiv Sahai Endlaw J. and Amit Bansal J. in of Civil Audit Association v Comptroller and Auditor General of India [W.P.(C) 4294/2021] that a belated service related claim will be rejected on the ground of delay and or limitation. It was seen in the matter that one of the exceptions to the said rule is cases relating to a continuing wrong. Where a service related claim is based on a continuing wrong, relief can be granted even if there is a long delay in seeking remedy, with reference to the date on which the continuing wrong commenced, if such continuing wrong creates a continuing source of injury.

The petition herein impugns the order dated 5th January, 2021, of Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), Principal Bench, New Delhi, of dismissal of M.A. No. 570/2020 for condonation of 773 days delay in filing of O.A. No.29/2021. CAT, conscious of the aforesaid position in law, in the impugned order, has refused to condone the delay on the ground that though the individual officers were entitled to apply but not the Association.Since CAT, in the impugned order has recorded that the order dated 13th June, 2011 impugned before it was of pay fixation and gave rise to a recurring cause of action, the court enquired from the counsel for the petitioners, the need for filing the application for condonation of delay.

The Court relied upon Supreme Court’s decision in State of Karnataka Vs. C. Lalitha (2006) 2 SCC 747 and State of Uttar Pradesh Vs. Arvind Kumar Srivastava (2015) 1 SCC 347 wherein it was held that service jurisprudence evolved by this Court from time to time postulates that all persons similarly situated should be treated similarly and only because one person has approached the Court that would not mean that persons similarly situated should be treated differently. Justice demands that a person should not be allowed to derive any undue advantage over other employees; the normal rule is that when a particular set of employees is given relief by the Court, all other identically situated persons need to be treated alike by extending that benefit; not doing so would amount to discrimination and would be violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

It was also observed that the for aforementioned principle needs to be applied in service matters more emphatically as the service jurisprudence evolved by this Court from time to time postulates that all similarly situated persons should be treated equally; this principle is subject to well recognized exceptions in the form of delays/laches/acquiescence; persons who did not challenge wrongful action in their case and woke up after long delay, such employees cannot claim that the benefit of the judgment rendered in the case of similarly situated persons be extended to them and delays/laches/acquiescence would be a valid ground to dismiss their claim

The court was of the view that “CAT should consider all the said aspects and proceed to decide the O.A. on merits. It will be open to CAT, while so deciding and if allowing the O.A., to restrict the benefit granted of increments in pay/emoluments to such date as may be deemed appropriate.” Accordingly, the impugned order was set aside and the O.A. 29/2021 was restored before CAT, Principal Bench, New Delhi, for decision on merits.

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