Karnataka Rural Infrastructure … vs T.P Nataraja on 21 September, 2021


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Supreme Court of India

Karnataka Rural Infrastructure … vs T.P Nataraja on 21 September, 2021

Author: M.R. Shah

Bench: M.R. Shah, A.S. Bopanna

                                                                            REPORTABLE

                                    IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                                     CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                                     CIVIL APPEAL NO.5720 OF 2021


         KARNATAKA RURAL INFRASTRUCTURE                                    ..APPELLANT(S)
         DEVELOPMENT LIMITED

                                                 VERSUS

         T.P. NATARAJA & ORS.                                         ..RESPONDENT(S)

                                                     With

                                    CIVIL APPEAL NO. 5721 OF 2021

         KARNATAKA RURAL INFRASTRUCTURE                                    ..APPELLANT(S)
         DEVELOPMENT LIMITED & ANR.

                                                 VERSUS

         M.C. SUBRAMANIAM REDDY.                                      ..RESPONDENT(S)

                                               JUDGMENT

M. R. Shah, J.

1. Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned

judgment and order dated 11.03.2019 passed by the High

Court of Karnataka at Bengaluru in Regular First Appeal
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by R

(RFA) No.1674 of 2013, by which the High Court has allowed
Natarajan
Date: 2021.09.21
16:58:18 IST
Reason:

the said appeal preferred by respondent No.1 herein –

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employee and has quashed and set aside the judgment and

decree passed by the learned Trial Court consequently

dismissing the suit filed by respondent No.1 herein – original

plaintiff declaring the date of birth of employee 24.01.1961,

the original defendant – Karnataka Rural Infrastructure

Development Limited (hereinafter referred to as the original

defendant – appellant ­corporation) has preferred the present

appeal.

2. Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned

judgment and order dated 05.11.2019 passed by the High

Court of Karnataka at Dharwad in Writ Petition No.109447 of

2019 (S­RES), by which the High Court has partly allowed

the said writ petition, relying upon the judgment and order

passed in RFA No.1674 of 2013 (which is the subject matter

of Civil Appeal No.5720 of 2021 arising out of SLP No.2368 of

2020) and has directed the Karnataka Rural Infrastructure

Development Limited to reconsider the decision of original

writ petitioner with respect to change of date of birth, the

original respondent ­ Karnataka Rural Infrastructure

Development Limited has preferred Civil Appeal No.5721 of

2021 arising out of SLP No.1062 of 2021.

2
Civil Appeal No.5720 of 2021

3. The facts leading to the present appeal in nutshell are as

under:­

3.1 That respondent No.1 herein – original plaintiff was

appointed with the appellant ­ corporation in the year 1984.

In the service record his date of birth was reflected as

04.01.1960 as per SSLC Marks Card. After the lapse of

nearly 24 years, respondent no.1 herein – original plaintiff

requested for change of date of birth from 04.01.1960 to

24.01.1961. That thereafter respondent No.1 filed a suit for

declaration before Additional City Civil and Sessions Judge at

Bengalore to declare that his date of birth is 24.01.1961. The

suit was opposed by the appellant – corporation relying upon

the Karnataka State Servants (Determination of Age) Act,

1974 (hereinafter referred to as the Act, 1974) and resolution

dated 17.05.1991 passed by the appellant ­ corporation

adopting the Karnataka Civil Service Rules and allied laws.

The said rule provided that the request for change of date of

birth in the service record shall be made within a period of

three years from the date of joining or within one year from

commencement of the Karnataka Act No.22 of 1974. The suit

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was also opposed on the ground of delay and laches on the

part of respondent No.1 – original plaintiff in requesting to

change the date of birth. Relying upon Section 5(2) of the Act,

1974 the learned Trial Court dismissed the suit vide

judgment and decree dated 28.07.2013.

