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PAYMENT OF SALARY IS INTRINSIC TO THE RIGHT TO LIFE UNDER ARTICLE 21 AND TO RIGHT TO PROPERTY WHICH IS RECOGNIZED BY ARTICLE 300A OF THE CONSTITUTION: ODISHA HIGH COURT

This particular decision is upheld by the High Court of Odisha through the division bench of Justice Sanjeeb Kumar Panigrahi in the case of Sovakar Guru V. State of Odisha & Ors. (WPC(OA) No. 1553 of 2017).

FACTS

The petitioner joined service as the Headmaster in Panchayat High School, Chandanbhati, in the district of Bolangir, which was a non-government aided educational institution. However, the school was taken over by the Government with effect from 07.06.1994 and, thus, the petitioner was rendering his services as a government servant till his superannuation on 28.02.2001.

It was submitted on behalf of the petitioner that being a 74-year-old man, he was made to run from pillar to post to get his legitimate dues but owing to administrative latches, the same could not materialize. Therefore, it was claimed, the redressal of grievance of the petitioner would remain incomplete if he were to be denied of the interest component that is payable to him as a result of delay.

JUDGEMENT

It is well-settled that salaries and pensions are due as a matter of right to employees, and, as the case maybe, to former employees who have served the State. Since, the petitioner rendered his services till superannuation as a government servant, his entitlement to the payment of salary is intrinsic to the right to life under Article 21 and to right to property which is recognized by Article 300A of the Constitution.

The court also stated that there is no dispute about the delayed payment as it was withheld for in sufficient reasons. There is no material justification to take such time for fixing arrears of the petitioner. On this undisputed position, the court is not inclined to accept the submissions of the Opposite Party regarding non-payment of interest without any specific provisions in the service conditions. The late decision taken by the opposite party is attributable to administrative latches across different levels and the same cannot be the reason to withheld the payment to the employees who admittedly worked at the relevant time. The fact remains that there was delay in making payment of arrears of salary and other benefits with or without intention, is immaterial. In view of the admitted position on record that the payment was not made on due dates according to service conditions, there is no disputed question of facts involved. Moreover, the employees cannot be allowed to suffer because of inaction on the part of the employer for no fault of the employees. The employee is definitely entitled to get the payment as per the service conditions on due dates and/or in a given case within reasonable time. The employees, had the payment received within time and/or on due dates, could have utilised the same for various purposes.

Accordingly, insofar as the interest rate is concerned, this Court is of the view that the relief sought at the rate of 18% per annum be suitably scaled down. This Court, accordingly, directs the State to pay simple interest computed at the rate of 6% per annum on account of deferred salaries within a period of 30 days from today.

JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY NAISARGIKA MISHRA

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