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Supreme Court lays down the Principles applicable for the compassionate appointment with regards to Article 39 of the Indian Constitution

Kavya Sharma ,
  22 March 2023       Share Bookmark

Court :
Brief :

Citation :




3rd March, 2023







The Hon’ble Supreme Court (hereinafter referred to as ‘Supreme Court’ or ‘the Court’), has held that since a compassionate appointment is not an inherent privilege, it was decided as such that after a significant period of time has passed since the employee's passing, a dependent's request for a sympathetic meeting may not be taken into consideration.


Constitution of India 1950

  • Article 39 – states the directive principle of the state policy with respect to the standard of living of a person.


  • The Burdwan Municipality in West Bengal's dead workers' relatives submitted applications in 2006. The Municipality requested a three-person committee of the Chairperson, Executive Officer, and Deputy Director of Local Bodies, Burdwan Division to conduct an investigation to ascertain whether the candidates qualified for appointments on a humanitarian basis.
  • The Chairperson then transmitted a letter in 2013 seeking permission for a nomination made out of sympathy. The Director of Local Bodies received the suggested list of qualified applicants.
  • However, the Director of Local Bodies did not initiate any further action. As a result, one of the qualified applicants petitioned the Calcutta High Court in 2015 to be appointed on humanitarian grounds.
  • The High Court instructed the municipal authorities to make a choice within ten weeks and inform the Chairperson of that decision a week later.
  • The Director of Local Bodies issued an order saying that Urban Local Bodies did not have the power to evaluate appointments made on compassionate grounds. A writ appeal challenging the said ruling was submitted to the High Court.
  • A group of petitions concerning the same problem were reviewed by the High Court, and they were all dismissed. The Single Judge observed that the Municipality lacks a recognized program for sympathetic appointments.
  • Before a Division Bench, which approved the appeal, the Single Judge's ruling was contested. The Division Bench instructed the relevant authorities to take into account the petitions for humanitarian appointments after identifying the program within which the appointments can be taken into consideration.
  • The current appeal has been filed against the judgment of the division bench of High Court, which set aside the verdict of the single judge of the high court. 


  • Is it correct that the Division Bench of the High Court of Calcutta allowed the challenges brought by the Respondents-Writ Petitioners and ordered that the Appellant take into account their requests for sympathetic appointments?
  • The main issue raised by appeals is whether the State of West Bengal has a policy regulating the selection of compassionate replacements for municipal employees who pass away while on duty.
  • Whether the goal of a policy or plan for compassionate appointment is in line with a directive given years shortly after applications for compassionate appointments are approved to review and decide such applications?


  • It was argued by the council that the final decision given by the division bench was incorrect and was not in accordance with law therefore it should be liable to be dismissed. 
  • Appointment on the compassionate ground will not serve the relevant purpose as the main objective of such appointment is to fulfil the vacancy which was created due to emergency situation such as death of the government employee. This is necessary to provide adequate living to the dependent ones of the deceased. Therefore here it would be inappropriate to go with the compassionate appointment.  
  • It was argued that Circular No. 142-Emp. instructed states to create their own policies for compassionate appointment and made it clear that Circular No. 97-Emp. only applied to workers of the State Government.
  • A claim for a compassionate assignment cannot be made as a matter of right; rather, it must be considered in light of the pressing financial conditions of the deceased's dependents. Therefore, it would be useless to consider a claim that was made in 2005–2006 in 2023.
  • The council prays that present appeal should be allowed and the judgment of the division bench be dismissed.


  • The council stated that there was no interference made by the Division bench of the High Court 
  • Furthermore, it was argued that any program for humane hiring had to be implemented across all organizations, including governments. As a result, the Petitioner State was unable to argue that in the lack of a specific compassionate appointment policy for municipal workers, the staff members of the municipality were not suitable candidates for such appointments.
  • On the basis of Circular Nos. 301-Emp, 302-Emp, and 303-Emp, it is claimed that a humanitarian appointment might have been made in the lack of a policy created specifically for city workers.
  • The Respondents shouldn't be harmed as a result of the delay since it was solely the responsibility of the appellant's officials to act upon the Respondent's application. Diligently pursuing the issue with the officials was done by the respondents.


  • The court noted that a humanitarian appointment clause deviates from the general rules requiring an appointment to a position after a specific search process.
  • Compassionate appointment is not a way of employment. To ensure that the decedent's children are not left without a means of subsistence, the State or public sector organization must implement such a charitable plan.
  • Since it is not a vested right, compassionate work cannot be requested or given after the crisis has passed.
  • The main factor that should influence the choice made by the authorities, in this case, is the financial situation of the deceased person's family at the point of the deceased person's passing. The family in need should be rescued right away with that sympathetic meeting.
  • The court observed that if there is a considerable delay in deciding a claim for compassionate appointment, the sense of immediacy is lost and the authorities must take into account the fact that the dependents were able to sustain themselves during the period of delay. The court cautioned that granting compassionate appointment in such cases would be contrary to the principles of the constitution as it would be akin to treating the claim as a matter of inheritance based on a line of succession.
  • The court stated that although the application was submitted in 2006, the qualified applicants had not followed up on the issue for almost ten years. The applicants would no longer be eligible for relief under Article 226 due to their prolonged delay in contacting the High Court, the court observed.
  • The Court further criticized the officials for their careless handling of the requests for humanitarian appointments.
  •  The Court noted that the initial Circular had been amended by a 2007 circular to say that local government workers would not be eligible for the advantage of humanitarian assignment.


In the above case it was said that immediacy factors are the cornerstone of how a strategy or plan for compassionate appointments operates. Not only is a feeling of urgency required in the way the applications are handled by the relevant authorities, but also in the way the petitioner pursues his case before the governing bodies and, if necessary, before the courts.

The presence of a State policy is a precondition for making humanitarian appointments, the Court ruled, adding that there is no policy in place to regulate appointments to positions under local authorities in the State of West Bengal.

The court further observed that applications for humanitarian appointments submitted in 2006 cannot be taken into consideration or decided upon in 2023, particularly if the applicants did not vigorously pursue their claims. Due to the fact that the mentioned clause of appointment permits appointments to be made without adhering to the specified process, it is in form of an exception to the general rules and should only be used to further the stated goals. In order to help the deceased's family overcome their unexpected financial problem, the court should grant them permission.

Therefore Supreme Court overturned a decision made by the Calcutta High Court Division Bench awarding compassionate appointments to dead local government workers

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