3.2 Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the judgment and

decree passed by the learned Trial Court dismissing the suit,

respondent No.1 – original plaintiff preferred Regular First

Appeal No.1674 of 2013 before the High Court. The High

Court by the impugned judgment and order dated

11.03.2019 has allowed the said appeal by observing that it

was highly impossible that the plaintiff should have availed

the remedy within three years from the date of joining of

service and also observing that the resolution dated

17.05.1991 passed by the appellant ­ corporation adopting

the Karnataka Civil Service Rules and allied laws was not

brought to notice of the plaintiff.

3.3 Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned

judgment and order passed by the High Court dated

11.03.2019 allowing the said appeal and quashing and

setting aside the judgment and decree passed by the learned

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Trial Court dismissing the suit preferred by respondent No.1

herein and consequently decreeing the suit and declaring the

date of birth of respondent No.1 – original plaintiff

24.01.1961 instead of 04.01.1960 recorded in the service

record, original defendant – employer – corporation has

preferred the present appeal.

4. Shri Gurudas S. Kannur, learned Senior Advocate appearing

on behalf of the appellant – corporation has vehemently

submitted in the facts and circumstances of the case more

particularly when the request for change of date of birth was

made after 24 years and dehors the statutory provisions, the

High Court committed a grave error in decreeing the suit and

granting the declaratory relief. It is submitted that as

mandated by Section 5 (2) of the Act, 1974 no such alteration

to the date of birth to the advantage of a State servant be

made unless the employee has made an application for the

purpose within three years from the date on which his age

and date of birth is accepted and recorded in the service

register or book or any other record of service or within one

year from the date of commencement of the Act, 1974,

whichever is later. It is submitted that the Act, 1974 came to

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be adopted by the appellant – corporation in the year 1991

and therefore respondent No.1 – original plaintiff ought to

have made the request for change of date of birth at least

within one year from 17.05.1991 i.e. when the resolution was

passed by the appellant – corporation adopting the Act, 1974

and allied laws. It is submitted that in the present case

respondent No.1 ­ employee made the application for the first

time vide notice dated 23.06.2007 i.e. after the lapse of 24

years since he joined the service and nearly after the lapse of

16 years from the date of adoption of enactment (Act, 1974)

by the appellant – corporation.

4.1 It is submitted that the High Court ought to have appreciated

that the ignorance of law cannot be an excuse. It is

submitted that being an employee in fact he was supposed to

know the rules and regulations applicable to the employees

of the corporation.

4.2 It is submitted that in any case, the High Court ought to

have non suited the employee on the ground of delay and

laches as the request for change of date of birth was made

after lapse of 16 years from the date of adoption of enactment

(Act, 1974) by appellant – corporation.

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4.3 Relying upon the decisions of this court in the cases of Home

Deptt. v. R.Kirubakaran, 1994 Supp (1) SCC 155; State of

M.P. v. Premlal Shrivas, (2011) 9 SCC 664; Life Insurance

Corporation of India & Others v. R.Basavaraju (2016) 15 SCC

781 and Bharat Coking Coal Limited and Ors. v. Shyam

Kishore Singh (2020) 3 SCC 411, it is prayed to allow the

present appeal.

4.4 Learned advocate appearing on behalf of the appellant –

corporation had fairly admitted that so far as respondent

No.1 herein ­ employee is concerned, the impugned judgment

and order passed by the High Court has been implemented.

However, as others suits are pending, he has requested to

decide the question of law so that the impugned judgment

and order passed by the High Court may not come in the way

of corporation.

5. Shri Ashok Bannidinni, learned Advocate appearing on

behalf of respondent No.1 – original plaintiff has submitted

that so far as respondent No.1 –original plaintiff is concerned

the impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court

has been implemented in the year 2019 and even thereafter

he has attained the age of superannuation treating and

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considering his date of birth as 24.01.1961, nothing further

is required to be done in the present appeal and as such the

present appeal has become infructuous so far as respondent

No.1 – original plaintiff is concerned.

