An Uttar Pradesh government employee who was mistakenly paid more than his salary for several months was saved by the Supreme Court and by rising inflation from returning the extra money.
The UP government had asked Ram Prasad, now retired, to give back the extra amount — Rs 50,000. Rather than give in, Prasad took the matter to court — and ended up richer.
Hearing his case in the Supreme Court, a bench headed by Justice Markendeya Katju dismissed the government's petition, saying it was unfair to ask a retired man to return the money at a time when prices are skyrocketing.
"Jo paya tha, hazam ho gaya. Mahangayee ke zamane mein ab retired admi ko pareshan kyon kar rahe ho (what he got in excess has been spent. Why are you troubling a retired man in these times of inflation)?" Katju asked.
"You cannot harass the poor man for no fault of his. Where will he get the money from to pay it back to you?"
Prasad was paid a salary in the scale of Rs 1,320-2,040 — Rs 120 more than his actual scale. Prasad took home excess salary for four years before he retired in 1993.
"The goof-up was spotted by the state pension department in 1996. An objection was raised following which Prasad was asked to pay back Rs 50,000. This order was challenged before the Allahabad High Court in December 2001," Prasad's counsel Dharmendra Kumar Sinha said.
Two concurrent judgments were delivered in Prasad's favour in 2002 and 2006, after which the state moved the Supreme Court in 2007.