Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case where the Ahmednagar Mahanagar Palika/ Municipal Corporation was giving appointment to the heirs of the employees on their superannuation and/or retirement, the bench of MR Shah* and BV Nagarathna, JJ has held that such appointment is contrary to the object and purpose of appointment on compassionate grounds and is hit by Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

In 2003, Ahmednagar Municipal Council was converted to Ahmednagar Mahanagar Palika. In 1979, when the Municipal Council was in existence, an industrial dispute was raised by the Union with respect to the employment to be given to the heirs of the employees. At the relevant time, it was agreed by the Municipal Council that the employees in Class-IV category (if they die before their retirement) in all departments, except Health Department, if they become invalid, or if they retire, their heirs will be given appointment in their place. Consequently, by judgment and award dated 30.03.1981, the Industrial Court directed that the employees in Class-IV category, if they die before their retirement; if they become invalid, or if they retire, their heirs should be given appointment in their place.

The Supreme Court was of the opinion that,

  • firstly, the judgment and award of the Industrial Court was passed in the year 1981, when the Municipal Council was in existence.
  • secondly, once the Municipal Council was converted to Municipal Corporation/Mahanagar Palika, all the employees under Mahanagar Palika/Municipal Corporation came to be governed by the scheme/rules & regulations framed by the State Government, which does not provide for any appointment on compassionate grounds or the appointment to the heirs of the employees on their superannuation/retirement.

Even otherwise, explaining the scope of compassionate appointment, the Court said that it shall always be treated as an exception to the normal method of recruitment. The appointment on compassionate grounds is provided upon the death of an employee in harness without any kind of security whatsoever. The appointment on compassionate grounds is not automatic and shall be subject to the strict scrutiny of various parameters including the financial position of the family, the economic dependence of the family upon the deceased employee and the avocation of the other members of the family. No one can claim to have a vested right for appointment on compassionate grounds. Therefore,

“appointment on compassionate grounds cannot be extended to the heirs of the employees on their superannuation and/or retirement. If such an appointment is permitted, in that case, outsiders shall never get an appointment and only the heirs of the employees on their superannuation and/or retirement shall get an appointment and those who are the outsiders shall never get an opportunity to get an appointment though they may be more meritorious and/or well educated and/or more qualified.”

Hence, both the Judgment and award passed by the Industrial Court as well as the Bombay High Court in directing the Mahanagar Palika/Municipal Corporation to give appointment to the heirs of the employees on their superannuation and/or retirement, have been held to be unsustainable and hence, quashed and set aside.

[Ahmednagar Mahanagar Palika v. Ahmednagar Mahanagar Palika Kamgar Union, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1154, decided on 05.09.2022]


*Judgment by: Justice MR Shah


For Municipal Corporation: Advocate Suhas Kadam

For Union: Advocate Iyer Shruti Gopal

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Speaking about the systemic discrimination on account of gender at the workplace which encapsulates the patriarchal construction that permeates all aspects of a woman’s being from the outset, including reproduction, sexuality and private choices, within an unjust structure, the bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud* and Vikram Nath, JJ has observed that it becomes necessary for the Government to adopt policies through which it produces substantive equality of opportunity as distinct from a formal equality for women in the workplace.

“Women are subject to a patriarchal mindset that regards them as primary caregivers and homemakers and thus, they are burdened with an unequal share of family responsibilities. Measures to ensure substantive equality for women factor in not only those disadvantages which operate to restrict access to the workplace but equally those which continue to operate once a woman has gained access to the workplace. The impact of gender in producing unequal outcomes continues to operate beyond the point of access. The true aim of achieving substantive equality must be fulfilled by the State in recognizing the persistent patterns of discrimination against women once they are in the workplace.”

The Court further observed that the manner in which a special provision should be adopted by the State is a policy choice which has to be exercised after balancing out constitutional values and the needs of the administration. But there can be no manner of doubt that the State, both in its role as a model employer as well as an institution which is subject to constitutional norms, must bear in mind the fundamental right to substantive equality when it crafts the policy even for its own employees.

“The State while formulating a policy for its own employees has to give due consideration to the importance of protecting family life as an element of the dignity of the person and a postulate of privacy. How a particular policy should be modulated to take into account the necessities of maintaining family life may be left at the threshold to be determined by the State. In crafting its policy however the State cannot be heard to say that it will be oblivious to basic constitutional values, including the preservation of family life which is an incident of Article 21.”

