As thousands of dependents of government employees seek jobs after the deaths of their breadwinners, the Supreme Court has clarified the legal position, saying that appointments in government offices on compassionate grounds cannot be claimed as a right.
A bench of Justices BS Chauhan and Dipak Misra said such appointments were permissible only in genuine cases as per rules, else it would violate the Constitution.
“Appointment on compassionate grounds cannot be claimed as a matter of right. As a rule, public service appointments should be made strictly on the basis of open invitation of applications and merit."The appointment on compassionate grounds is not another source of recruitment but merely an exception to the aforesaid requirement taking into consideration the fact of the death of the employee while in service, leaving his family without any means of livelihood," the bench said.
The ruling came on the Centre’s appeal against an Allahabad High Court order
giving a job on compassionate grounds to Shashank Goswami, whose father Anand Kishore Gautam, a senior accountant
in the office of the accountant-general, Allahabad, died on March 19, 2001. His two sons were aged about 20 and 19 years and his daughter around 17 years.
Shashank, one of the sons, applied for a job on compassionate grounds, but his plea was rejected, as he did not fulfil the requirements of the rules framed by the government. The Central Administrative Tribunal, however, reversed the order and asked the government to give him a job on compassionate grounds and the order was upheld by the high court in Allahabad.
However, the top court allowed the Centre’s appeal, saying the claim for appointment on compassionate grounds was based on the premises that the applicant is dependent on the deceased employee.
“Strictly, such a claim cannot be upheld on the touchstone of Article 14 (right to equality) or Article 16 (right to equality of opportunity in public employment) of the Constitution of India.
“However, such claim is considered as reasonable and permissible on the basis of sudden crisis occurring in the family of such employee who has served the State and dies while in service.
“In such cases the object is to enable the family to get over sudden financial crisis and not to confer a status on the family,” the apex court said.
The court said the rules stipulated that to get the job on compassionate grounds, the total income of the family from all sources including terminal benefits after death, excluding GPF, should not exceed Rs 3 lakh.
In this case, the total income of the family stood at R4.40 lakh, besides an additional family pension of Rs 3,100 every month, received by deceased’s widow Rashmi Gautam for a period of seven years and another Rs 1,860 a month as admissible relief on pension.
“In view of the fact that, in the instant case the terminal benefits have been received by the family exceeding Rs 3 lakhs, respondent Shashank is not eligible to be considered for the Group ‘C’ post,” the court said.