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This article has been written by Vaishali Jain.

Introduction

Compassionate Appointment is a social security scheme launched by the Government of India to grant appointment to a dependent family member on a compassionate basis when a Government servant dies while in service or retires on medical grounds. The Objective of the scheme is to provide immediate financial assistance to the family who is left in poverty and without any means to sustain their livelihood.

Dr. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Sitting Supreme Court Judge emphasized in the case of N.C. Santhosh V. State of Karnataka & Ors that “appointment to any public post is to be made in accordance with Articles 14 (Right to Equality) & Article 16 (Right to equal opportunity to all citizens in the matter of employment) of the Constitution of India and the Exception to this general rule is Compassionate Appointment”.

Compassionate appointment

As per the ‘Office Memorandum’ issued by the Government of India via the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions (Department of Personnel and Training) dated 16.01.2013 wherein the subject related to compassionate appointment has been discussed:

For the purpose of compassionate appointment, ‘Government Servant’ is defined as government servant appointed on regular basis and not a daily wage worker or a casual apprentice or a worker on a contractual basis; and Dependent Family member means spouse, son (also includes adopted son) and Daughter (also includes adopted daughter). In the case of the Government servant being unmarried (brother or sister), they will qualify as dependent family members who are completely relying on the Government servant at the time of his retirement on medical grounds or his death in harness.

Competent authority to make a compassionate appointment is:

  • Joint Secretary in-charge of administration in the concerned Department/Ministry.
  • In the case of attached and subordinate offices, the Head of the Department is the competent authority.
  • In special types of case, the competent authority is the Secretary of the concerned Ministry/Department.

Applicability 

The scheme of compassionate appointment applies to a Dependent Family member:

Of a Government Servant who:

  • Dies during service (also includes suicidal death); or 
  • Retires on medical grounds under Rule 2 of the CCS (Medical Examination) Rule, 1957 (Competent authority has  a reason to believe that the Government Servant is suffering from a contagious disease or a mental or physical disability and thus, is not able to discharge his duties); or 
  • Retires on medical grounds under Rule 38 of the CCS (Pension) Rules, 1972 (Invalid pension may be granted if the Government servant retires due to any bodily or mental infirmity which permanently disables him from the service).
  • Of the Armed Forces who:
  • Dies during service; or
  • Is killed in action; or
  • Is medically unfit for civil employment.

Eligibility

  • The family is impecunious and deserves prompt financial support.
  • Dependent family members applying for compassionate appointment should be eligible and suitable for the post under the relevant Recruitment Rules.

Procedure

  • The Welfare Officer in every Office/Department/Ministry shall meet the family of the government servant immediately after his death and assist them in getting a compassionate appointment.
  • At the first stage, the Applicant is called in person and asked to complete the required formalities. 
  • A committee of 3 officers, 1 Chairman and 2 members of the rank of Director in the Ministry/Deputy Secretary considers the application for appointment on compassionate grounds in the light of instructions issued by the Department of Personnel and Training. If need be, the applicant is granted a personal hearing by the committee to understand better the facts of the case.
  • The recommendation of the committee is to be placed before the competent authority for a decision. If the authority disagrees with the committee’s recommendation, then the case is referred to the next higher authority for a decision. 

Undertaking

The applicant i.e. the person appointed on compassionate grounds under the scheme should furnish an undertaking stating that she/he will maintain the other family members who were dependent on the income of the member of Armed forces/Government servant.

The appointment of the applicant will be terminated if there is a failure to comply with the above condition.

Issues involved in relation to compassionate appointment

Is a divorced daughter permitted to apply for a government job on compassionate grounds?

In the case of State of U.P. V. Noopur Srivastava, the Allahabad High Court held that “divorced daughter” is implicit in the expression “unmarried daughter” and thus, a divorced daughter is entitled to a compassionate appointment if she was supported by the government employee at the time of death and the marriage was legally dissolved either prior to or after the death of the job-holder of the family and remains unmarried at the time of the appointment.

What if an application for a compassionate appointment is not made immediately?

  • Departments/Ministries can consider belated requests for a compassionate appointment even when the retirement of the government servant on medical grounds or the death of the government servant took place long back, for example like 5 years ago.
  • The fact that the family has been able to manage themselves all these years are taken into consideration while dealing with the belated requests. Thus, the examination of such belated requests is done with circumspection. 
  • At the time of considering whether an application for a compassionate appointment is belated or not, reference is to be given to the date of death or retirement on medical grounds and not the age of the applicant.
  • The Secretary of the Department/Ministry concerned takes the decision in such cases of belated requests of appointment on compassionate grounds.

