When a person does not act gratuitously, he is entitled to receive the fees as per the principle of “Restitution and unjust enrichment.” [Km. Indu Mehta v. State of U.P]

Km. Indu Mehta v. State of U.P, AIR 1987 All 309

Before the High Court of Allahabad

Decided On :- March 4, 1987

Bench :- S Dhaon, D Sinha

Author :- D Sinha

Counsel for the petitioners:- Mrs. Poonam Srivistava

Brief facts and procedural history:-

Petitioner in this case is Advocate practicing at the high court and respondents are District Magistrate, Kanpur Dehat and State of U.P.

1978

1980

Petitioner appointed as penal lawyer (criminal)

Appointment as Assistant District Government Counsel (Criminal)

1982 Post of Assistant District Government Counsel (Criminal) held by another fell vacant. District Magistrate, Non-metropolitan area and district magistrate, Kanpur Dehat recommended the name of the petitioner and asked her to work until government passes final orders.
1st January 1983- 30th April, 1985 Worked as Assistant District government counsel (criminal) and received fees as per that post
21st May Government passed an order declaring her appointment as illegal and that she was only entitled to receive fees as penal lawyer
28th February, 1986

 

Order issued to the petitioner by district magistrate, Kanpur Dehat to give excess fees received by her
3rd April, 1986 Another order issued by DM informing her that her fees as penal lawyer is kept on hold till she returns the excess amount of money

Aggrieved by this orders, the petitioner filed a writ petition in the High Court.

Issues before the court: –

  • Was the petitioner entitled to receive the excess amount of fees, having served at that post voluntarily and without any mistake of any kind?
  • Was the petitioner entitled to receive fees in absence of any contract between her and district magistrate?

Arguments of the petitioners: –

  • The petitioner contended that she was entitled to receive the money as she actually worked at the post. The payment made to the petitioner was done voluntarily, and without any mistake. The petitioner acting as Assistant district government counsel did not intend to do that gratuitously.

Arguments for the respondents: –

  • The respondents argued that the district magistrate had no power to appoint petitioner at the post as per Section 24(2) of the Cr. P.C., 1973. As the appointment was void, it was right on the part of the respondents to ask the excess amount back.

Judgement of the court: –

  • The court held that rendering of the services by the petitioner raised an implied contractual obligation to pay for the services. Even though the appointment of the petitioner was void, she was entitled to receive the payment as per settled principles of Quantum Merit and provisions of Section 65.
  • The court accepted the argument of the petitioner that she was not acting gratuitously and she would be entitled to receive the fees as per the principle of “Restitution and unjust enrichment.”
  • It held that the respondents were not allowed to recover the excess amount as it was paid without any mistake or coercion of any kind. (Section 72, ICA)

Held:- The court quashed the impugned orders and commanded the respondents to not to withhold the

The court quashed the impugned orders and commanded the respondents to not to withhold the petitioner’s fees as a penal lawyer.

( This brief was prepared and submitted to Lawbriefs.in by Aarsh Chokshi, Student at Gujarat National Law University.) 

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