The Supreme Court of India ruled that an employer can seek recovery of monetary benefits wrongly extended to innocent employees only if the recovery is not iniquitous or arbitrary.
“Orders passed by the employer seeking recovery of monetary benefits wrongly extended to employees, can only be interfered with, in cases where such recovery would result in a hardship of a nature, which would far outweigh, the equitable balance of the employer’s right to recover. In other words, interference would be called for, only in such cases where, it would be iniquitous to recover the payment made”, the Court said disposing a bunch of petitions.
The Court said, “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, however, summarized the following situations wherein recoveries by the employers, would be impermissible in law:
(i) Recovery from employees belonging to Class-III and Class-IV service (or Group ‘C’ and Group ‘D’ service).
(ii) Recovery from retired employees, or employees who are due to retire within one year, of the order of recovery.
(iii) Recovery from employees, when the excess payment has been made for a period in excess of five years, before the order of recovery is issued.
(iv) Recovery in cases where an employee has wrongfully been required to discharge duties of a higher post, and has been paid accordingly, even though he should have rightfully been required to work against an inferior post.
(v) In any other case, where the Court arrives at the conclusion, that recovery if made from the employee, would be iniquitous or harsh or arbitrary to such an extent, as would far outweigh the equitable balance of the employer’s right to recover.