In Ravi Koch V. State of Meghalaya, the Meghalaya High Court dismissed the writ petition for compassionate appointment wherein the Petitioner’s father died in the year 1999 during service, and after the lapse of 18 years the Petitioner applies for compassionate appointment in 2017. The Court remarked that “the object of compassionate appointment is to save the family from immediate financial destitution, but in this case, the family has already survived by themselves for the last 18 years”. 

What if a widow appointed on the compassionate ground gets remarried?

A widow appointed on a compassionate basis will continue the service even if she decides to get remarried.

What if there is an earning member in the family?

  • In deserving cases with the approval of the Secretary of the Department or the concerned Ministry, a dependent family member can be appraised for a compassionate appointment even if there is an earning member.
  • Before granting such an appointment, certain things are taken into consideration such as the income of the earning member, assets and liabilities left by the government servant and the number of dependents.

What if the Government Servant is missing?

The scheme of compassionate appointment also covers the case where a Government Servant has been missing. Such cases are subject to the following condition:

  • A request to grant compassionate appointment to a dependent family member can be made only after the lapse of at least 2 years from the date the Government servant is missing, provided that :
    • FIR has been lodged with the Police,
    • The missing person is nowhere to be found, and
    • The competent authority feels that the case is genuine.

A decision on such a request of compassionate appointment will be made by the Secretary of the Department or the concerned Ministry.

Compassionate appointment in the case of a missing government servant is not a matter of right and thus is subjected to fulfilment of certain conditions such as availability of vacancy.

The outcome of the Police investigation is to be taken into consideration while examining such a request.

The benefit of the scheme of the compassionate appointment to a dependent family member while the government servant is missing will NOT be applicable:-

If the Government servant is suspected to have joined a terrorist organization or is suspected of committing fraud or suspected to have gone abroad.

If the Government servant had less than 2 years to retire on the date from which he is missing.

Is a married daughter entitled to get the benefit of a Compassionate Appointment?

In Mamta Devi V. State of Himachal Pradesh, the father of the petitioner died in harness leaving behind a widow and 2 daughters. The petitioner i.e. married daughter who has to take care of her widowed mother and sister applied for a compassionate appointment with the ‘non-objection certificate’ from her mother and sister. 

The petitioner was barred from getting a compassionate appointment solely on the ground that she was married. The Court opined that “the object of the compassionate appointment is to support the family of the deceased government servant who died in harness and by not including married daughters in the sweep of the family; the object of the scheme cannot be achieved. The court further stated that a daughter remains to be a daughter even after marriage and thus, if a married son has a right to compassionate appointment, then a married daughter also stands on the same footing.”

Can an appointment on compassionate grounds be granted by courts?

In Life Insurance Corporation of India V. Mrs. Asha Ramchandra Ambekar, the Supreme Court of India held that Administrative Tribunals and High Courts can direct the Competent Authority/ concerned Department for considering the claim but cannot give direction for appointment on compassionate grounds. 

Way forward

India being a welfare state plays a major role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social wellbeing of its citizens. The State is required to make effective provisions for assisting the Government employees in securing the right to work and public assistance in case of old age, sickness, disablement. In case the government servant dies during service or retires on medical grounds, the Government makes sure that the family is not left in penury or without any means of sustenance by providing them with a compassionate appointment. 

Mere death of a Government servant in harness does not entitle the family to claim compassionate appointment. The competent authority needs to examine the financial state of the family, only if the competent authority is satisfied that without providing employment the family will not be able to get over the emergency; then a job is offered to the qualified member of the family. The Rules of the compassionate appointment are framed to mitigate the immediate financial distress of the family due to the death of the provider in the family and provide solace in difficult times. 

Such an appointment is provided instantly to rescue the family in distress.  A compassionate appointment is not to be mistaken as an alternative to the normal course of recruitment. There is no inherent right to seek compassionate appointment nor a dependent family member of the deceased government servant becomes automatically entitled to appointment; it is only a benefit provided by the State to overcome financial hardship.

This scheme goes a long way in providing a sense of security to the members of the armed forces and the government servants that if they suffer from any physical or mental infirmity or die during service; their family will be taken care of.


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