Compassion cannot be forever, says Supreme Court

Court passes order on Kashmiri migrants.

Updated - October 15, 2021 11:32 pm IST

Published - October 15, 2021 09:54 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A view of the Supreme Court of India. File

A view of the Supreme Court of India. File

Compassion cannot continue in perpetuity, the Supreme Court said in an order holding that Kashmiri migrants who retired as government officers cannot stay in official accommodation indefinitely.

The order was passed by a Bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and A.S. Bopanna in applications filed by retired officers occupying government accommodation in Delhi and Gurgaon. Some of these officers had been victims of terrorism and served in critical intelligence offices.

“Applicants are occupying the government accommodation at the cost of other government servants who are waiting in queue for allotment of a government accommodation to discharge their official duties. The compassion shown to Kashmiri migrants has to be balanced with the expectations of the serving officers to discharge their duties effectively,” the recent order said.

The court struck down as arbitrary an office memorandum allowing government accommodation to retired employees who were Kashmiri migrants.

It said post retirement, the government employees, including Kashmiri migrants, were granted pensionary benefits including monthly pension. The classification made in favour of government employees who were Kashmiri migrants stood on the same footing as that of other government employees or public figures.

There cannot be any justification on the basis of social or economic criteria to allow Kashmiri migrants to stay in government accommodation for indefinite long period, the court noted.

The court said statements like these employees would return to the Valley when the situation improved was “open-ended statement capable of being interpreted in different ways”.

However, the court found it reasonable that Kashmiri migrants were allowed government accommodation for a period of three years from the date of retirement so as to make alternative arrangements within such period.

If an alternative accommodation was not available for them at their instance, they were at liberty to move to the transit accommodation or to avail cash amount in lieu of transit accommodation, the court said.

The court concluded that a government employee, who is a Kashmiri migrant, would thus not be entitled to retain government accommodation for a period exceeding three years, may be in Delhi or in the National Capital Region or for that matter anywhere in the country.

“The three-years period can also be considered as cooling-off period for the officers who were in active intelligence work so that they can resume normal life but the excuse of once working for intelligence agency is not a valid ground to occupy the government accommodation for indefinite period,” it said.

The court also referred to the submissions made by Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Divan that the various benefits given to Kashmiri migrants include financial aid for rehabilitation.

The court recorded Ms. Divan’s submission that, after the withdrawal of Article 370 from the Constitution, Kashmiri migrants have started moving back to the Valley.

She had referred to the Union Home Ministry statement in the Lok Sabha in March 2021 that nearly 3,800 persons had returned back to the Valley in the past few years to take up the PM package jobs. More than 500 migrants had returned to Kashmir for taking up jobs under the rehabilitation package after the withdrawal.

Another nearly 2,000 migrants were also likely to return under the same policy in the year 2021 on successful completion of the selection process, the court referred to the government’s statement.

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