Supreme Court rules divorced daughter can't be treated at par with widowed or unmarried daughter
The Apex Court further felt that the act of filing for divorce immediately after the Government employee's death would suggest that the decree of divorce by mutual consent has been obtained only to get an appointment on compassionate ground
The Supreme Court has set the norms straight on the appointment of a divorced daughter on compassionate grounds by setting aside a Karnataka High Court judgment.
The Apex Court bench of Justices M.R. Shah and Aniruddha Bose clarified that norms prevailing on the date of consideration of the application should be the basis of consideration of the claim for compassionate appointment.
Karnataka High Court had earlier ruled that a divorced daughter would fall in the same class as an unmarried or widowed daughter for Karnataka Civil Services (Appointment on Compassionate Grounds) Rules, 1996.
In this case, the writ petitioner's mother was employed with the Government of Karnataka as Second Division Assistant at Mandya District Treasury. Following her death, the petitioner filed an application for a job on compassionate appointment.
Her application was rejected by the concerned authorities on the ground that there was no provision provided under Rule 3(2)(ii) of Karnataka Civil Services (Appointment on Compassionate Grounds) Rules 1996 for divorced daughters, prompting the applicant to file a writ petition in the High Court, which directed the state authorities to consider her application.
The High Court interpreted Rule 3 and observed that a divorced daughter would fall in the same class as an unmarried or widowed daughter. It further said that a divorced daughter has to be considered at par with an unmarried or widowed daughter.
In appeal, the Supreme Court summarized the observations made about the grant of appointment on compassionate ground in earlier judgments including the recent one on N.C. Santhosh v State of Karnataka (2020) 7 SCC 617:
(i) that the compassionate appointment is an exception to the general rule;
(ii) that no aspirant has a right to compassionate appointment;
(iii) the appointment to any public post in the service of the State has to be made on the basis of the principle in accordance with Articles 14 and 1;
(iv) appointment on compassionate ground can be made only on fulfilling the norms laid down by the State's policy and/or satisfaction of the eligibility criteria as per the policy;
(v) the norms prevailing on the date of the consideration of the application should be the basis for consideration of the claim for compassionate appointment.
Referring to the Karnataka Rules, the court noted that only unmarried daughter and widowed daughter who were dependent upon the deceased female Government servant at the time of her death and living with her can be said to be dependent of a deceased Government servant.
The court further noted that an unmarried daughter and a widowed daughter only can be said to be eligible for appointment on compassionate ground in the case of death of the female Government servant.
"As observed hereinabove and even as held by this Court in the case of N.C. Santhosh (Supra), the norms prevailing on the date of consideration of the application should be the basis of consideration of claim for compassionate appointment. The word 'divorced daughter' has been added subsequently by Amendment, 2021. Therefore, at the relevant time when the deceased employee died and when the original writ petitioner – respondent herein made an application for appointment on compassionate ground the 'divorced daughter' were not eligible for appointment on compassionate ground and the 'divorced daughter' was not within the definition of 'dependent.'," the Apex Court observed.
The court also took note of the fact that immediately after the death of the deceased employee, the petitioner had initiated the divorced proceedings under Section 13B of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for the decree of divorce by mutual consent.
The bench further felt that this act would suggest that the decree of divorce by mutual consent has been obtained only for the purpose of getting an appointment on compassionate ground. It also noted that at the time when the deceased employee died on 25.03.2012 the marriage between the respondent and her husband was subsisting.
The Supreme Court ruled that at the time when the deceased employee died she was a married daughter and therefore, also cannot be said to be 'dependent' as defined under Rule 2 of the Rules 1996.
Even if it is assumed that the 'divorced daughter' may fall in the same class of 'unmarried daughter' and 'widowed daughter' in that case also the date on which the deceased employee died she – respondent herein was not the 'divorced daughter' as she obtained the divorce by mutual consent subsequent to the death of the deceased employee, the court observed.
"Therefore, also the respondent shall not be eligible for the appointment on compassionate ground on the death of her mother and deceased employee," the bench said while setting aside the High Court judgment.