DATE OF JUDGEMENT:
17th December 2021
Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul
Justice M.M. Sundresh
Appellant (s): The State of Karnataka & Ors.
Respondent (s): Apporva Shri & Anr.
- The Supreme Court in present case upheld the decision of High Court of Karnataka in the case of which Bhuvaneshwari V. Purani v. State of Karnataka, where the High Court struck down the word ‘unmarried’ from Rule 2(1)(a)(i), Rule 2(1)(b) and Rule 3(2)(i)(c) of the Karnataka Civil Services (Appointment on Compassionate Grounds) Rules, 1996 and declared exclusion of married daughters from the ambit of expression ‘family’ under the aforementioned rules as illegal and unconstitutional
1. In the present case, a special leave petition was filed in the Supreme Court of India by the State of Karnataka against the order of the High Court of Karnataka in the case of Bhuvaneshwari V. Purani VS. State of Karnataka that declared Rule 2(1)(a)(i), Rule 2(1)(b) and Rule 3(2)(i)(c) of the Karnataka Civil Services (Appointment on Compassionate Grounds) Rules, 1996 as illegal and unconstitutional.
2. The Supreme Court after analyzing the aforementioned judgment of the High Court gave ‘full imprimatur to the reasoning of the High Court’ which permitted a married daughter to avail compassionate appointment in case of death of her father.
3. brief facts of the case are as such:
a) A writ petition under Article 226 and 227 were filed in the State of Karnataka against the order of the Joint Director (administration) Department of Agriculture Marketing, which denied the petitioner/respondent herein compassionate appointment when her father, secretary of the office of APMC, died in harness on 31st May 2021.
b) Son of the deceased denied employment for having no interest in the same as he was already employed in a private firm. The petitioner, daughter of the deceased, was married and living with her mother after the death of her father.
c) The petitioner filed her representation seeking compassionate appointment under Karnataka Civil Services (Appointment on Compassionate Grounds) Rules, 1996, and the same was rejected on the ground that the petitioner is a married daughter and thus not eligible for compassionate employment under the said rules.
4. The counsel for the petitioner argued that denial of compassionate appointment violates the petitioner’s right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution as the ‘rule in the face of it is discriminatory as it seeks to divide entitlement based on gender.’ The counsel further contended that Rule 2(1)(a)(i), Rule 2(1)(b), and Rule 3(2)(i)(c) of the Karnataka Civil Services (Appointment on Compassionate Grounds) Rules, 1996 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Rules’ for short) should be declared as unconstitutional.
5. The counsel for the respondents/petitioners herein contended that ‘compassionate appointment is not a matter of right but a concession that is shown by the Government and any request for appointment on compassionate grounds will have to be strictly construed in terms of the Rules and not dehors the same.’ The counsel further argued that the rules have so far ‘stood the test of time’ and can’t be declared ultra vires as the compassionate appointment is a ‘concession and not a right.’
Karnataka Civil Services (Appointment on Compassionate Grounds) Rules, 1996:
- Rule 2(1)(a)(1)- in the case of a deceased male Government servant, his widow, son [unmarried daughter and widowed daughter] who were dependent upon him and were living with him; and
- Rule 2(1)(b)- "Family" in relation to a deceased Government servant means his or her spouse and their son [unmarried daughter and widowed daughter], [unmarried brother, unmarried or widowed sister] who were living with him.
- Rule 3(2)(1)(c)- Appointment under these rules shall be restricted to the dependent of a deceased Government servant in the following order of preference, namely. - [(i) in the case of the deceased male Government servant. - (c) an unmarried daughter, if the widow and son are not eligible or for any valid reason, they are not willing to accept the appointment;
Constitution of India
- Article 14- Equality before law.
- Article 15- Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
- Article 16- Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.
Whether Rule 2(1)(a)(i), Rule 2(1)(b), and Rule 3(2)(i)(c) of the Karnataka Civil Services (Appointment on Compassionate Grounds) Rules, 1996 are ultra vires the Constitution for it offends Article 14 of the Constitution of India?
- The high court of Karnataka had first detailed the objectives of the provision of compassionate appointment. The Court observed that the object of compassionate appointment is to help the family tide over the crisis that befalls them on the death of the sole breadwinner of the family.’ The Court relied on the judgment in the case of Umesh Kumar Nagpal v. the state of Haryana where the Court had noted that ‘the whole object of granting compassionate employment is thus to enable the family to tide over the crisis.’
- The Court then went on to explain the position of law with respect to the Constitution. The Court went on to explain that ‘Article 14 of the Constitution of India ensures equality among equals and its main objective is to protect persons similarly placed against discriminatory treatment. The equality before law guaranteed under Articles 14, 15, and 16 is a constitutional admonition against both the legislative and executive organs of the State.’ The Court stated that the rules in hand would have to withstand the test of the aforementioned articles.
- The Court then noted that the institution of marriage does not determine the relationship of a child with their parents. A son continues to be a son after marriage and the same holds in the case of a daughter. Such relationships are never determined by marital status. Hence, ‘this notion on which the Rule is framed cannot answer the tests of Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India.’
- The Court further observed that the Constitution is ‘not static but dynamic’ and its interpretation must change with the changing times. The Court declared the case at hand as a ‘classic example of the law being anachronistic.’ The rules give liberty to the married son to deny the appointment while the married daughter isn’t even given a choice in the matter. Therefore, ‘the Rule which declines such a benefit to a daughter merely on the ground that she is married is per se discriminatory.’
- The Court concluded that dependency is the key determinative factor for grant of compassionate appointment and the dependency could either be on the married son or married daughter and the marital status of a daughter should make no difference, as the married daughter does not cease to be a part of the family and law cannot make an assumption that married sons alone continue to be the part of the family. The rule ‘brooks discrimination based on gender and not to remain in the statute book as it would violate Articles 14, 15 and 16 of the Indian Constitution.’
- The Court then struck down the provision down the word “unmarried” in Rule 2(1)(a)(i), Rule 2(1)(b) and, Rule 3(2)(i)(c) of the Karnataka Civil Services (Appointment on Compassionate Grounds) Rules, 1996 and held that the exclusion of married daughters from the ambit of expression ‘family’ under the aforementioned rules is illegal and unconstitutional
The Court has delivered the judgement keeping in mind the changing societal character as what might have been apt a few decades back might not stand the test of the Constitution today. The Constitution of India is dynamic and flexible and every law must be in consonance with it.
Click here for Bhuvaneshwari Vs Purani vs State of Karnataka Judgment.
Click here for The State Of Karnataka & Ors Vs Apporva Shri & Anr Judgment.