Case Law Details

Case Name : Rajasthan Marudhara Gramin Bank Jodhpur Vs Appellate Authority (Rajasthan High Court, Jodhpur)
Appeal Number : D.B. Spl. Appl. Writ No. 561/2020
Date of Judgement/Order : 05/01/2022
Related Assessment Year :

Rajasthan Marudhara Gramin Bank Vs Appellate Authority (Rajasthan High Court)

Facts- The writ petition was filed by the bank challenging an order dated 20.07.2020 passed by the Appellate Authority under the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 (hereinafter to be referred to as the ‘Act of 1972’) partly confirming the order dated 28.03.2018 passed by the Controlling Authority under the Act of 1972. The petitioner bank is a Gramin Bank operating in the State of Rajasthan. The respondent Kheem Singh Rathore was an officer of the bank. He retired on superannuation w.e.f. 30.09.2016. At the time of his retirement, the bank had paid him gratuity of Rs.10,30,319/-. He later on approached the Controlling Authority and disputed the amount of gratuity paid to him by the employer bank. His grievance was that while calculating the gratuity, the bank had not taken into account the dearness allowance component of his pay.

The Controlling Authority, by an order dated 28.03.2018 allowed the application. The said authority was of the opinion that the dearness allowance component ought to have been taken into account while computing the last pay drawn for the purpose of payment of gratuity. He also held that for every completed year of service beyond 30 years, the applicant would receive an additional gratuity at the rate of salary for one and a half months.

Conclusion-

Regulation 72(1) provides that an officer or employee shall be eligible for payment of gratuity either as per the provisions of the Act of 1972 or as per Sub-regulation (2) whichever is higher. Thus, it is beyond doubt that an employee must receive gratuity whichever is more beneficial either under the Act of 1972 or under the Regulations framed by the bank. However, this is not the same thing as to suggest that an employee can choose computation of gratuity under one statute and seek benefits of other provisions under another statute. As we have noticed, the scheme of gratuity under the Act of 1972 and under the regulations framed by the bank are different.

FULL TEXT OF THE JUDGMENT/ORDER of RAJASTHAN HIGH COURT

These appeals are filed by the Rajasthan Marudhara Gramin Bank to challenge the common judgment of the learned Single Judge dated 16.10.2020 passed in S.B. Civil Writ Petition No. 7359/2019 and other connected petitions. The Special Appeal (Writ) No. 503/2020 is treated as the lead appeal. We would be referring to the documents on record in the said appeal.

2. The writ petition was filed by the bank challenging an order dated 20.07.2020 passed by the Appellate Authority under the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 (hereinafter to be referred to as the ‘Act of 1972’) partly confirming the order dated 28.03.2018 passed by the Controlling Authority under the Act of 1972. The petitioner bank is a Gramin Bank operating in the State of Rajasthan. The respondent Kheem Singh Rathore was an officer of the bank. He retired on superannuation w.e.f. 30.09.2016. At the time of his retirement, the bank had paid him gratuity of Rs.10,30,319/-. He later on approached the Controlling Authority and disputed the amount of gratuity paid to him by the employer bank. His grievance was that while calculating the gratuity, the bank had not taken into account the dearness allowance component of his pay. The bank opposed his application on the ground that the gratuity paid to him is as per the regulations framed by the bank. The Controlling Authority, by an order dated 28.03.2018 allowed the application. The said authority was of the opinion that the dearness allowance component ought to have been taken into account while computing the last pay drawn for the purpose of payment of gratuity. He also held that for every completed year of service beyond 30 years, the applicant would receive an additional gratuity at the rate of salary for one and a half months. The bank had pointed out that for the purpose of computing gratuity, the regulations framed make a distinction between an officer and other employees. The Controlling Authority was of the opinion that any such distinction would be opposed to the equality clause under Article 14 of the Constitution.

3. The bank challenged the said order of the Controlling Authority before the Appellate Authority. The Appellate Authority by an order dated 20.07.2020 confirmed the first portion of the order of the Controlling Authority, namely, that for the purpose of computing gratuity payable to the applicant concerned, dearness allowance should be taken into account. However, with respect to the second aspect of the matter, namely, additional weightage for service beyond 30 years, the Appellate Authority did not accept the view of the Controlling Authority and held that only half month’s salary for completed year of service beyond 30 years would be payable. With this modification, the order of the Controlling Authority was confirmed.