5.1 Now so far as Civil Appeal No.5721 of 2021 arising out of SLP

No.1062 of 2020 is concerned, it is submitted that even the

said appeal has also become infructuous as after the

impugned judgment and order dated 05.11.2019 passed by

the High Court in writ petition No.109447 of 2019, by which

the High Court has directed the appellant – corporation to re­

consider the request of the writ petitioner – respondent

herein for change of date of birth in light of the judgment and

order passed in RFA No.1670 of 2013, thereafter the

appellant – corporation reconsidered the

application/representation of the writ petitioner – respondent

herein and his prayer for change of date of birth came to be

rejected against which even the writ petition was preferred

before the learned Single Judge and the same has also been

dismissed. It is submitted that therefore even Civil Appeal

No. 5721 of 2021 arising out of SLP No.1062 of 2020 has

become infructuous.

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5.2 Learned Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of appellant

­corporation is not disputing the aforesaid factual matrix.

6. Heard the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the

appellant – corporation and respondent No.1 ­ employee.

7. The dispute is with respect to change of date of birth in the

service record. The employees of the State Government for

the determination of the age are governed by the Karnataka

State Servant (Determination of Age) Act, 1974; Section 4 of

the Act, 1974 provides for bar of alteration of age except

under the Act, 1974; Section 5 of the Act, 1974 provides

alteration of age or date of birth of State servants which

provides that subject to Sub­section (2), the State

Government may, at any time, after an inquiry, alter the age

and date of birth of a State servant as recorded or deemed to

have been recorded in his service register or book or any

other record of service. Sub­section (2) of Section 5 further

provides that no such alteration to the advantage of a State

servant shall be made, unless he has made an application for

the purpose within three years from the date on which his

age and date of birth is accepted and recorded in the service

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register or book or any other record of service or within one

year from the date of commencement of Act, 1974, whichever

is later. Section 6 of the Act, 1974 further provides that no

court shall have jurisdiction to settle, decide or deal with any

question which is required to be decided under the Act,

1974. It also further provides that no decision under Act,

1974 shall be questioned in any court of law. Section 4,

Section 5 and Section 6 which are relevant for our purpose

are re­produced herein below: ­

4. Bar of alteration of age except under the Act.­
Notwithstanding anything contained in any law or any
judgment, decree or order of any court or other authority,
no alteration of the age or date of birth of a State servant
as accepted and recorded or deemed to have been
accepted and recorded in his service register or book or
any other record of service under section 3 shall, in so far
as it relates to his conditions of service as such State
servant, be made except under section 5.

5. Alteration of age or date of birth of State servants.­
(1) Subject to subsection (2), the State Government may,
at any time, after an inquiry, alter the age and date of
birth of a State servant as recorded or deemed to have
been recorded in his service register or book or any other
record of service:

Provided that no such alteration shall be made if the
age and date of birth of a State servant has been accepted
and recorded or deemed to have been accepted and
recorded in the service register or book or any other
record of service in pursuance of a decree of a civil court
obtained by the State servant 1 [after he became such
servant]1 against the State Government:

1. Inserted by Act 22 of 1977 w.e.f. 29.7.1977

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Provided further that no such alteration shall be made
without giving the State servant concerned a reasonable
opportunity of being heard.

(2) No such alteration to the advantage of a State
servant shall be made unless he has made an application
for the purpose within three years from the date on which
his age and date of birth is accepted and recorded in the
service register or book or any other record of service or
within one year from the date of commencement of this
Act, whichever is later.

6. Bar of jurisdiction of courts.­ (1) No court shall
have jurisdiction to settle, decide or deal with any
question which is required to be decided under this Act.

(2) No decision under this Act shall be questioned in
any court of law.

