Recovery of excess salary paid

In a recent judgment of the Supreme Court in Chandi Prasad Uniyal v. State of Uttarakhand, while dealing with the issue of recovery of excess salary paid to an employee and after considering various authorities it was held thus :
“The excess payment of public money which is often described as “taxpayers money” belongs neither to the officers who have effected overpayment nor to the recipients. The question to be asked is whether excess money has been paid or not, may be due to a bona fide mistake or not. Possibly, effecting excess payment of money by the government officers may be due to various reasons like negligence, carelessness, collusion, favouritism, etc., because money in such situation does not belong to the payer or payee. Situations may also arise where both the payer and payee are at fault, then the mistake is mutual. Payments are being effected in many situations without any authority of law and payments have been received by the recipients also without any authority of law. Any amount paid/received without the authority of law can always be recovered barring few exceptions of extreme hardships but not as a matter of right, in such situations law implies an obligation on the payee to repay the money, otherwise it would amount to unjust enrichment.

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