The Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal (MAT) has ordered Mumbai Police to return to a deceased police hawaldar’s family Rs 6.11 lakh, which the department had recovered from them in 2017 after discovering that the hawaldar was being paid the salary of a constable.
The Tribunal added that the police department was responsible for failing to notice for 25 years that it had been paying the policeman excessively.
The hawaldar, Sunil Awale, was due to retire in 2021 but passed away in June 2017. It was only when the police’s accounts department was preparing Awale’s pension papers that officials perused his service book and discovered that ever since he joined the force in 1992, he was being paid the salary of a police constable, the rank above him.
Subsequently, the department made his widow, Bharati Awale, return the excess amount.
The police’s action was also backed by the MAT, which passed an impugned order in December 2017 directing the department to recover the money from Awale’s death and retirement benefits.
Through her advocate, C T Chandratre, Bharati Awale challenged the order and told the MAT that the excessive payment was made due to a mistake by the department and not due to fraud on her husband’s part.
“The police had earlier occasions to rectify its mistake but chose not to do it until after Awale passed away. The department also made no efforts to detect its oversight,” said Chandratare.
A B Kololgi, the Mumbai Police’s Presiding Officer, argued before the Tribunal that the department’s decision to recover the money from Bharati Awale was legal as her husband was aware that he had been receiving a salary of a higher pay scale. He further claimed that the deceased had submitted an undertaking to refund the excess amount.
Tribunal member A P Kurhekar observed in his order that the police had an opportunity in 1993 to check Awale’s service book for details of his salary and make the necessary changes when he was transferred out of the Armed Police to another department.
“However, no such step was taken and deceased was continued on the same pay scale which resulted in excess payment and the same was noticed only at the time of verification of Service Book. This being the position, no fraud or mistake can be attributed to the deceased, as the excess payment was made by the Department due to its own mistake and negligence,” stated the order.
The Tribunal quashed its impugned order from 2017 and directed the department to return the money to Bharati Awale within six months.
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