Legal Correspondent

Can't be claimed as a matter of right: court

Appointment on compassionate ground cannot be a source of recruitmentPublic service appointments strictly on the basis of applications and merit

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has held that providing employment on compassionate grounds is not mandatory if the family survives for long after the death of the breadwinner. Such employment cannot be claimed as a matter of right.

A Bench said: "Normally, employment in government or other public sectors should be open to all eligible candidates who come forward to apply and compete with each other. It is in consonance with Article 14 of the Constitution. On the basis of competitive merits, an appointment should be made to public office."

There should be no departure from this general rule except undercompelling circumstances such as death of the sole breadwinnerand the likelihood of the family suffering as a consequence, said Justices Arijit Pasayat and C.K. Thakker.

Justice Thakker, writing the judgment for the Bench, said: "Once it is proved that in spite of the death of the bread earner, the family [has] survived and a substantial period is over, there is no necessity to say `goodbye' to the normal rule of appointment and to show favour to one at the cost of several others, ignoring the mandate of Article 14." The Bench said the High Courts and Administrative Tribunals could not confer benediction impelled by sympathetic considerations to make appointments on compassionate grounds when the regulations did not cover and contemplate such appointments.

Public service appointments should be made strictly on the basis of open invitation of applications and on merit.

"The appointment on compassionate ground cannot be a source of recruitment. It is merely an exception to the requirement of law keeping in view the fact of the death of the employee while in service, leaving his family without any means of livelihood."

"In such cases, the object is to enable the family to get over the sudden financial crisis. Such appointments have, therefore, to be made in accordance with rules, regulations or administrative instructions taking into consideration the financial condition of the family of the deceased."

In the instant case, Sajad Ahmed Mir lost his father, who was in service in the Jammu and Kashmir government, in 1987.

In 1991, he applied for a job on compassionate grounds but the authorities, after eight years, decided not to give him employment.