4. The bank challenged the said orders before the High Court. The learned Single Judge by the impugned judgment dismissed the bank’s petition. The learned Single Judge referred to the definition of the term ‘wages’ contained in Section 2(s) of the Act of 1972. The learned Single Judge also referred to and relied upon the decision of the learned Single Judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in the case of All India Gramin Bank Pensioners Organization Unit Rewa Versus Madhyanchal Gramin Bank and another dated 06.09.2018, which was confirmed by the Division Bench. The learned Single Judge was of the opinion that as per the provisions of the regulations of the bank as well as the Act of 1972, the employee would receive gratuity under either of the statutes, whichever is higher.

5. It appears that against the order of the Appellate Authority, which was in favour of the bank, by which the weightage for every completed year of service beyond 30 years was brought down to half month instead of one and a half month’s salary, the applicants had not filed any writ petition. They had instead, in the replies to the petitions, raised this issue. The learned Single Judge examined this aspect also and confirmed the view of the Appellate Authority. Against the said judgment of the learned Single Judge, the bank has filed these appeals.

6. Appearing for the bank, Mr. R.N Mathur, learned Senior Advocate took us through relevant provisions of the Act of 1972 and the regulations framed by the bank under the Regional Rural Banks Act, 1976 (herein after to be referred to as the ‘Act of 1976’) and raised the following contentions:

(i) Any employee or officer of the bank can claim benefit of gratuity payable under the regulations or under the Act of 1972 but cannot take benefit under both sets of provisions.

(ii) The language used in the regulations framed by the bank, is clear and permit no ambiguity. There is a clear distinction between an officer and an employee of the bank when it comes to computation of gratuity.

(iii) The applicants had accepted the gratuity paid by the bank at the time of retirement. Long time thereafter, they filed applications before the Controlling Authority without filing applications for condonation of delay or independently also explaining delay caused in filing such applications. The Controlling Authority entertained their applications ignoring the delay.

7. On the other hand, the learned counsel for the employees opposed the appeals on the following grounds:

(i) The Act of 1972 as well as the regulations framed by the bank for payment of gratuity are beneficial welfare legislations. The Court should adopt liberal interpretation and give benefit to the employee to the extent possible.

(ii) The regulations of the bank have been correctly interpreted by the authorities under the Act of 1972 and by the learned Single Judge which requires no interference.

(iii) The scope of the appeal against an order passed by the learned Single Judge in exercise of writ jurisdiction is extremely narrow.

(iv) As per the Act of 1972, the onus is on the bank to pay gratuity to a retiring employee at the correct rates. If there is any lapse on the part of the bank, the employer cannot raise the ground of limitations.

(v) They also argued that the Controlling Authority had correctly come to the conclusion that for every completed year of service beyond 30 years, additional amount at the rate of one and half month’s salary would be payable. The Appellate Authority and the learned Single Judge erred in reversing this finding of the Controlling Authority.

8. Both sides have referred to the decisions of various Courts taking different views. Before referring to these judgments, we may refer to the statutory provisions applicable. To provide for a scheme for the payment of gratuity to employees engaged in factories, mines, oil fields, plantations, ports, railway companies, shops and other establishments and for matters connected there with, the Act of 1972 was enacted. It applies to factories, mines, oil fields, plantations, ports etc and other shops and establishments. Clause (s) of Section 2 defines the term ‘wages’ as under:

“(s) “wages” means all emoluments which are earned by an employee while on duty or on leave in accordance with the terms and conditions of his employments and which are paid or are payable to him in cash and includes dearness allowance but does not include any bonus, commission, house rent allowance, overtime wages and any other allowance.”

9. The liability for payment of gratuity flows from Section 4. Sub-section (1) of Section 4 provides that the gratuity shall be payable to employees on termination of his employment after he has rendered continuous service not less than five years (a) on his superannuation, or (b) on his retirement or resignation, or (c) on his death or disablement due to accident or disease. Sub-section (3) of Section 4 provides that the amount of gratuity payable to an employee shall not exceed such amount as may be notified by the Central Government from time to time. It may be noted that at the relevant time when the concerned respondents in this group of appeals retired, the limit specified by the Central Government in terms of Sub-section (3) of Section 4 was Rs.10 lacs. Sub-section (5) of Section 4 provides that nothing in this Section shall effect the right of an employee to receive better terms of gratuity under any award or agreement or contract with the employer.