8. So far as the appellant corporation is concerned, they

adopted the provisions of the Act, 1974 by resolution dated

17.05.1991. Therefore, as such the request for change of date

of birth as per the Act, 1974 as adopted by the appellant –

corporation in the year 1991 was required to be made by

respondent No.1 – employee within a period of one year from

17.05.1991 being the employee of the appellant ­

corporation. However, respondent No.1 – employee made the

request for change of date of birth vide notice dated

23.06.2007 i.e. after the lapse of 24 years since he joined the

service and nearly after the lapse of 16 years from the date of

adoption of enactment (Act, 1974) by the appellant –

corporation. The High Court in the impugned judgment and

11
order has observed that nothing is on record that resolution

dated 17.05.1991 adopting the Act, 1974 was brought to the

notice of the employee and that therefore respondent No.1 –

employee might not be aware of the applicability of the Act,

1974. Aforesaid cannot be accepted. Being the employee of

the corporation, he was supposed to know the rules and

regulations applicable to the employees of the corporation.

Ignorance of law cannot be an excuse to get out of the

applicability of the statutory provisions.

9. Even otherwise and assuming that the reasoning given by the

High Court for the sake of convenience is accepted in that

case also even respondent No.1 – employee was not entitled

to any relief or change of date of birth on the ground of delay

and laches as the request for change of date of birth was

made after lapse of 24 years since he joined the service. At

this stage, few decisions of this court on the issue of

correction of the date of birth are required to be referred to.

9.1 In the case of Home Deptt. v. R.Kirubakaran (Supra), it is

observed and held as under:­

12
“7. An application for correction of the date of birth
should not be dealt with by the Tribunal or the High
Court keeping in view only the public servant concerned.
It need not be pointed out that any such direction for
correction of the date of birth of the public servant
concerned has a chain reaction, inasmuch as others
waiting for years, below him for their respective
promotions are affected in this process. Some are likely to
suffer irreparable injury, inasmuch as, because of the
correction of the date of birth, the officer concerned,
continues in office, in some cases for years, within which
time many officers who are below him in seniority waiting
for their promotion, may lose the promotion for ever…”

9.2 In the case of State of M.P. v. Premlal Shrivas, (Supra) in

paragraph 8 and 12, it is observed and held as under:­

“8. It needs to be emphasised that in matters involving
correction of date of birth of a government servant,
particularly on the eve of his superannuation or at the
fag end of his career, the court or the tribunal has to be
circumspect, cautious and careful while issuing direction
for correction of date of birth, recorded in the service
book at the time of entry into any government service.
Unless the court or the tribunal is fully satisfied on the
basis of the irrefutable proof relating to his date of birth
and that such a claim is made in accordance with the
procedure prescribed or as per the consistent procedure
adopted by the department concerned, as the case may
be, and a real injustice has been caused to the person
concerned, the court or the tribunal should be loath to
issue a direction for correction of the service book. Time
and again this Court has expressed the view that if a
government servant makes a request for correction of the
recorded date of birth after lapse of a long time of his
induction into the service, particularly beyond the time
fixed by his employer, he cannot claim, as a matter of
right, the correction of his date of birth, even if he has

13
good evidence to establish that the recorded date of birth
is clearly erroneous. No court or the tribunal can come to
the aid of those who sleep over their rights (see Union of
India v. Harnam Singh
[(1993) 2 SCC 162 : 1993 SCC
(L&S) 375 : (1993) 24 ATC 92] ).

12. Be that as it may, in our opinion, the delay of over
two decades in applying for the correction of date of birth
is ex facie fatal to the case of the respondent,
notwithstanding the fact that there was no specific rule
or order, framed or made, prescribing the period within
which such application could be filed. It is trite that even
in such a situation such an application should be filed
which can be held to be reasonable. The application filed
by the respondent 25 years after his induction into
service, by no standards, can be held to be reasonable,
more so when not a feeble attempt was made to explain
the said delay. There is also no substance in the plea of
the respondent that since Rule 84 of the M.P. Financial
Code does not prescribe the time­limit within which an
application is to be filed, the appellants were duty­bound
to correct the clerical error in recording of his date of
birth in the service book.”

