HP HC | Whether a daughter upon marriage ceases to be a part of the family for the purpose of seeking compassionate appointment against her deceased father; HC elucidates

Himachal Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench of Sureshwar Thakur and Chander Bhusan Barowalia JJ., while allowing the present petition said, “Marriage neither alters the relationship between the married daughters with her parents nor creates severance of a relationship. A son remains a son and his marriage does not alter or severe his relation with his parents, likewise, a daughter is always a daughter to her parents, her marriage also does not alter or severe her relation with her parents. If the State even draws a thin line of distinction based on gender, then that line has to withstand the test of Article 15 of the Constitution of India, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.”

 Facts

Facts of the case are briefly enumerated herein;

  1. That on 08-05-2019, Thakur Dass, father of the petitioner, who was a class IV employee in the office of District Ayurvedic Office, Kullu, died in harness.
  2. That the petitioner, her sister and mother are the survivors of Thakur Dass and there is no male member in their family.
  3. That as per the petitioner, she, her mother and sister, were dependant on late Shri Thakur Dass, and her mother and sister are unwilling to opt employment.
  4. That the petitioner, who is M.A. (Hindi) and has diploma in Computers, applied through an application for compassionate appointment, duly supported with the affidavits of her mother and sister purveying their ‘No Objection’.
  5. That the annual family income of the petitioner’s family is Rs 63000 falling well within the prescribed limit of Rs 225000, for a family of four members.
  6. That the cause of action arose on 22-06-2020 when the application of the petitioner was rejected on the premise that “there is no provision in the Policy for grant of employment assistance to the married daughter of the deceased Government employee.”
  7. That the petitioner has approached the present forum so as to declare the said policy as unconstitutional on the ground of being gender discriminatory, unjust and in contravention with the principles of equality.

Contentions

Counsel for the petitioner, Maan Singh, argues that the aforementioned clause of the policy has no rationale with the object sought to be achieved (of providing compassionate appointment). Moreover, just as a son of an employee who dies in harness, remains son throughout, likewise, a daughter remains daughter irrespective of any contingency or change in marital status. It was argued, “A married daughter cannot be discriminated merely because she is married, whereas no such rigor is applicable to a married son. Marriage alone cannot constitute a ground for discrimination and constitutionally State cannot be allowed to use this assumption of marriage, being a rationale for hostile discrimination denying benefits to a married daughter, especially in the wake of the fact that equal benefits are being extended to a son, whether married or unmarried.”

Counsel for the respondents, Hemant Vaid, J.S. Guleria and Hemanshu Mishra, argued that the petitioner is ineligible for appointment on compassionate grounds as the policy is only applicable to the dependents of the deceased Government employee and the marriage of the petitioner, in this case, disentitles her to be counted as a dependent of the deceased government employee. As per the respondents, elements of the policy of compassionate appointment are not only based on financial circumstances, but also on social circumstances such as in the present case.

 Observations

In addition to its decision, the Court cited the following cases;

In a judgment by Uttranchal High Court; Udham Singh Nagar District cooperative Bank Ltd. v. Anjula Singh, it was said, “Non-inclusion of a ‘married daughter’ in the definition of a ‘family’, under rule 2(c) of the 1974 Rules and the note below Regulation 104 of the 1975 Regulations, thereby denying her the opportunity of being considered for compassionate appointment, even though she was dependent on the Government servant at the time of his death, is discriminatory and is in violation of Articles 14, 15 and 16 in Part III of the Constitution of India.”

High Court of Madras in, N.Uma v. The Director of Elementary School Education, observed, “(…) artificial classification between married son and married daughter only on the basis of sex would tantamount to gender discrimination. If a married son is considered to be a part of the family, this Court is at a loss to understand as to why a married daughter should not be included in the definition of family.”

Vimla Srivastava and others 2016(1) ADJ 21 (DB), “Marriage does not have and should not have a proximate nexus with identity. The identity of a woman as a woman continues to subsist even after and notwithstanding her marital relationship. The time has, therefore, come for the Court to affirmatively emphasis that it is not open to the State, if it has to act in conformity with the fundamental principle of equality which is embodied in Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution, to discriminate against married daughters, by depriving them of the benefit of a horizontal reservation, which is made available to a son irrespective of his marital status.”

Reflecting upon the object of having the policy for compassionate appointment and the duty of the State to ensure welfare for all, the Court under Para 21 of the judgment said,  “The object of compassionate appointment is not only social welfare, but also to support the family of the deceased government servant, so, the State, being a welfare State, should extend its hands to lift a family from penury and not to turn its back to married daughters, rather pushing them to penury. In case the State deprives compassionate appointment to a married daughter, who, after the death of the deceased employee, has to look after surviving family members, only for the reason that she is married, then the whole object of the policy is vitiated.”

 Decision

While allowing the present petition and issuing necessary directions to the respondent authorities, the Court held, “After incisive deliberations, it emerges that core purpose of compassionate appointment is to save a family from financial vacuum, created after the death of the deceased employee. This financial vacuum could be filled up by providing compassionate appointment to the petitioner, who is to look after the survivors of her deceased father and she cannot be deprived compassionate appointment merely on the ground that she is a married daughter, more particularly when there is no male child in the family and the petitioner is having ‘No Objection Certificates’ from her mother and younger sister, the only members in the family.”[Mamta Devi v. State of Himachal Pradesh, 2020 SCC OnLine HP 2125, decided on 28-10-2020]


Sakshi Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

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