10. Section 7 of the Act of 1972 pertains to determination of amount of gratuity. As per Sub-section (4) of section 7 any dispute regarding amount of gratuity payable to an employee would be determined by the Controlling Authority. In terms of Sub-section (7) of Section 7, a person aggrieved by the order passed by the Controlling Authority has a right to file appeal before the Appellate Authority.

11. Section 14 of the Act of 1972 gives overriding effect by providing that the provisions of the Act or any Rule made thereunder shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in any enactment other than the said Act or in any instrument or contract having effect by virtue of any enactment other than the said Act.

12. To provide for the incorporation, regulation and winding up of Regional Rural Banks with a view to developing the rural economy by providing for the purpose of development of agriculture, trade, commerce, industry and other productive activities in the rural areas, credit and other facilities particularly to the small and marginal farmers, agricultural labour artisans and small entrepreneurs and matters connected therewith, the Regional Rural Banks Act, 1976 was enacted. Section 3 of the Act of 1976 envisages establishment and incorporation of Regional Rural Banks. Appellant bank is one such bank incorporated in terms of Section 3. Section 8 pertains to management. As per Sub-section (1) of Section 8, the management and superintendence would vest in the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors will be constituted as provided under Section 9. As per Sub-section (1) of Section 9, the Board of Directors would consist of, beside others, two directors to be nominated by the Central Government, one, who would be an officer of the Reserve Bank, one, who would be an officer of the National Bank and two Directors who are officers of the sponsor bank.

13. Section 17 of the Act pertains to staff of Regional Rural Bank. As per Sub-section (1) of Section 17, the bank may appoint such number of officers and other employees as it may consider necessary or desirable for the efficient performance of its functions and may determine the terms and conditions of their appointment and services.

14. Section 29 of the Act empowers the Central Government to frame rules for carrying out the provisions of the Act. Section 30 is the power for framing regulations. Under Sub-section (1) of Section 30, the Board of Directors of Regional Rural Bank would be authorized to frame regulations after consultation with the sponsor bank and the National Bank and with the previous sanction of the Central Government for the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of the Act.

15. In exercise of powers under Section 30 of the Act of 1976, the bank has framed the Rajasthan Marudhara Gramin Bank (Officers and Employees) Service Regulations, 2010 (hereinafter to be referred to as ‘the said Regulations’). Regulation 2 contains definitions. We are concerned with the definitions of terms ‘emoluments’, ‘pay’, ‘salary’, ‘employee’ and ‘officer’ which are defined as under:

“(i) “Emoluments” means the aggregate of salary and allowance, if any;

(j) “Employee” means an employee of the Bank as classified under clause (b) and (c) of sub-regulation

(1) of regulation 3, and includes such employee whose services are lent to other organizations under regulation 75;

(l) “Officer” means an officer of the Bank as classified under Clause (a) of sub-regulation (1) of regulation 3;

(m) “Pay” means basic pay drawn per month by the officer or employee in a pay-scale including stagnation increments and any part of the emoluments which may specifically be classified as pay under these regulations.

(o) “Salary” means aggregate of pay and dearness allowance.”

16. Chapter-II of the regulations pertains to classification of officers and employees, appointment, probation and termination of service. Regulation 3 contained in Chapter-II contains classification of officers and employees. The officers are classified in Clause (a) of Regulation 3 and the employees are divided in two classes of group (b) and group (c) employees as per clause (b) and (c) of Regulation 3.

17. Chapter-VII of the Regulations contains miscellaneous provisions. Regulation 72 contained in the said chapter, being at the center of controversy, may be reproduced in entirety:

“72. Gratuity – (1) An officer or employee shall be eligible for payment of gratuity either as per the provisions of the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 (39 of 1972) or as per sub-regulation (2), whichever is higher.

(2) Every officer or employee shall be eligible for gratuity on,-

(a) retirement,

(b) death,

(c) disablement rendering him unfit for further service as certified by a medical officer approved by the Bank, or

(d) resignation after completing 10 years of continuous service,

(e) termination of service in any other way except by way of punishment after completion of 10 years of service;

Provided that in respect of an employee there shall be no forfeiture of gratuity for dismissal on account of misconduct except in cases where such misconduct causes financial loss to the bank and in that case to that extent only.

(3) The amount of gratuity payable to an officer or employee shall be one months pay for every completed year of service or part thereof in excess of six months subject to a maximum of 15 month’s pay:

Provided further that in respect of an officer the gratuity is payable based on the last pay drawn:

Provided also that in respect of an employee pay for the purposes of calculation of the gratuity shall be the average of the basic pay (100%), dearness allowance and special allowance and officiating allowance payable during the 12 months preceding death, disability, retirement, resignation or termination of service, as the case may be.”

