Pat HC | Bar on compassionate appointment of a child born out of second marriage void, as S. 16 of Hindu Marriage Act confers legitimacy on such child

Patna High Court: The Three-Judge Bench of Ashwani Kumar Singh, Birendra Kumar and Anil Kumar Upadhyay, JJ. disposed of an appeal arising out of a reference made by the Division Bench of this Court, in view of conflicting judgments on the aspect of maintainability of a claim for compassionate appointment of a child born from the second marriage of deceased employee, while the first marriage is subsisting.

A circular issued in 2005 under by the Personnel and Administrative Reforms Department of Government of Bihar declared that if a government servant marries while earlier marriage is subsisting, without the permission of the government, then such spouse and the ward of such spouse would be disentitled for appointment on compassionate ground. In a petition filed before this Court, the learned Single Judge quashed the said circular and directed the petitioner authority to appoint minor-respondent herein (whose father died in harness and who was the son of deceased’s second wife) on compassionate grounds. 

The Court relied on Union of India v. V.R. Tripathi, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 3097 where the right to compassionate appointment to child of second marriage was acknowledged under Section 16(1) and 16(3) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (HMA); and where it was held that while designing a policy of compassionate appointment, State can prescribe the terms on which it can be granted. However, while making a scheme/ rule, State could not lay down conditions inconsistent with Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

It was opined that once Section 16 of HMA regards a child born from a marriage entered into while the earlier marriage is subsisting to be legitimate, the State could not exclude such a child from seeking the benefit of compassionate appointment. An employer, who is amenable to Part III of the Constitution, could not deny the benefit of compassionate appointment available to other legitimate children. Such a condition of exclusion would be arbitrary and ultra vires as it would bring out unconstitutional discrimination between legitimate children, who form one class.

If a government servant performs the second marriage, it would amount to misconduct committed in service. In such a case, if he is proceeded against for such misconduct while in service and misconduct is proved, the government may be free to take any action against such employee and the same may be a relevant consideration for denying the prayer for compassionate appointment of dependents of the deceased employee. However, if no disciplinary proceeding is initiated for any misconduct against an employee while in service; after his death, his dependents cannot be denied compassionate appointment on the ground that while in service, the employee had been guilty of misconduct.

It was observed that appointment on compassionate ground is not a source of recruitment but an exception to the general rule, the purpose of which is to prevent destitution and penury in the family of a deceased employee. Application for compassionate appointment must be decided on facts of each individual case. Therefore, the impugned order was modified and the subject circular was quashed to the extent it prevented children of the second wife from being considered for appointment on the compassionate ground; with a direction to the appellant to consider the claim of the respondent for appointment on compassionate ground on merit.[Bihar State Electricity Board v. Chadra Shekhar Paswan, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 562, decided on 18-04-2019]

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