9.3 In the case of Life Insurance Corporation of India & Others v.

R.Basavaraju (Supra), it is observed as under:­

“5. The law with regard to correction of date of birth has
been time and again discussed by this Court and held
that once the date of birth is entered in the service
record, as per the educational certificates and accepted
by the employee, the same cannot be changed. Not only
that, this Court has also held that a claim for change in
date of birth cannot be entertained at the fag end of
retirement”

9.4 In the case of Bharat Coking Coal Limited and Ors. v. Shyam

Kishore Singh (Supra) of which one of us (Justice A.S.

14
Bopanna) was a party to the bench has observed and held in

paragraph 9 & 10 as under:­

“9. This Court has consistently held that the request for
change of the date of birth in the service records at the
fag end of service is not sustainable. The learned
Additional Solicitor General has in that regard relied on
the decision in the case of State of Maharashtra and Anr.
v. Gorakhnath Sitaram Kamble
(2010)14 SCC 423
wherein a series of the earlier decisions of this Court were
taken note and was held as hereunder:

“16. The learned counsel for the appellant has placed
reliance on the judgment of this Court in U.P.
Madhyamik Shiksha Parishad v. Raj Kumar Agnihotri

[(2005) 11 SCC465: 2006 SCC (L&S) 96]. In this case,
this Court has considered a number of judgments of
this Court and observed that the grievance as to the
date of birth in the service record should not be
permitted at the fag end of the service career.

17. In another judgment in State of Uttaranchal v.
Pitamber Dutt Semwal [(2005) 11 SCC 477 : 2006 SCC
(L&S) 106] relief was denied to the government
employee on the ground that he sought correction in
the service record after nearly 30 years of service.
While setting aside the judgment of the High Court,
this Court observed that the High Court ought not to
have interfered with the decision after almost three
decades.

19. These decisions lead to a different dimension of the
case that correction at the fag end would be at the cost
of a large number of employees, therefore, any
correction at the fag end must be discouraged by the
court. The relevant portion of the judgment in Home
Deptt.v. R. Kirubakaran
[1994 Supp (1) SCC 155 :
1994 SCC (L&S) 449 : (1994) 26 ATC 828] reads as
under: (SCC pp. 158 59, para 7)

15
“7. An application for correction of the date of
birth [by a public servant cannot be entertained
at the fag end of his service]. It need not be
pointed out that any such direction for correction
of the date of birth of the public servant
concerned has a chain reaction, inasmuch as
others waiting for years, below him for their
respective promotions are affected in this process.
Some are likely to suffer irreparable injury,
inasmuch as, because of the correction of the
date of birth, the officer concerned, continues in
office, in some cases for years, within which time
many officers who are below him in seniority
waiting for their promotion, may lose their
promotion forever. … According to us, this is an
important aspect, which cannot be lost sight of by
the court or the tribunal while examining the
grievance of a public servant in respect of
correction of his date of birth. As such, unless a
clear case on the basis of materials which can be
held to be conclusive in nature, is made out by
the respondent, the court or the tribunal should
not issue a direction, on the basis of materials
which make such claim only plausible. Before
any such direction is issued, the court or the
tribunal must be fully satisfied that there has
been real injustice to the person concerned and
his claim for correction of date of birth has been
made in accordance with the procedure
prescribed, and within the time fixed by any rule
or order. … the onus is on the applicant to prove
the wrong recording of his date of birth, in his
service book.”

