Legal Correspondent

Major criterion should be financial state

  • "Unless financial condition is entirely penury, such appointments cannot be made"
  • Instant case concerns widow of a bank employee who died in harness

    New Delhi: The dependents of an employee who dies in harness cannot claim employment on compassionate grounds as a matter of right, the Supreme Court held on Thursday.

    "A major criterion while appointing a person on compassionate grounds should be the financial condition of the family of the deceased person left behind. Unless the financial condition is entirely penury, such appointments cannot be made," said a Bench, comprising Justice A.R. Lakshmanan and Justice Altamas Kabir.

    Writing the judgment , Justice Lakshmanan said "specially constituted authorities in the Rules or Regulations are better equipped to decide the cases on facts of the case and their objective finding arrived on the appreciation of the full facts should not be disturbed."

    The Bench said "the [High] Court cannot order appointment on compassionate ground, de hors the provisions of the statutory regulations and instructions and that hardship of the candidate does not entitle him to compassionate appointment de hors the statutory provisions."

    Exceptions

    The Bench said "appointments in public services are to be made strictly on the basis of open invitation of applications and merit. However, exceptions are made in favour of dependents of employees dying in harness and leaving their family in penury and without any means of livelihood."

    The Bench said that while deciding on the financial condition, factors like family pension, gratuity, employee's/employer's contribution to the Provident Fund, any compensation paid, proceeds of LIC policy and other investments of the deceased employee, income of the family from other sources and employment of other family members must be taken into consideration. The Bench turned down the contention that the stage of penury and destitution was to be determined after balancing the assets vis-à-vis liability.

    In the instant case, one Sukhbir Inder Singh employed in the State Bank of India, Amritsar branch, died in harness. His widow Jaspal Kaur applied for appointment in the bank on compassionate grounds.

    The bank declined the claim. The Punjab and Haryana High Court allowed a writ petition filed by her against that order. The present appeal by the SBI is directed against that order.

    Allowing the appeal, the Bench agreed with the bank that payment of terminal benefits "are an important factor and cannot be left out while considering the financial condition of the family." The Bench noted that the bank had paid a terminal benefit of Rs. 4,57,607 to the family and Rs. 2,055 a month as family pension. Further the appointment under the scheme of compassionate appointment was at the discretion of the authority, which was to be exercised, keeping in view the scheme and the object/rationale behind it, the Bench said and set aside the impugned order.