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Appointment on compassionate ground is an exception to general rule that appointment to public office should be made on the basis of competitive merits.: Supreme Court

Once it is proved that in spite of the death of the breadwinner, the family survived and substantial period is over, there is no need to make appointment on compassionate ground at the cost of the interests of several others ignoring the mandate of Article 14 of the Constitution as upheld by the Hon’ble Supreme Court through the learned bench led by Justice M.R. Shah in the case of Steel Authority of India Limited v. Gouri Devi (CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6910 OF 2021).

The brief facts of the case are that the deceased employee died in the year 1977. The eldest son approached the authority for compassionate appointment. His case was considered as per the scheme applicable at the time of death of the deceased employee, i.e., circular dated 01.09.1975 and his application for appointment on compassionate ground was rejected. After a period of more than 18 years of the death of her husband, the widow of the deceased employee filed a Writ Petition being OJC No.783 of 1996 before the High Court with prayer to appoint her second son on compassionate ground. At this stage, it is required to be noted that in the writ petition, the order dated 17.10.1977 rejecting the application for appointment of the eldest son on compassionate ground, was not under challenge. By the order of the High Court, the writ petition was transferred to the Central Administrative Tribunal, Cuttack, which was registered as T.A. No.14 of 2014. By the judgment and order dated 28.11.2019, the learned Tribunal disposed of and directed the appellant to re consider the case of Ramesh Chandra Khuntia, second son of the deceased in accordance with the scheme of compassionate employment. The writ petition filed by the appellant before the High Court being Writ Petition No. 7791 of 2020 has been dismissed by the Division Bench of the High Court by the impugned judgment and order. Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court, the Steel Authority of India Limited has preferred the present appeal.

After the perusal of the facts and arguments, the Hon’ble Court held, “Applying the law laid down in the aforesaid decisions and considering the fact that in the present case the second application was made after a period of 18 years, the impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court and that of the Central Administrative Tribunal directing the appellant to re-consider the case of the second son of the respondent is unsustainable and deserves to be quashed and set aside and accordingly the same are hereby quashed and set aside. It is observed and held that the second son of the respondent shall not be entitled to the appointment on compassionate ground as observed and held by the learned Central Administrative Tribunal confirmed by the Division Bench of the High Court by the impugned judgment and order. Present appeal is allowed accordingly.”

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Judgment reviewed by Vandana Ragwani

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