18. An identical issue arose before the learned Single Judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in the case of All India Gramin Bank Pensioners Organization Unit Rewa Versus Madhyanchal Gramin Bank and another. By decision dated 06.09.2018, the learned Single Judge held that the officers of the Gramin Bank would receive gratuity by including the dearness allowance for the purpose of determining last pay drawn. The learned Single Judge referred to the definition of terms ‘pay’, ‘emoluments’ and ‘salary’ contained in the said Regulations and came to the conclusion that the dearness allowance is specifically classified and must form part of pay otherwise the expression would lead to absurdity which the Court would avoid. The decision of the learned Single Judge was challenged before the Division Bench. The appeal of the bank was dismissed by the judgment dated 26.02.2019. We may record that the matter was carried out further in appeal before the Supreme Court and the SLP was dismissed on 07.05.2019.

19. In the case of Chinmoy Majumder and others Versus Paschim Banga Gramin Bank and others (W.P 19538(W) of 2018), the learned Single Judge of the Calcutta High Court in judgment dated 05.07.2019 followed the decision of Madhya Pradesh High Court in the case of Madhyanchal Gramin Bank (supra). However, subsequently the Division Bench of Calcutta High Court in an appeal filed by the bank, reversed the judgment of the learned Single Judge by judgment dated 04.02.2021. It was held that for the purpose of the Regulation 72, there is a clear distinction between officer and employee when it comes to calculation of gratuity. It was held that the fact that Act of 1972 has over-riding effect, is of no relevance.

20. In the case of Chattisgarh Rajya Gramin Bank Versus Meghraj Pathak and others, the learned Single Judge of Chattisgarh High Court in a judgment rendered on 31.08.2020 had ruled in favour of the officers. It was observed that since the dispute involved has already been thrashed out before the Controlling Authority, who had deliberately discussed the contentions of both the sides and has given an order which is affirmed by the Appellate Authority, the scope of interference in the judicial review was limited. This decision was carried out in appeal by the bank before the Division Bench. The Division Bench by judgment dated 28.01.2021 reversed the judgment of the learned Single Judge. This was on the basis of interpretation adopted by the Division Bench of various terms defined in the Regulations and the provisions contained in Regulation 72.

21. Learned Single Judge of Gauhati High Court in the case of Assam Gramin Vikash Bank and another Versus The Union of India and others has held the issue in favour of the employee. The decision was also confirmed by the Division Bench.

22. To complete the narration, we may record that the learned Single Judge of Bombay High Court in the case of Vidarbha Konkan Gramin Bank Versus The Appellate Authority has held that for the purpose of computing gratuity under the Regulations for an officer only pay would be made the basis without including the dearness allowance.

23. It can thus be seen that there is a clear divide between the judicial opinions across the country. We would have due regard to the different view points, analysis and interpretations adopted by different Courts in the process of taking our own view in the matter. A brief comparison of the computation provisions under the Act of 1972 and the regulations would show that under the Act of 1972, the gratuity is payable at the rate of 15 days of wages for every completed year of service or part thereof in excess of six months. This however comes with the ceiling, as may be provided by the Central Government from time to time, which at the relevant time was Rs.10 lacs. As against this, in terms of Regulation 72(3), the gratuity would be payable at the rate of one month pay for every completed year of service or part thereof in excess of six months. This would be subject to maximum of 15 months’ pay. As per the proviso, for every completed year of service beyond 30 years, an additional amount at the rate of one half of month’s pay would be paid. Significantly, there is no upper limit of gratuity that my be paid under Regulation 72.

