SC: Employer bound by contractual obligations if knowingly appoints minor

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, on 28th May 2020, in the matter of Gopal Prasad v. Bihar School Examination Board & Others observed that an employer who knowingly appoints minors with impunity, with its eyes open, cannot evade its obligations under the contract of employment. The contracts can be said to have been ratified by the employees concerned, on attaining majority.

Note:- Due to different views by both the Hon’ble Judges, this matter has not attained finality and has been referred to a larger bench.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:

It may be true that a minor is incompetent to enter into a contract. A contract may not be enforceable against a minor. A contract executed by a minor may be voidable at the option of the minor. The minor may, on attaining majority, repudiate or ratify and accept the contract. (Para 23 of the judgement by Hon’ble Justice Indira Banerjee)

 An employer who knowingly appoints minors with impunity, with its eyes open, cannot evade its obligations under the contract of employment. The contracts can be said to have been ratified by the employees concerned, on attaining majority. (Para 24 of the judgement by Hon’ble Justice Indira Banerjee)

The age of retirement and qualifying service for the purpose of retirement benefits are not one and the same. Qualifying service for retirement means that the length of service for the purpose of computation of retiral benefits would commence from attainment of the age of qualifying service of pension. (Para 32 of the judgement by Hon’ble Justice Indira Banerjee)

When the age of retirement is governed by express rules, which do not prescribe length of service as a criteria of retirement, but provide for retirement upon attainment of age, an employee cannot be made to retire before attaining that age of retirement, only because he/she has served for a certain length of time, by a convoluted process of logical reasoning. (Para 34 of the judgement by Hon’ble Justice Indira Banerjee)

A person can only be retired on attainment of the prescribed age of retirement unless the rules expressly make length of service a criteria of retirement. (Para 39 of the judgement by Hon’ble Justice Indira Banerjee)

Unless there is a specific rule to the contrary, minor is not eligible/qualified to seek public employment. (Para 15 of the judgement by Hon’ble Justice Ajay Rastogi)

Copy of judgement: Judgement_28-May-2020

-Adv. Tushar Kaushik

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