The observations came in the judgment where the Court has upheld the Kerala High Court verdict that had held that the Central Excise and Customs Commissionerates Inspector (Central Excise, Preventive Officer and Examiner) Group ‘B’ Posts Recruitment Rules 2016 (RR 2016) withdrawing the Inter-Commissionerate Transfers (ICTs) is not invalid as ICTs would violate the unique identity of each cadre envisaged under Rule 5 of RR 2016.

The Court, however, left it open to the Union of India to revisit the policy to accommodate posting of spouses, the needs of the disabled and compassionate grounds.

Read more: Withdrawal of  Inter-Commissionerate Transfers not invalid but Recruitment Rules 2016 may be revisited to accommodate posting of spouses, disabled persons and compassionate grounds

[SK Nausad Rahaman v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 297, decided on 10.03.2022]


*Judgment by: Justice Dr. DY Chandrachud


Counsels

For appellants and Intervenors: Senior Advocates Maninder Singh, Vibha Datta Makhija, PN Ravindran, Narender Hooda and Rana Mukherjee, and advocates Rishi Kapoor and Umakant Misra

For respondents: KM Nataraj, Additional Solicitor General

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud* and Vikram Nath, JJ has upheld the Kerala High Court verdict that had held that the Central Excise and Customs Commissionerates Inspector (Central Excise, Preventive Officer and Examiner) Group ‘B’ Posts Recruitment Rules 2016 (RR 2016) withdrawing the Inter-Commissionerate Transfers (ICTs) is not invalid as ICTs would violate the unique identity of each cadre envisaged under Rule 5 of RR 2016.

The Court, however, left it open to the Union of India to revisit the policy to accommodate posting of spouses, the needs of the disabled and compassionate grounds.

RR 2016 vis-à-vis CBIC Circular dated 20.09.2018

While clarifying that under RR 2016, there is no specific provision allowing for ICTs, the circular notes that Rule 5 stipulates that each CCA will have its own separate cadre, unless otherwise directed by the Board. Rule 5 has been construed to mean that given that each CCA is to have its own cadre, ICTs, which involve a transfer from one Commissionerate to another would no longer be permissible and accordingly all orders for such transfers which were issued on or after 26 December 2016 (the date on which RR 2016 were notified) would be non-est. The circular, however, allows that in exceptional circumstances, depending upon the merits of each case and on extreme compassionate grounds, such transfers may be allowed on ‘case to case on loan basis’ keeping in view the administrative requirements of the transferee and the transferred CCAs. However, the maximum tenure of such transfer has been fixed as three years which can be extended by a further period of two years.

Three Grounds on which the Circular was challenged

Ban on ICTs with respect to different classes of posts within the same service is discriminatory between Group A, B and C employees

The Court refused to accept this ground as there is no material on record to indicate that all three groups are pari materia with each other. It may be the case that the instances of abuse of ICTs is higher with respect to employees in Group B, as opposed to the other groups. Such decisions are taken keeping in mind the strength of the service and the needs of the administration

Gender Equality

The provision which has been made for spousal posting is in that sense fundamentally grounded on the need to adopt special provisions for women which are recognized by Article 15(3) of the Constitution. The manner in which a special provision should be adopted by the State is a policy choice which has to be exercised after balancing out constitutional values and the needs of the administration. But there can be no manner of doubt that the State, both in its role as a model employer as well as an institution which is subject to constitutional norms, must bear in mind the fundamental right to substantive equality when it crafts the policy even for its own employees.

“The State while formulating a policy for its own employees has to give due consideration to the importance of protecting family life as an element of the dignity of the person and a postulate of privacy. How a particular policy should be modulated to take into account the necessities of maintaining family life may be left at the threshold to be determined by the State. In crafting its policy however the State cannot be heard to say that it will be oblivious to basic constitutional values, including the preservation of family life which is an incident of Article 21.”

Equal treatment of disabled persons

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 is a statutory mandate for recognizing the principle of reasonable accommodation for the disabled members of society. The formulation of a policy therefore, must take into account the mandate which Parliament imposes as an intrinsic element of the right of the disabled to live with dignity.

The circular dated 20 September 2018 has taken into account, what it describes “exceptional circumstances” such as “extreme compassionate grounds”. Leaving these categories undefined, the circular allows for individual cases to be determined on their merits on a case-by-case basis, while prescribing that transfers on a “loan basis” may be allowed subject to administrative requirements with a tenure of three years, extendable by a further period of two years.

While proscribing ICTs which envisage absorption into a cadre of a person from a distinct cadre, the circular permits a transfer for a stipulated period on a loan basis. Whether such a provision should be suitably enhanced to specifically include cases involving (i) postings of spouses; (ii) disabled persons; or (iii) compassionate transfers, is a matter which should be considered at a policy level by the Board.

