Conflict of Date of Birth in Employment

Introduction

The present case Ishwar Lal Mohan Lal Thakkar vs. Paschim Gujrat Vij Company[1] (“Ishwar Lal’s case”) resolves the issue of conflict between date of birth recorded in the school leaving certificate and the certificate issued by Municipal Corporation, which the concerned company of the Appellant failed to take notice of, and caused his pre-mature retirement.

Facts

In the Ishwar Lal’s case, the Appellant was an employee of the erstwhile Respondent Company. The Appellant had given application for change of date of his birth but it was orally rejected. The Appellant was asked to produce a school leaving certificate or a municipal record certificate for supporting his request else his date of birth in the service record would be taken as final. The Appellant’s elder brother in the year 1987 successfully had got orders in petition wherein directions were sought for Registrar of Date and Birth for correction of date of birth of the Appellant through court, which was accordingly directed by the Hon’ble Court to the Bhavnagar Municpal Corporation (BMC). The BMC issued new birth certificate and pursuant to the same, Appellant in 1987 asked the erstwhile Respondent to make necessary corrections in the service records. However, in the meantime electricity board had issued a circular asking that the SSC/HSC certificate would be relevant for the issue of date of birth. Failure on part of the Respondent, to make necessary corrections caused the Appellant to file a suit for declaration, which was dismissed. In the meantime, the service of the Appellant was terminated as per the date of birth record maintained by the erstwhile Respondent and an industrial dispute arose which was referred to the Conciliation Officer. The Labour Court held that the Appellant was terminated wrongly on the basis of wrong records through well-reasoned order.

Issues

In the event of any dispute, between the birth certificate issued by the competent authority and the school leaving certificate which would prevail?

Findings of the Apex Court

(i) The Respondent should have accepted the birth certificate as the conclusive proof of the age as the same being an entry in public record as per Section 35 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1935[2], which is documentary evidence. Further, there is a grave error in recording an age difference between the age of elder brother of 5 months. Therefore it is quiet apparent that the school-leaving certificate cannot be relied upon.

(ii) It was just and proper if the Respondent had relied upon the date of birth certificate of the BMC in face of the discrepancies of the school-leaving certificate.

(iii) Regarding the timely information of the issue as raised by Respondent in the arguments, the apex court held even in line with the circular issued by the Electricity Department, the Appellant had duly informed the department about the necessary corrections within the time frame provided.

(iv) Since the Appellant was wrongly superannuated he is entitled to all back wages, failing to get the same, an interest @ of 12% per annum would be applicable.


Conclusion

The Indian Evidence Act says that facts must be proved by oral or documentary evidence, which includes electronic record. The judgment strikes at the very root of the facts wherein an inadvertent error in the record maintenance of the school has caused grave injustice to the Appellant till the justice done by this judgment.

[1] Civil Appeal No. 4558 of 2014

[2] 35. Relevancy of entry in public 1[record or an electronic record] made in performance of duty-An entry in any public or other official book, register or 1[record or an electronic record], stating a fact in issue or relevant fact, and made by a public servant in the discharge of his official duty, or by any other person in performance of a duty specially enjoined by the law of the country in which such book, register, or 1[record or an electronic record] is kept, is itself a relevant fact.

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