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Compassionate Appointments Restricted To Class III/IV(Group C/D) Posts : Supreme Court Pulls Up TN Govt Over Group B Appointments

Shruti Kakkar
12 March 2022 6:23 AM GMT
Compassionate Appointments Restricted To Class III/IV(Group C/D) Posts : Supreme Court Pulls Up TN Govt Over Group B Appointments
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The Court said that it was "unpardonable" that the Tamil Nadu Government made compassionate appointments to Group B posts violating a 1994 judgment which restricted them to Group C/D Posts

The Supreme Court has strongly deprecated the practice of the State of Tamil Nadu in making compassionate appointments to Group B posts in violation of the 1994 judgment which held that compassionate appointments must be restricted to Class III or Class IV or Group C or Group D Posts.In the 1994 judgment in the case Umesh Kumar Nagpal vs. State of Haryana and Others (1994) 4...

The Supreme Court has strongly deprecated the practice of the State of Tamil Nadu in making compassionate appointments to Group B posts in violation of the 1994 judgment which held that compassionate appointments must be restricted to Class III or Class IV or Group C or Group D Posts.

In the 1994 judgment in the case Umesh Kumar Nagpal vs. State of Haryana and Others (1994) 4 SCC 138,  the Supreme Court had held that compassionate appointments, being in the nature of an exception to the rule that public appointments should be based on open competition, should be restricted to the lower categories.

"The posts in Classes III and IV are the lowest posts in non­-manual and manual categories and hence they alone can be offered on compassionate grounds, the object being  relieve the family, of the financial destitution and to help it get over the emergency. The provision of employment in such lowest posts by making an exception to the rule is justifiable and valid since it is not discriminatory", the Nagpal judgment held.

In the present case(M Kendra Devi vs Government of Tamil Nadu), the issue was whether Assistant Engineers who were appointed through compassionate appointment could claim seniority over those appointed through direct recruitment. The seniority list published in 2004 was under challenge.

The direct recruits challenged the seniority given to those appointed through compassionate appointments. The High Court, though expressed anguish at the fact that compassionate appointments were made to a Group B post in violation of the Nagpal judgment, declined interference citing the belated stage of challenge to seniority. Aggrieved with the High Court's approach, the petitioners carried the matter further to the Supreme Court.

A bench comprising Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice Abhay S Oka also expressed their anguish at the State Government violating the Nagpal judgment.

"In Nagpal's case  (decided on 04th May, 1994) , it was specifically held that compassionate appointment shall be restricted to Class III and Class IV or Group 'C' and Group 'D', as the case may be", the Court noted.

"It is well settled that the compassionate appointment is an exception to the general rule of public employment through open selection in conformity of Articles 14 & 16 of the Constitution and the object of granting compassionate appointment is to enable the family to tide over certain crisis and to grant relief to the family against financial destitution who have lost their breadwinner", the Court added further.

The Court went on to say :

"The compassionate appointments made on the post of Assistant Engineer after the judgment of this Court in Nagpal's case (supra) which became the law and was binding upon the State Governments under Article 141 of the Constitution but still it is unfortunate that Government of Tamil Nadu continued to make such compassionate appointments in Group 'B' posts thereafter from the year 1995 onwards which indeed were de hors the judgment of this Court but still allowed such compassionate appointments to continue who later became member of service and by this time, they are serving for the last more than two decades".

"We are of the view that after the judgment of this Court in Nagpal's case (supra) (decided on 4th May, 1994) became the law and binding on the State Governments, still if the appointments are made de hors the judgment of this Court by the State Government under its executive fiat, prima facie, are not sustainable in law and that indeed denies consequential seniority".

Judgment was not known until 2001 : State Govt tells SC; Court expresses anguish

The Court sought an explanation from the State Government as to why the appointments were made ignoring the Nagpal judgment. 

The Secretary to the Government, Labour Welfare and Skill Development filed an affidavit stating that the 1994 judgment was made available to the Government by the Law Department for the first time on 7th September 2001. The State further said that taking note of the judgment, guidelines were issued to restrict compassionate appointments to Group C or Group D posts only. The Court said that this explanation was far from satisfactory.

The Court also said that the affidavit did not disclose how many compassionate appointments were made in other Group B posts apart from the post of Assistant Engineer.

"Unpardonable"

"After going through the explanation which has been tendered by the State Government, this Court, records its anguish to say that this attitude of the Government of Tamil Nadu in avoiding the judgment of this Court in Nagpal's case (supra) dated 4th May 1994, which was not only the law but binding on the State Government under Article 141 of the Constitution, if still overlooked and flouted in this manner, such an act of the State Government is unpardonable and cannot be countenanced by this Court", the judgment said.

At the same time, having regard to the fact that the appointments were made over two decades ago, the Court chose not to interfere with the seniority list.

"Although we deprecate the practice of State Government in making such compassionate appointments under Group 'B' post after the judgment of this Court in Nagpal's case (supra), still this Court refrain to disturb the seniority list which has been assigned to the respective compassionate appointees, vis­à­vis, direct recruits Assistant Engineers to whom consequential seniority has been assigned undisputedly under Rule 35(aa) of Rules, 1955 which may not call for our interference, at this belated stage, after each of them is in service for more than two decades and indeed right is being conferred to each of them and an individual although a beneficiary but was not at fault at any given point of time either at the time of entry into service or thereafter,"the Court ruled.

Senior Advocates R Venkataramani, PS Patwalia and Guru Krishna Kumar appeared for the appellants. Senior Advocate V Chitambaresh and Advocate Sriram Parakkat appeared for the private respondents. Additional Advocate General Amit Anand Tiwari represented the State.

Case Title : M Kendra Devi vs Government of Tamil Nadu

Citation : 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 274

Click here to read/download the judgment



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