24. The fact that despite framing of the said Regulations by the Bank, if the employee tends to receive higher gratuity under the Act of 1972, the same must be paid is beyond dispute. As noted, as per Sub-section (5) of Section 4 of the Act of 1972, nothing in the said Section would effect the right of an employee to receive better terms of gratuity under any award or agreement or contract with the employer. Section 14 of the Act as noted gives overriding effect to the Act over other enactments. Even Regulation 72(1) provids that an officer or employee shall be eligible for payment of gratuity either as per the provisions of the Act of 1972 or as per Sub-regulation (2) whichever is higher. Thus, it is beyond doubt that an employee must receive gratuity whichever is more beneficial either under the Act of 1972 or under the Regulations framed by the bank. However, this is not the same thing as to suggest that an employee can choose computation of gratuity under one statute and seek benefits of other provisions under another statute. As we have noticed, the scheme of gratuity under the Act of 1972 and under the regulations framed by the bank are different. For example, the Act of 1972 prescribes the ceiling beyond which the gratuity would not be paid irrespective of the computation. There is no such ceiling prescribed under the regulations. However, the regulations have other inherent limitations in computation of gratuity such as the gratuity computation would not exceed 15 months’ salary upto 30 years of service, after which an additional benefit of half month’s salary would be added to the payable gratuity. The employee, therefore, can claim gratuity either under the Act of 1972 or under the regulations framed by the bank, but cannot claim the benefit under both the statutes. Though, reference to no authorities is needed for this purpose, as correctly pointed out by the counsel for the bank, this has been held by the Supreme Court in clear terms in the case of Beed District Central Cooperative Bank Ltd. vs. State of Maharashtra [(2006) 8 SCC 514].

25. This discussion was necessary because one of the main arguments of the counsel for the officers is that the term ‘wages’ as defined under the Act of 1972 should be applied while computing the gratuity payable to the employees concerned. The definition of term “wages” under this Act includes dearness allowance. If the employees chose to receive gratuity under the Act of 1972 being more beneficial, we would have no hesitation in accepting this contention. However, when it comes to payment of gratuity, their desire is that the ceiling as has been prescribed by the Central Government should not be applied and for such purpose they would resort to the regulations framed by the bank and in particular regulation 72 in which as noted there is no ceiling prescribed for payment of gratuity. In our view, this would be wholly impermissible. An employee can either receive gratuity as calculated under the Act of 1972 and in which case he must submit to the maximum payment of Rs.10 lacs or can claim the benefit under the regulations and in which case the computation shall have to be made as provided therein.

26. Despite this conclusion, if under the said Regulations, the officers are correct in contending that the dearness allowance must be included for the purpose of computation of gratuity, they may still succeed. We may, therefore, come to the interpretation of regulation 72 with the aid of different definitions noted above.

27. Sub-regulation (2) of Regulation 72 provides that every officer or employee shall be eligible for gratuity on retirement, death, disablement or resignation after completion of 10 years of continuous service or termination of service in any other way except by way of punishment but after completion of 10 years of service. Sub-regulation (3) is of considerable importance and provides that the amount of gratuity payable to an officer or an employee shall be one month’s pay for every completed year of service or part thereof in excess of six months subject to a maximum 15 months’ pay. First proviso to Sub-regulation (3) provides that where an officer or an employee has completed more than 30 years of service, he would be eligible to gratuity for an additional amount at the rate of half of a month’s pay for each completed year of service beyond 30 years. Further proviso is of great importance and provides that in respect of an officer the gratuity is payable based on the last pay drawn. In the third proviso to the said regulation, it is provided that in respect of an employee pay for the purpose of calculation of gratuity would be the average basic pay, dearness allowance and special allowance and officiating allowance payable during the 12 months preceding death, disability, retirement, resignation or termination of service. 28. The regulation 72, thus, at every stage makes a clear distinction between an officer and an employee for computation of gratuity. Sub-regulation (3) makes entirely different provisions for both classes of persons. When it comes to officers the gratuity is payable on the basis of last pay drawn. In comparison in case of an employee, the gratuity would be calculated on the basis of average basic pay, dearness allowance, special allowance and officiating allowance payable during 12 months preceding death, disablement, retirement etc.

29. With this distinction in mind, we may refer to the definitions of the relevant terms. As noted, the term ‘employee’ is defined in regulation 2(j) as to mean an employee of the Bank as classified under Clause (b) and (c) of regulation 3(1). The term ‘officer’ has been defined in regulation 2(l) as to mean an officer of bank as classified under Clause (a) of sub-regulation (1) of regulation 3. Thus, the regulations also make a clear distinction between the officers and employees.

30. The term ‘pay’ is defined as the basic pay drawn per month by officer or employee in the pay scale including stagnation increments and any part of the emoluments which may specifically be classified as pay under the regulations. The term ‘salary’ means aggregate of pay and dearness allowance. The term ‘emoluments’ means the aggregate of salary and allowances. These terms, thus, are specifically defined and carry different meanings. The term ‘pay’ is different from salary and dearness allowance is excluded for the purpose of the meaning of the term ‘pay’. This is clear from the very definition of term ‘pay’ which does not refer to dearness allowance and becomes further clear from the fact that the term ‘salary’ is defined as to mean aggregate of pay and dearness allowance.

