The issue regarding permissibility of correction of date of birth in one’s service records is one that has been considered by High Courts and the Supreme Court on many occasions. Although it is now well settled that in any service, an employee ought not, without valid justification, to be permitted to correct the date of birth in his service records at the fag end of his service in the establishment, the case law on the point covers a myriad of factual situations that it cannot be stated as a general proposition that such a correction in the service records can never be done.
Statutory provision governing Correction
There is no statutory provision governing correction of date of birth in service records. In the absence of statutory provisions, the subject should be governed either by executive orders of the Government or by the principles laid down in decided cases. In the absence of an executive order prescribing a time limit for the preferring of applications, available legal literature suggests that the employer can consider a claim for correction of date of birth in the service records if an application is preferred within a reasonable time.
As to what would constitute reasonable time, decided case law suggests that it is a decision that has to be taken on a case to case basis, taking into account various factors such as the bona fides of the claimant, his/her conduct, whether he/she would have obtained an unintended advantage while securing employment were the corrected date of birth taken as the actual date of birth, whether the employee is estopped from claiming a different date as his date of birth and the prejudice that would be caused to his juniors in service through an acceptance of the claim.
The aforesaid legal position has been quite eloquently stated in the decisions of the Supreme Court in Secretary and Commissioner, Home Department and Others v. R. Kirubakaran [1994 Supp (1) SCC 155] and Burn Standard Co. Ltd. and Others v. Dinabandhu Majumdar and Another [(1995) 4 SCC 172]. Both the aforementioned cases dealt with employees who had preferred applications for correction of date of birth in their service records at the fag end of their service.
Secretary and Commissioner, Home Department v. R. Kirubakaran [1994 Supp (1) SCC 155]
In Kirubakaran’s case (Supra), taking note of the fact that the applicant had joined service in 1958 and had filed the application seeking correction of date of birth in his service records in 1991, when he was due to retire from service in 1992, the court observed as follows:-
Normally, in public service, with entering into the service, even the date of exit which is said as date of superannuation or retirement, is also fixed. That is why the date of birth is recorded in the relevant register or service book, relating to the individual concerned. This is the practice prevalent in all services, because every service has fixed the age of retirement and for calculating the date of retirement, it is necessary to maintain the date of birth in the service records.
Article 226 of the Constitution
But, of late a trend can be noticed, that many public servants, on the eve of their retirement raise a dispute about their dates of birth recorded in the service records, by either invoking the jurisdiction of the High Courts under Article 226 of the Constitution or by filing applications before the concerned Administrative Tribunals, for adjudication as to whether the dates of birth recorded were correct or not.
Most of the States have framed statutory rules or in absence thereof issued administrative instructions as to how a claim made by a public servant in respect of correction of his date of birth in the service record is to be dealt with and what procedure is to be followed. In many such rules a period has been prescribed within which if any public servant makes any grievance in respect of error in the recording of his date of birth, the application for that purpose can be entertained. The sole object of such rules being that any such claim regarding correction, of the date of birth should not be made or entertained after decades, especially on the eve of superannuation of such public servant.
An application for correction of the date of birth should not be dealt with by the Tribunal or the High Court keeping in view only the public servant concerned. It need not be pointed out that any such direction for correction of the date of birth of the public servant concerned has a chain reaction, inasmuch as others waiting for years, below him for their respective promotions are affected in this process.
Some are likely to suffer irreparable injury, inasmuch as, because of the correction of the date of birth, the officer concerned, continues in office, in some cases for years, within which time many officers who are below him in seniority waiting for their promotion, may lose the promotion for ever.
Date of retirement
Cases are not unknown when a person accepts appointment keeping in view the date of retirement of his immediate senior. This is an important aspect, which cannot be lost sight of by the Court or the Tribunal while examining the grievance of a public servant in respect of correction of his date of birth. As such, unless a clear case on the basis of materials which can be held to be conclusive in nature, is made out by the respondent, the Court or the Tribunal should not issue a direction, on the basis of materials which make such claim only plausible.
Before any such direction is issued, the Court or the Tribunal must be fully satisfied that there has been real injustice to the person concerned and his claim for correction of date of birth has been made in accordance with the procedure prescribed, and within the time fixed by any rule or order. If no rule or order has been framed or made, prescribing the period within which such application has to be filed, then such application must be filed within the time, which can be held to be reasonable.
The applicant has to produce the evidence in support of such claim, which may amount to irrefutable proof relating to his date of birth. Whenever any such question arises, the onus is on the applicant, to prove about the wrong recording of his date of birth, in his service book.
In many cases it is a part of the strategy on the part of such public servants to approach the Court or the Tribunal on the eve of their retirement, questioning the correctness of the entries in respect of their dates of birth in the service books. By this process, it has come to the notice of the Courts that in many cases, even if ultimately their applications are dismissed, by virtue of interim orders, they continue for months, after the date of superannuation.
The Court or the Tribunal must, therefore, be slow in granting an interim relief for continuation in service, unless prima facie evidence of unimpeachable character is produced because if the public servant succeeds, he can always be compensated, but if he fails, he would have enjoyed undeserved benefit of extended service and merely caused injustice to his immediate junior.