“10. This Court in fact has also held that even if there
is good evidence to establish that the recorded date of
birth is erroneous, the correction cannot be claimed as a
matter of right. In that regard, in State of M.P. vs. Premlal
Shrivas, (Supra
) it is held as hereunder:­

16
“8. It needs to be emphasised that in matters involving
correction of date of birth of a government servant,
particularly on the eve of his superannuation or at the
fag end of his career, the court or the tribunal has to
be circumspect, cautious and careful while issuing
direction for correction of date of birth, recorded in the
service book at the time of entry into any government
service. Unless the court or the tribunal is fully
satisfied on the basis of the irrefutable proof relating to
his date of birth and that such a claim is made in
accordance with the procedure prescribed or as per the
consistent procedure adopted by the department
concerned, as the case may be, and a real injustice has
been caused to the person concerned, the court or the
tribunal should be loath to issue a direction for
correction of the service book. Time and again this
Court has expressed the view that if a government
servant makes a request for correction of the recorded
date of birth after lapse of a long time of his induction
into the service, particularly beyond the time fixed by
his employer, he cannot claim, as a matter of right, the
correction of his date of birth, even if he has good
evidence to establish that the recorded date of birth is
clearly erroneous. No court or the tribunal can come to
the aid of those who sleepover their rights” (see Union
of India v. Harnam Singh
[(1993) 2 SCC 162 : 1993
SCC (L&S) 375 : (1993) 24 ATC 92] ).

12. Be that as it may, in our opinion, the delay of over
two decades in applying for the correction of date of
birth is ex facie fatal to the case of the respondent,
notwithstanding the fact that there was no specific rule
or order, framed or made, prescribing the period within
which such application could be filed. It is trite that
even in such a situation such an application should be
filed which can be held to be reasonable. The
application filed by the respondent 25 years after his
induction into service, by no standards, can be held to

17
be reasonable, more so when not a feeble attempt was
made to explain the said delay. There is also no
substance in the plea of the respondent that since
Rule 84 of the M.P. Financial Code does not prescribe
the time­limit within which an application is to be
filed, the appellants were duty­bound to correct the
clerical error in recording of his date of birth in the
service book.”

10. Considering the aforesaid decisions of this Court the law

on change of date of birth can be summarized as under:

(i) application for change of date of birth can only be as

per the relevant provisions/regulations applicable;

(ii) even if there is cogent evidence, the same cannot be

claimed as a matter of right;

(iii) application can be rejected on the ground of delay

and latches also more particularly when it is made

at the fag end of service and/or when the employee

is about to retire on attaining the age of

superannuation.

11. Therefore, applying the law laid down by this court in the

aforesaid decisions, the application of the respondent for

change of date of birth was liable to be rejected on the

18
ground of delay and laches also and therefore as such

respondent employee was not entitled to the decree of

declaration and therefore the impugned judgment and

order passed by the High Court is unsustainable and not

tenable at law.

12. However, considering the fact that when the impugned

judgment and order passed by the High Court has been

implemented and respondent No.1 has retired thereafter

considering his date of birth as 24.01.1961, it is observed

that the present judgment and order shall not affect

respondent No.1 – employee and we decide the question

of law in terms of the above in favour of the appellant –

corporation. With this Civil Appeal No. 5720 of 2021

stands disposed of.

13. So far as the Civil Appeal No.5721 of 2021 arising out of

the SLP No.1062 of 2020 is concerned, it is true that

while passing the impugned judgment and order the High

Court heavily relied upon the judgment in RFA No.1674

of 2013 (subject matter of Civil No.5720 of 2021) which

also is not sustainable in law as observed hereinabove.

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However considering the fact that thereafter after the

impugned judgment and order dated 05.11.2019 passed

by the High Court in W.P. No.109447 of 2019 directing

the appellant – corporation to consider the case of the

original writ petitioner – respondent herein in light of the

decision in the case of RFA No.1674 of 2013, the case of

the respondent came to be reconsidered and his prayer

for change of date of birth came to be rejected on the

ground of delay and laches and even thereafter also the

fresh decision was challenged before the learned Single

Judge and the learned Single Judge has also dismissed

the subsequent writ petition. Therefore, no further order

is required to be passed in the present appeal and is

accordingly disposed of. However, question of law is

decided in favour of the appellant – corporation as

observed hereinabove.

…………………………………J.

(M. R. SHAH)

…………………………………J.

(A.S. BOPANNA)

New Delhi,
September 21, 2021

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