31. The further proviso to sub-regulation (3) of regulation 72 when refers to the computation of gratuity for an officer to be based on last pay drawn, it necessarily excludes the dearness component. This is clear from the interpretation and interplay of the terms ‘pay’, ‘salary’ and ‘emoluments’ noted above and it is further clear when we compare the computation provision for gratuity payable to an employee as contained in the third proviso to the said sub-regulation. As noted, as per this proviso when it comes to an employee (in contrast to an officer) the gratuity would be calculated on the basis of average basic pay including dearness allowance and special allowance and officiating allowance payable during 12 months preceding death, disability, retirement, resignation or termination of service. These regulations leave no manner of doubt that when it comes to computation of gratuity payable to an officer of the bank, the dearness allowance would not form part of the pay. Any other view would be doing violance to the plain language used in the statute. With respect, we are therefore unable to accept the view point expressed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court. Though, the decisions of the High Court were carried in appeal before the Supreme Court, mere dismissal of the SLP would not form a precedent which would bind the other High Courts.

32. Before closing, we may record that the learned Single Judge in the impugned judgment had referred to a communication dated 12.08.2016 from Baroda Rajasthan Kshetriya Gramin Bank. It appears that the copy of the said communication was placed before the Court by the respondents. Contents of the communication are reproduced in the judgment which states that as per the clarification issued by the NABARD the bank had decided to include the dearness allowance component for the purpose of computation of gratuity payable to officers also. The learned Single Judge was of the opinion that the said bank being the other Gramin Bank operating in the State, the said clarification had considerable relevance and the petitioner-Bank could not have discriminated the respondents for the purpose of payment of gratuity.

33. In our opinion, this aspect has many pitfalls. To begin with, this communication was placed before the learned Single without full fledged pleadings and attendant documents. The original clarification allegedly issued by the NABARD does not seem to have been placed on record. Under what circumstances the Baroda Rajasthan Kshetriya Gramin Bank had taken a decision to include dearness allowance is not clear. Further, the counsel for the appellant-bank has today placed before us a communication dated 10.04.2018 from the NABARD to the Baroda U.P. Gramin Bank in which the stand taken by the NABARD is entirely different. It is stated that the decision of the Baroda U.P. Gramin Bank to include dearness allowance for the purpose of calculation of gratuity for the officers is not in order and against their own service Regulations of 2010. A copy of this communication is taken on record. The communication relied upon by the learned Single Judge was an internal communication of the Bank and did not contain any clarification from NABARD. On the contrary, as noted, the stand of the NABARD which is emerging from the above noted communication dated 10.04.2018 is totally different. We are not basing our conclusions on any of these documents. We are conscious that even this communication dated 10.04.2018 and documents issued by the NABARD have not been fully examined. We have referred to this communication only for the purpose of indicating that our conclusions would be based on the rules, regulations and statutes applicable and not on the basis of the stand taken by the Baroda Gramin Bank. There Isi yet another aspect of the matter. We have referred to the provisions of the Act concerning constitution of the Board of Directors of a gramin bank. Board of directors would include nominees of NABARD, sponsor bank and the government of India. Unless the Board of Directors of the present bank had taken a decision to include dearness allowance component for computation of last pay drawn, the same cannot be forced upon it, which in any case is opposed to the Regulations framed by the bank.

34. Since we have held the central issue in favour of the Bank, it is not necessary to go into the question of delay at the hands of the officers in approaching the competent authority, which was ignored without filing the applications for condonation. We may, however, briefly observe that the Appellate Authority and the learned Single Judge were correct in reversing the decision of the Competent Authority in relation to its interpretation on additional benefit payable to a retiring officer having more than 30 years of service. Such benefit as per the correct interpretation of the regulation would be additional amount calculated at the rate of one half month’s pay for every completed year of service beyond 30 years. This is quite besides the question whether the officers without filing independent writ petitions challenging the order of the Appellate Authority, could have agitated this issue before the learned Single Judge by raising it in a reply.

35. In the result, all the appeals are allowed. Resultantly, the judgment of the learned Single Judge and the orders passed by the Controlling Authority as well as the Appellate Authority are set aside. If the bank has deposited any amount before this court or the Authorities under the Act of 1972 pursuant to the impugned orders and judgment, the same shall be returned to the bank.

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