Compassionate Appointments Must Be Decided Within Six Months Of Applications : Supreme Court
The Supreme Court, on Friday, opined that the applications for appointment on compassionate ground ought to be decided in a time bound manner and not beyond a period of six months from the date of submission of the completed applications. The Apex Court was apprehensive that if the applications are not decided expeditiously, then the whole purpose of such appointments would be frustrated.
"…considering the object and purpose of appointment on compassionate grounds, i.e., a family of a deceased employee may be placed in a position of financial hardship upon the untimely death of the employee while in service and the basis or policy is immediacy in rendering of financial assistance to the family of the deceased consequent upon his untimely death, the authorities must consider and decide such applications for appointment on compassionate grounds as per the policy prevalent, at the earliest, but not beyond a period of six months from the date of submission of such completed applications."
On the issue of authorities keeping applications for appointment on compassionate grounds pending for years, a Bench comprising Justices M.R. Shah and B.V. Nagarathna noted that it had come across cases wherein for nearly two deceased the controversy regarding such application was not resolved. It directed that the concerned authorities ought to decide the applications at the earliest and not reject them on frivolous grounds.
"We have, therefore, directed that such applications must be considered at an earliest point of time. The consideration must be fair, reasonable and based on relevant consideration. The application cannot be rejected on the basis of frivolous and for reasons extraneous to the facts of the case. Then and then only the object and purpose of appointment on compassionate grounds can be achieved."
The appellant's father, who was working as an Assistant Sub-Inspector in the Excise Department passed away on 02.01.2010 while in service. Thereafter, in July, 2010, the appellant applied for the post of Junior Clerk on compassionate ground under the Orissa Civil Service (Rehabilitation Assistance) Rules, 1990 (1990 Rules). The application was sent to the Excise Department on 21.09.2011, but remained unattended for a considerable period of time. After five years the Additional Secretary asked the concerned Collector to furnish a fresh report pertaining to the financial condition of the appellant's family. A report was also called for to substantiate the appellant's claim that due to her medical condition his mother would not be able to undertake the job. The Medical Board that examined the mother reached the conclusion that she was unfit for the government job. Another report was called from the concerned Tehsildar to ascertain their financial condition. As per the report of the Tehsildar, the family income did not exceed the ceiling of Rs. 72,000 per annum. Even after getting all the reports the application was not acted upon until 2021. By that time the 1990 Rules were replaced by Odisha Civil Services (Rehabilitation Assistance) Rules, 2020 (2020 Rules), where one family member of a deceased government servant would be appointed on compassionate grounds to 'Group D' base level post. The appellant approached the Orissa High Court challenging the consideration of his application under the 2020 Rules. The High Court dismissed his writ petition.
Contentions raised by the parties
The Counsel appearing for the appellant relied on a catena of judgments to aver that the scheme prevalent at the time of the death of the employee and/or at the time of submitting the application is required to be considered and not the amended rules.
Per contra, relying on N.C. Santosh v. State of Karnataka (2020) 7 SCC 617, the Counsel appearing for the State of Orissa argued that the claim ought to be considered as per the rules prevalent at the time of consideration of the application. It was also emphasised that the 2020 Rules specifically contemplates the pending applications to be considered as per the amended rules.
Refuting the submission of the State Counsel, it was pointed out that in a more recent judgment, i.e. Secretary of Govt. Department of Education (Primary) And Ors. v. Bheemesh alias Bheemappa, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 1264, the Supreme Court had considered the judgment of the in N.C. Santosh (supra) and held otherwise.
Analysis of the Supreme Court
The Court noted that decisions of the Apex Court cited by the parties reflect divergent opinion on the issue. However, on the facts and circumstances, the Court thought it fit that the application of the appellant be considered as per the 1990 Rules, which was applicable when his father passed away and he made an application for compassionate appointment back in 2010. It observed that as per the 1990 Rules, the son of the deceased was not specifically excluded from appointment on compassionate grounds if the wife of the deceased is alive. Moreover, there was no fault on the part of the appellant for the delayed consideration of his application by the concerned authorities. Rebuking the callousness of the authorities for the inordinate delay, the Court stated -
"Not appointing the appellant under the 1990 Rules would be giving a premium to the delay and/or inaction on the part of the department/authorities. There was an absolute callousness on the part of the department/authorities. The facts are conspicuous and manifest the grave delay in entertaining the application submitted by the appellant in seeking employment which is indisputably attributable to the department/authorities. In fact, the appellant has been deprived of seeking compassionate appointment, which he was otherwise entitled to under the 1990 Rules. The appellant has become a victim of the delay and/or inaction on the part of the department/authorities which may be deliberate or for reasons best known to the authorities concerned."
Keeping the larger question open for determination, in the peculiar facts of the case, the Court opined in favour of consideration of the appellant's application under the 1990 Rules within a period of four weeks. It clarified that the appellant would be entitled to all the benefits only from the date of appointment.
[Case Title: Malaya Nanda Sethy v. State of Orissa And Ors. Civil Appeal No. 4103 of 2022]
Citation : 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 522
Service Law -Compassionate appointments must be decided within 6 months- considering the object and purpose of appointment on compassionate grounds, i.e., a family of a deceased employee may be placed in a position of financial hardship upon the untimely death of the employee while in service and the basis or policy is immediacy in rendering of financial assistance to the family of the deceased consequent upon his untimely death, the authorities must consider and decide such applications for appointment on compassionate grounds as per the policy prevalent, at the earliest, but not beyond a period of six months from the date of submission of such completed applications - Paragraph 9