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Union of India and anr. Vs. Dina Nath - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberSecond Appeal No. 1 of 1970
Judge
Reported in7(1971)DLT109
ActsLimitation Act, 1908 - Sections 18
AppellantUnion of India and anr.
RespondentDina Nath
Advocates: D.K. Kapur and; R.L. Taluja, Advs
Cases ReferredShapoor Fredoom Mazda v. Darga Prosad Chainaria
Excerpt:
- - the words 'if admissible' clearly show that jural relationship is not admitted to exist......at the bar was whether the finding of the additional district judge, delhi, to the effect that the letter exhibit p w. 2/4 extended the period of limitation under section 18 of the limitation act, 1963 was correct. the letter exhibit p w. 2/4 dated september 16. 1960 issued by the officer, commanding, ammunition depot, gurgaon to the respondent reads as follows : 'subiect: payment of legitimate dues on fixation of pay. reference : your application dated 12th september, 1960. your service documents have been forwarded to 0i/c aoc records for verification of date of your confirmation of lh (fire). further action regarding the arrears of pay, if admissible, will be taken on receipt of the same.'the learned counsel for the repondent submitted that in order to understand the significance of.....
Judgment:

P.N. Khanna, J.

(1) This second appeal by the Union of India is directed against the order dated August 28, 1969 of the Additional District Judge, Delhi, who held that the respondents suit for arrears of pay wag within time and accepting the respondents appeal I remanded the suit back to the trial court for decision on merits.

(2) The respondent was employed as Labour Supervisor on June 28, 1943 in the C. 0. D., Delhi at Rs 3.00 per day. He was reclassified as Leading Hand in the year 1945 in the scale of 97-4-121. In April, 1947 there was a general strike in which the respondent took part from April 12, 1947 to April 21, 1947. This period was treated by the Government as break in service, although the respondent otherwise continued to remain in service In 1954, the respondent was transferred to the Ammunition Depot, Gurgaon, and his salary was provisionally restricted to Rs. 101.00 per month till the final determination of the question relating to the condensation in the aforesaid break in service. On January 18, 1958 the Government, by a general order, condoned the break in service where it did not exceed six days. As the respondents' break exceeded six days he did not get any benefit as a result of this order, The matter, however, continued to be pressed by the employees,but before any final decision could be taken, the respondent became 55 years of age and was retired on June 23, 1958

(3) On January 8. 1960 the Government decided to condone break in service for period exceeding six days but not exceeding 90 days. The respondent claimed the benefit of this decision and made several approaches to the Government for the purpose of having his pay-refixed in accordance with the said decision and for the payment of arrears of difference in salary calculated in this way. He ultimately, filed the suit on August 27, 1903 for arrears of difference in pay which became payable to him under the aforesaid decision of the Government condoning the break in service. The respondent claimed such arrears from 1954 to 1958.

(4) The appellant, however, disputed the respondents' claim on merits and stated that the suit was otherwise barred bytime. It was stated that no legal action was maintainable for the recovery of arrears of gratuity.

(5) Without going into the merits of the case, the learned Sub-Judge dismissed the suit as barred by time The claim for gratuity was held to be not maintainable.

(6) The respondent in appeal before the Additional District Judge gave up the claim for gratuity The learned Additional District Judge, however, held the suit to be within time and accepted the appeal The Union of India has now come up in the second appeal against the said judgment of the learned Additional District Judge

(7) The only question canvassed at the Bar was whether the finding of the Additional District Judge, Delhi, to the effect that the letter exhibit P W. 2/4 extended the period of limitation under section 18 of the Limitation Act, 1963 was correct. The letter exhibit P W. 2/4 dated September 16. 1960 issued by the Officer, Commanding, Ammunition Depot, Gurgaon to the respondent reads as follows :

'SUBIECT: Payment of legitimate dues on fixation of pay. Reference : Your application dated 12th September, 1960. Your service documents have been forwarded to 0I/C Aoc Records for verification of date of your confirmation of Lh (Fire). Further action regarding the arrears of pay, if admissible, will be taken on receipt of the same.'

