Appointment On Compassionate Grounds “Not A Right”: Supreme Court

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Appointment on compassionate grounds is a concession, not a right and the object of granting such employment is to enable the affected family to tide over a sudden crisis, the Supreme Court has said.
The top court last week set aside the judgement of a division bench of the Kerala High Court, which confirmed the verdict of a single judge directing the Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore Ltd and others to consider the case of a woman for appointment on compassionate grounds.

A bench of Justices M R Shah and Krishna Murari noted that the father of the woman was employed with Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore Ltd and died while on duty in April 1995.

At the time of his death, it was noted, his wife was serving and therefore not eligible for appointment on compassionate grounds.

“After a period of 24 years from the death of the employee, the respondent shall not be entitled to the appointment on compassionate ground,” the bench said.

According to the law laid down by the top court on appointment on compassionate grounds, equal opportunity for all government vacancies should be provided to all aspirants as mandated under Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution.

Article 14 of the Constitution deals with equality before law and Article 16 with equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.

“However, appointment on compassionate ground offered to a dependent of a dead employee is an exception to the said norms. The compassionate ground is a concession and not a right,” the bench said in its judgement delivered on September 30.

The top court noted that when the employee had died in 1995, his daughter was a minor. On attaining the age of majority, she made an application for an appointment on compassionate grounds, the court said.

It also noted that after a period of around 14 years after his death, his daughter had submitted an application for an appointment on compassionate grounds.

Referring to previous judgements of the top court, the bench said as per the law laid down, compassionate appointment is an exception to the general rule of appointment in the public services and is in favour of dependants of a person dying in harness and leaving his family in penury and without any means of livelihood.

In such cases, out of pure humanitarian consideration, a provision is made in the rules to provide gainful employment to one of the dependants of the dead employee who may be eligible for such employment, the court said.

“The whole object of granting compassionate employment is, thus, to enable the family to tide over the sudden crisis. The object is not to give such family a post much less a post held by the dead employee,” the bench said.

Allowing the appeal filed by Fertilizers and Chemicals Travancore Ltd and others against the March this year verdict of the high court, the court said that if such an appointment is made now it shall be against the object and purpose for which the appointment on compassionate ground is provided.

Setting aside the high court judgement, it said both the single judge as well as the division bench had committed an error in directing the appellants to reconsider her case for appointment on compassionate grounds.

The bench noted that her application for compassionate appointment was rejected in February 2018 on the grounds that her name was not in the list of dependants submitted by the dead employee and that the policy was to give employment to the widow or son or unmarried daughter of the employee.

It also noted that in December 2019, the appellants had again rejected her application for appointment on compassionate grounds on the grounds that 24 years had lapsed since the death of the employee. It also did not meet the primary test of a scheme that the dead employee should be the “sole breadwinner of his family” since his wife was gainfully employed with the Kerala State Health Services Department at the time of his death, the bench said.

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