The Karnataka High Court said that the doctrine of delay and latches cannot defeat a legitimate right of a citizen and that the pensioners must be handled with soft gloves, sympathy, and smile.

The Court was deciding a writ petition filed by a retired Assistant Teacher being a pensioner against the denial of one solitary increment that availed to all civil servants who studied in Kannada Medium upto SSLC with Kannada as one of the subjects in syllabus.

A Division Bench comprising Justice Krishna S Dixit and Justice G Basavaraja observed, “… there is some force in the submission of learned AGA that Court should not ordinarily grant relief in stale claims. Law does not come to the aid of sleepy & tardy, is true. However, it is notable that our Constitution does not prescribe any limitation period for tapping the Writ Jurisdiction, the doctrine of delay & atches being a judicial invention to turn down belated claims. This doctrine per se cannot defeat a legitimate right of a citizen, when no third party rights are created, since it does not operate as a Thumb Rule. After all, the State pensioners have to be handled with soft gloves, with sympathy & smile.”

Advocate Vighneshwar S. Shastri represented the petitioner while AGA Khamroz Khan represented the respondents.

In this case, the counsel for the petitioner argued that the petitioner/pensioner having put in a very long service had retired on attaining the age of superannuation. The counsel said that she ought to have been accorded one Kannada Language Examination Increment because of the academic qualification and not extending such a benefit singularly to her was discriminatory and therefore violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. The money payable as salary and emoluments were a property of the employee and therefore not paying amounted to the violation of constitutional guarantee under Article 300A.

The High Court in view of the facts and circumstances of the case noted, “… the value of KLE increment is only Rs.2,900/-. It is just nothing in these days when bread is costlier than blood. Equity can be worked out by confining claim of the petitioner to three years preceding the KAT Application that was filed in February 2021. In other words, she cannot claim anything three years anterior to February 2018, and thus the claim for the previous period, she has to forego. The arrears on the basis of this increment need to be paid to the petitioner and further her pension and terminal benefits have to be re-fixed reckoning the increment, as having fallen due in February 2018.”

The Court further said that a legitimate claim of a citizen cannot be defeated by the State only by pleading technical grounds. It added that the pensioner has retired from service and drawing not much pretty pension and that the evening of life poses age related difficulties which may be arguably mitigated with the aid of money.

“We cannot be oblivious to the fact that who is before the Writ Court is a poor lady who has served the State for about three decades on not much attractive salary; she did it in a very humble post namely Pre-primary School Teacher; may be she has shaped the fate of many children as ‘School Maatha’ in the Government School”, it observed.

The Court concluded that denying any relief in its entirety would do great injustice to the pensioner.

Accordingly, the High Court partly allowed the writ petition and directed to pay the arrears of incremental value and pension to the petitioner within three months.

Cause Title- Seethalaxmi v. State of Karnataka & Ors. (Neutral Citation: 2024:KHC:5173-DB)


Petitioner: Advocates Vighneshwar S. Shastri and Gururaj R.

Respondents: AGA Khamroz Khan

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