Explained| Can compassionate appointment be given years after the death of the employee? What happens in case of employee’s civil death?

Supreme Court: In a case where a woman had sought compassionate appointment for her son 10 years after her husband had gone missing, the bench of L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ refused to grant the said relief and held,

“As the object of compassionate appointment is for providing immediate succour to the family of a deceased employee, the Respondent’s son is not entitled for compassionate appointment after the passage of a long period of time since his father has gone missing.”

Background

The respondent’s husband was an Operator, Helper Category (Category II) at Gidi Washery. He had gone missing in the year 2002. A charge-sheet was issued by Central Coalfields Limited to the Respondent’s husband for desertion of duty since 01.10.2002 and an inquiry was conducted in which the Respondent participated on behalf of her husband. On the basis of Inquiry Officer’s report, the Respondent’s husband’s services were terminated with effect from 21.09.2004.

The Respondent filed a suit in the Court of the Additional Munsif, Hazaribagh seeking a declaration of civil death of her missing husband. The said suit was decreed with effect from the date of filing of the suit i.e. 23.12.2009 by a judgment dated 13.07.2012.

The Respondent then made a representation on 17.01.2013 seeking compassionate appointment for her son which was rejected on 03.05.2013 on the ground that the Respondent’s husband was already dismissed from service and therefore, the request for compassionate appointment could not be entertained.

Jharkhand High Court’s decision

The High Court was of the opinion that the reasons given by the employer for denying compassionate appointment to the Respondent’s son were not justified. There was no bar in the National Coal Wage Agreement for appointment of the son of an employee who has suffered civil death. In addition, merely because the respondent is working, her son cannot be denied compassionate appointment as per the relevant clauses of the National Coal Wage Agreement.

Supreme Court’s ruling

Explaining the object behind grant of compassionate appointment, the Court explained,

“The whole object of granting compassionate appointment is to enable the family to tide over the sudden crisis which arises due to the death of the sole breadwinner. The mere death of an employee in harness does not entitle his family to such source of livelihood. The authority concerned has to examine the financial condition of the family of the deceased, and it is only if it is satisfied that but for the provision of employment, the family will not be able to meet the crisis that the job is offered to the eligible member of the family[1].”

However, compassionate employment cannot be granted after a lapse of reasonable period as the consideration of such employment is not a vested right which can be exercised at any time in the future.

The object of compassionate appointment is to enable the family to get over the financial crisis that it faces at the time of the death of sole breadwinner, compassionate appointment cannot be claimed or offered after a significant lapse of time and after the crisis is over.

In the present case, it cannot be said that there was any financial crisis created immediately after Respondent’s husband went missing in view of the employment of the Respondent. Though the Court agreed with the High Court’s views that the reasons given by the employer to deny the relief sought by the Respondent are not sustainable, it was of the opinion that the Respondent’s son cannot be given compassionate appointment at this point of time.

“The application for compassionate appointment of the son was filed by the Respondent in the year 2013 which is more than 10 years after the Respondent’s husband had gone missing. As the object of compassionate appointment is for providing immediate succour to the family of a deceased employee, the Respondent’s son is not entitled for compassionate appointment after the passage of a long period of time since his father has gone missing.”

[Central Coalfields Limited v. Parden Oraon, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 299, decided on 09.04.2021]


[1] Umesh Kumar Nagpal vs. State of Haryana, (1994) 4 SCC 138

*Judgment by: Justice L. Nageswara Rao

Know Thy Judge| Justice L. Nageswara Rao

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