Gratuity cannot be withheld at the Whim of the Employer- Karnataka HC

"Gratuity Is Not Bounty That Can Be Withheld At The Sweet Will Or Whim Of The Employer"- Karnataka HC Directs Disbursement Of Gratuity Pending For 16 Years

A Karnataka High Court Bench of Justice M Nagraprasanna has allowed a petition filed by a 74-year-old retired employee and directed that his gratuity amount of Rs. 4,09,550 be released by his former employee, along with interest. The gratuity amount had been pending for 16 years.

In that context, the Court said that, “It is trite that the gratuity is not a bounty that can be withheld at the sweet will or whim of the employer.”

Counsel Ramesh I Zirali and Counsel Shivaraj S Balloli appeared for the petitioner, while CGSC MB Kanavi and HCGP VS Kalasurmath among others, appeared for the respondents.

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The petitioner had retired from a medical college after completing 34 years of service. He was not paid his gratuity. Aggrieved, he approached the Controlling Authority under the Payment of Gratuity Act.

Although his application was allowed, the respondent-authority did not make the payment. Subsequently, the petitioner approached the Court seeking a direction for issuance of a writ in the nature of mandamus.

The Court noted that 11 years had passed by pursuant to the directions issued by the Controlling Authority for payment of gratuity and 16 years had passed by with the petitioner attaining the age of superannuation.

In light of the same, it was observed that, “it is not delay alone, but culpable delay on the part of the respondent in not paying the amount of gratuity that the petitioner was at all time entitled to.”

The Court also reprimanded the callousness displayed not for a year or two but close to 2 decades by denying the gratuity to an employee who was always entitled to it, as a retirement benefit.

The Court also came down heavily on the State and said that, “The State can as well ignore the plea of a citizen for payment of gratuity, as it has nothing to lose, but if an employee whose retirement is dependent on receipt of terminal benefits, gratuity, of which is one, is delayed or denied, he would be condemned to penury, and be driven to impecuniosities, having no money to fall back upon, at the advancing old age. This act of the State is sans countenance.

In light of the same, the Court allowed the petition, and directed that the respondent pays gratuity to the petitioner within 30 days, with interest at 10% p.a.

Cause Title: Babu v. The Union of India & Ors.

Source: verdictum

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