[SK Nausad Rahaman v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 297, decided on 10.03.2022]


*Judgment by: Justice Dr. DY Chandrachud


Counsels

For appellants and Intervenors: Senior Advocates Maninder Singh, Vibha Datta Makhija, PN Ravindran, Narender Hooda and Rana Mukherjee, and advocates Rishi Kapoor and Umakant Misra

For respondents: KM Nataraj, Additional Solicitor General

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Holding that the condition imposed by the Railway Board circular that compassionate appointment cannot be granted to children born from the second wife of a deceased employee is discriminatory, the 3-judge bench of UU Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat and PS Narsimha*, JJ has held that an applicant cannot be denied consideration under the scheme of compassionate appointments only because he is the son of the second wife of his father.

The Court applied the law laid down by the Court in Union of India v. V.R. Tripathi, (2019) 14 SCC 646, wherein it was held that such a denial is discriminatory, being only on the ground of descent under Article 16(2) of the Constitution.

The Court, in the said judgment, had held that the scheme and the rules of compassionate appointment cannot violate the mandate of Article 14 of the Constitution. Once Section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act regards a child born from a marriage entered into while the earlier marriage is subsisting to be legitimate, it would violate Article 14 if the policy or rule excludes such a child from seeking the benefit of compassionate appointment. The circular creates two categories between one class, and it has no nexus to the objects sought to be achieved. Once the law has deemed them legitimate, it would be impermissible to exclude them from being considered under the policy.

“Exclusion of one class of legitimate children would fail to meet the test of nexus with the object, and it would defeat the purpose of ensuring the dignity of the family of the deceased employee.”

Relying on a number of Supreme Court rulings, the Court observed that compassionate appointment is an exception to the constitutional guarantee under Article 16, a policy for compassionate appointment must be consistent with the mandate of Articles 14 and 16. That is to say, a policy for compassionate appointment, which has the force of law, must not discriminate on any of the grounds mentioned in Article 16(2), including that of descent. Hence, in this regard, ‘descent’ must be understood to encompass the familial origins of a person.

“Familial origins include the validity of the marriage of the parents of a claimant of compassionate appointment and the claimant’s legitimacy as their child. The policy cannot discriminate against a person only on the ground of descent by classifying children of the deceased employee as legitimate and illegitimate and recognizing only the right of legitimate descendant.”

[Mukesh Kumar v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 229, decided on 24.02.2022]


*Judgment by: Justice PS Narsimha


Counsels

For Appellant: Advocate Manish Kumar Saran

For Respondent: Advocate Meera Patel

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Dealing with the issue relating to the right of promotion under the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, the bench of Sanjay Kishan Kaul and R. Subhash Reddy, JJ has held that a person with disability should be considered for promotion along with other persons working in the feeder cadre.

The Court explained that the mandate of Section 32 of the 1995 Act enjoins the government to identify posts that can be filled up with persons with disability. Thus, even posts in promotional cadre have to be identified for PwD and such posts have to be reserved for PwD. The identification of such posts is no doubt a prerequisite for reservation in promotion for PwD.

“There cannot be methodology used to defeat the reservation in promotion. Once that post is identified, the logical conclusion would be that it would be reserved for PwD who have been promoted. The absence of rules to provide for reservation in promotion would not defeat the rights of PwD to a reservation in promotion as it flows from the legislation.”

The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 was enacted which came into force on 7th February, 1996. In 2007, India ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). In pursuance to the debates in the Standing Committee of the Parliament, The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 replaced the 1995 Act.

The Court made clear that the 2016 Act has now taken care of how to deal with the aspect of reservation in promotion. However, the law in the present case was required to be propounded as a large number of cases may still arise in the context of the 1995 Act.

“Even under the 1995 Act, the rights of PwD, and how they would attain an equal opportunity has been an ongoing exercise blocked by a greater impediment of a social mind set change and the 2016 Act is the result thereof.”

Background

The Court was hearing the case where the respondent was appointed in 1996 to the post of Typist/clerk in the Police Department on compassionate grounds, after her brother had passed away during service. She undisputedly suffered from Post Polio Residual Paralysis (L) Lower Limb and her permanent disability had been assessed at 55%.

The respondent subsequently cleared all departmental tests for promotion, and was test qualified in December, 1998. She was given a category change to Lower Division clerk in July, 2001 without losing her seniority and later on promoted as Senior Clerk (equivalent to Upper Division Clerk) on 16th September, 2004, based on the seniority list of test qualified LDCs.

She was thereafter promoted to the post of a Cashier on 5th May, 2015.

