Recover excess salary from officials, not employees: Madras High Court

Deccan Chronicle.  | J Stalin

Nation, Current Affairs

The judge said the scope of legal principles was to be stretched in order to protect the tax payers’ money.

Madras high court

Chennai: The Madras high court pointed out the legal principle that excess payment of salary cannot be recovered from Group-III and Group-IV employees as well as retired employees. The court directed the Chief Secretary to government to issue consolidated/comprehensive instructions to all the subordinate officials to ensure that in the event of wrong fixation of pay or excess payment of salary/pension if noticed, it is the officials who are all responsible and accountable for such excess payment and they have to compensate the financial loss occurred to the state exchequer.

Justice S.M. Subramaniam gave the directive while disposing of a petition from Subburaj, a retired Headmaster and quashing an order of recovery issued by the Assistant Treasury Officer, Madurai to recover the excess salary/pension paid to the petitioner.

“Considering the legal principles as well as the precedent settled by the Apex Court, this court is of the considered opinion that even though the excess payment of salary/pension cannot be recovered from the Group-III and Group-IV employees as well as from the retired employees, the excess payment shall be recovered from the officials, who all are responsible and accountable for the erroneous fixation of pay or excess payment of salary/pension/other monetary benefits”, the judge added.

The judge said the scope of legal principles was to be stretched in order to protect the tax payers’ money. The state and the executives were duty bound to protect the tax payers’ money and every penny spent must be accountable and any wastage of tax payers’ money was impermissible under the Constitution of India. With this perspective, the court has to adopt a pragmatic approach to find out a solution to make good the financial loss occurred to the tax payers’ money.

“Undoubtedly as per the legal principles settled by the Apex Court, the excess payment of salary cannot be recovered from Group-III and Group-IV employees as well as from the retired employees. However, those excess monetary benefits paid must be recovered from the officials, who had committed negligence, lapse or dereliction of duty in the matter of payment of excess monetary benefits to the employees and those officials are to be held responsible. This is the rule of law”, the judge added.

The judge said this court has experienced many number of such litigations in the matter of fixation of scale of pay, wherein excess scale of pay and monetary benefits as well as arrears were paid to the employees with the connivance and collusion of the officials concerned. Mostly at district level, the authorities competent were misguided by the subordinates as well as by few employees. Under those circumstances, excess arrears of pay were claimed and disbursed.

Only few such cases were identified by the audit groups. There was a large number of such complaints that excess claims were made with the collusion of officials.

Therefore, it was mandatory on the part of the state government to collect all those excess payments paid from the tax payers’ money and to safeguard the interest of the state as warranted under the Constitution of India. Excess payment paid cannot be allowed to lapse as it would cause financial loss to the state exchequer.

Such a course cannot be adopted and it was in violation of the Constitutional mandate, the judge added. Impleading suo motu the Chief Secretary as a party Respondent, the judge gave the above directive.  

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