The learned counsel for the repondent submitted that in order to understand the significance of the words used in the acknowledgement, the surrounding circumstances can be taken into consideration ; and the correspondence exchanged between the parties prior to the said letter exhibit D W. 2/4 should be read in order to properly appreciate the meaning of the said letter He relied on the case of Shapoor Fredoom Mazda v. Darga Prosad Chainaria, etc., where it was held by the Supreme Court that oral evidence has to be excluded, but the surrounding circumstances can always be considered In that case earlier correspondence was looked into in order .to appreciate the meaning of the letter which was sought to serve as an acknowledgement.

(8) In the instant case, the respondents' pay was fixed as per exhibit D-12, which is a letter dated March 12 1957, on a provisional basis,'subject to read justment of Government Orders for condensation of absence for more than six days'. By the letter dated November 27, 1959 exhibit P. I issued by the Director of Ordinance Service, the respondent was informed that his pay was restricted to Rs. 101.00 to avoid over payments as his absence over six days had been condoned. He was further informed that the Government order for condensation of more than six days has since been issued subject to certain conditions. Further clarification of the said orders was being sought and his case was promised to be reviewed as soon as the final decision was arrived at. By a corrigendum dated June 8, 1960 exhibit D. 3, issued by the Government, absence without leave for not more than 90 days was condoned. By letter exhibit Public Witness 2/3 dated April 7, 1960, the respondentwas informed that his case was inprogress at C.O D., Delhi Cantt. and on receipt back from there, necessary claim for gratuity which becomes admissible to him would be preferred Then was written the letter exhibit D.W. 2/4 which has been reproduced above

(9) According to the Supreme Court in the case of Shapoor Fredoom Mazda (Supra) 'the statement on which a plea of acknowledgement is based must relate to a present subsisting liability though the exact nature or the specific character of the said liebility may not be indicated in words. Words used in the acknowledgement must, however, indicate the existence of jural relationship between the parties such as that of debtor and creditor, and it must appear that the statement is made with the intention to admit such jural relationship. Such intention can be inferred by implication from 'from the nature of the admission, and need not be expressed in words. If the statement is fairly clear then the intention to admit jural relationship may be implied from it. The admission in question need not be express but must be made in circumstances and in words from which the court can reasonably infer that the person making the admission intended to refer to a subsisting liability as at the date of the statement.' To put shortly the acknowledgement must indicate not only the jural relationship between the parties, but must admit the said jural relationship. In this case, the respondent is claiming arrears of difference in pay. Whether such arrears are due or not is a question to be determined and I do not find any acknowlegement by the appellant about the existence of any relationship for which liability to pay such arrears could be inferred. The letter in question simply informs the respondent that certain documents have been forwarded to the concerned authorities. Action is to be taken on the return of the said documents. this action is to be in respect of arrears of pay, if admissible. The words 'if admissible' clearly show that jural relationship is not admitted to exist. It is only after the receipt of some papers that the case would be further examined and then determined, if the claim for appears of pay will or will not be admissible. The mere acknowlegement of a claim having been made by the respondent is no acknowledgement to save limitation. It has to be an acknowledgement of the existence of a jural relationship from which such claim may be justified There should be an admsision of such jural relationship ; but there is none in this case A mere acknowledgement of a letter of Claim and saying that the same is under considerition or that the same has been sent for further enquiries or that the admissibility of the claim will be determined after enquiries, will not amount to an acknowledgement to bring the claim out of the bar of limitation. This being the state of affairs, the letter in question cannot be said to be an acknowledgement for the purpose of limitation. The learned Additional District Judge in the judgment under appeal has, in fact, directed the trial court to go into the question whether the respondent has any claim for arrears of pay showing thereby that his claim has not yet been admitted. This being so, the judgment of the learned Additional District Judge cannot be sustained.

(10) In the result, the appeal is accepted and the judgment of the learned Additional District Judge is set aside, while the judgment of the Sub-Judge, I Class, Delhi, holding that the said letter does not serve as an acknowledgement to extend the period of limitation is restored, In the circumstances of the case, there shall, however be no order as to costs.


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