She, however, contended that she was entitled to promotion as a Senior Clerk with effect from 1st July, 2002 with all consequential benefits and as a Cashier with effect from 20th May, 2012 with all consequential benefits and thereafter as Junior Superintendent with effect from the date of her entitlement. This plea was predicated on reservation in matters of promotion which she sought under the 1995 Act as she suffered from physical disability.

What does the law state?

The Court held that the 1995 Act mandates reservations in promotions for persons with disabilities as it provides for equal opportunity for career progression, including promotion. Thus, it would be negation of the legislative mandate if promotion is denied to PwD and such reservation is confined to the initial stage of induction in service. This would in fact result in stagnation of the disabled in a consequential frustration.[1]

Further, the operation of reservation and the computation has to be made with reference to the total number of vacancies in the cadre strength and no distinction should be made between posts to be filled by direct recruitment and by promotion.

However, it is important to note that,

  • there has to be rules providing for promotion from the feeder cadre to the provisional post as there cannot be promotions even for the PwD de hors the rules as a singular benefit.
  • the requirement under Section 32 of the 1995 Act has also to be completed for identifying the posts in the promotional cadre.

What happens when the State does not provide for any reservation in promotion for PwD?

The mandate of Section 32 of the 1995 Act enjoins the government to identify posts that can be filled up with persons with disability and the absence of rules to provide for reservation in promotion would not defeat the rights of PwD to a reservation in promotion as it flows from the legislation. Thus, even posts in promotional cadre have to be identified for PwD and such posts have to be reserved for PwD. The identification of such posts is no doubt a prerequisite for reservation in promotion for PwD.

“There cannot be methodology used to defeat the reservation in promotion. Once that post is identified, the logical conclusion would be that it would be reserved for PwD who have been promoted.”

The only caveat to the aforesaid would be if the Government is of the view that the posts in the promotional cadre cannot be reserved for PwD category due to functional or other reasons and that should not be a ruse to defeat the reservation in promotion.

Understandably, such a scenario will result in frustration and stagnation as others may get promoted even over the persons with disability as submitted by the learned Amicus Curiae, more often than not, the disability comes in the way of meeting the requirements for promotion. In such a situation, the government will have to explore methods to address the issue of stagnation of PwD.

In the aforesaid eventuality, Amicus Curiae suggested:

(a) to provide promotional avenues in other departments/establishments (where posts are identified for PwD at a higher level) or

(b) grant of higher pay in the same post. This is stated to be an obligation flowing from Section 47 of the 1995 Act.

“… non-discrimination in employment is a mandate of the legislature.”

[State of Kerala v. Leesamma Joseph,  2021 SCC OnLine SC 435, decided on 28.06.2021]


*Judgment by: Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul

Know Thy Judge| Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul

Gaurav Agrawal as Amicus Curiae

S.K. Rungta,  Senior Counsel and Archit Verma, Legal Consultant in the office of Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities.

[1] Viklang Sang Haryana vs, State of Haryana, 2011 SCC OnLine P&H 4266

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the matter where the employees of Prasar Bharati, who are ‘persons with disability’ (PWD), had alleged that they have been deprived of the statutory right under the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 with respect to the Group A and B posts out of the four A to D Groups of Prasar Bharati, the Court directed the Government to extend three percent reservation to PWD in all identified posts in Group A and Group B, irrespective of the mode of filling up of such posts.

It was contended by the respondents that as per the Regulations framed under the Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Act, 1990, Memorandum II provides for reservation in favour of PWD to the extent of three per cent in all the IDENTIFIED POSTS in Prasar Bharati, when these are filled up by direct recruitment. However, it provides for three per cent reservation in IDENTIFIED POSTS falling in Groups ‘C’ and ‘D’ irrespective of the mode of recruitment i.e. whether by direct recruitment or by promotion. As a consequence, the statutory benefit of three per cent reservation in favour of PWD is denied insofar as IDENTIFIED POSTS in Groups ‘A’ and ‘B’ are concerned, since these posts, under relevant regulations of Prasar Bharati are to be filled up exclusively through direct recruitment.

The bench of J. Chelameswar and Abhay Manohar Sapre, JJ rejected the said contention and held that once a post is identified under Section 32 of the 1995 Act, it means that a PWD is fully capable of discharging the functions associated with the identified post. Once found to be so capable, reservation under Section 33 of the 1995 Act to an extent of not less than three per cent must follow. Once the post is identified, it must be reserved for PWD irrespective of the mode of recruitment adopted by the State for filling up of the said post. The Court, hence, held the impugned memoranda to be illegal and inconsistent with the 1995 Act. [Rajeev Kumar Gupta v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 651, decided on 30.06.2016]