Central Coalfields Limited vs Parden Oraon on 9 April, 2021


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Supreme Court of India

Central Coalfields Limited vs Parden Oraon on 9 April, 2021

Author: L. Nageswara Rao

Bench: [ S ], [ L ]

                                                 Non-Reportable

        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
          CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                Civil Appeal No.897 of 2021
 (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (C) No. 10514 of 2020)



Central Coalfields Limited
Through its Chairman and
Managing Director & Ors.                 .... Appellant(s)

                           Versus

Smt. Parden Oraon                         …. Respondent (s)


                      JUDGMENT

L. NAGESWARA RAO, J.

1. The respondent requested the appellants to appoint her

son in the place of his father who was missing since 2002 which

was rejected. Aggrieved thereby, the Respondent filed a writ

petition in the High Court of Jharkhand. The writ petition was

allowed and the appeal filed by the appellant was dismissed by

the Division Bench of the High Court. Hence this appeal.

2. The husband of the respondent was an Operator, Helper

Category (Category II) at Gidi Washery. The Respondent

informed the officer in-charge of Bhurkunda Thana, Hazaribagh

that her husband was missing since 03.10.2002. A copy of the

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said information was communicated to the Regional Officer of

the Gidi Washery. A charge-sheet was issued by Appellant No. 1

to the Respondent’s husband for desertion of duty since

01.10.2002 and an inquiry was conducted in which the

Respondent participated on behalf of her husband. On the basis

of Inquiry Officer’s report, the Appellant No. 1 terminated the

services of the Respondent’s husband with effect from

21.09.2004.

3. The Respondent filed a suit in the Court of the Additional

Munsif, Hazaribagh seeking a declaration of civil death of her

missing husband. The said suit was decreed with effect from the

date of filing of the suit i.e. 23.12.2009 by a judgment dated

13.07.2012. The Respondent made a representation on

17.01.2013 seeking compassionate appointment for her son

which was rejected on 03.05.2013. The request for

compassionate appointment was rejected by Appellant No. 1 on

the ground that the Respondent’s husband was already

dismissed from service and therefore, the request for

compassionate appointment could not be entertained.

4. Challenging the rejection of the request for compassionate

appointment of her son, the Respondent filed a writ petition

before the High Court which was allowed by a judgment dated

03.08.2015. The High Court held that the proceedings leading to

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the termination of the Respondent’s husband from service

cannot be sustained in the eye of law. On the said basis, the

order of termination of Respondent’s husband from service was

quashed. The rejection of the claim of compassionate

appointment of her son was also quashed and the first appellant

was directed to consider the claim of compassionate

appointment of the Respondent’s son in accordance with law. By

an order dated 03.08.2016 the first Appellant decided that there

was no merit in the request for appointment of Respondent’s

son. It was observed in the order of rejection dated 03.08.2016

that the Respondent was in employment and both her sons were

shown as her dependents. It was further noted that the

Respondent’s husband was missing since 03.10.2002 and the

Respondent’s son was not entitled to seek compassionate

appointment which is normally provided as a succour to the

family of a deceased employee in harness. Another reason given

for rejecting the request for compassionate appointment was

that a decision was taken in the meeting of Directors (Personnel)

on 19.10.2013 that compassionate appointment cannot be

provided to the dependents of missing employees (Deemed

death).

5. The High Court through its judgment dated 16.08.2018 set

aside the order dated 03.08.2016 by holding that the note of

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discussions of the Directors meet held at Jaipur cannot be

considered as policy decision and it cannot be the basis for

rejection of the claim for compassionate appointment. The High

Court was of the view that the parties are bound by the National

Coal Wage Agreement. In respect of the Respondent’s

employment being the reason for rejection of request for

compassionate appointment, the High Court observed that there

is no policy decision of the appellant company not to offer

compassionate appointment in cases of double employment. As

the order of termination of services of Respondent’s husband

was quashed by the High Court, Respondent’s son was held to be

entitled for appointment. The Division Bench of the High Court

dismissed the appeal filed by the appellants. The National Coal

Wage Agreement was examined in detail by the Division Bench

to come to a conclusion that civil death of employee cannot be a

disqualification for compassionate appointment of the member

of his family. The contention of the Appellant that the decision

was taken by the Directors (Personnel) not to provide

employment to the children of employees who have suffered civil

death was not accepted by the Division Bench as it could not be

termed as a policy decision. The High Court observed that

there is no delay in seeking compassionate appointment after

having obtained a decree from the Civil Court declaring the

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Respondent’s husband to have suffered civil death. The Division

Bench upheld the finding of the Single Judge of the High Court

that there is no clause in the National Coal Wage Agreement

which prevents a claim for compassionate appointment on the

ground that another member of the family is in service.

6. The contention of the Appellant is that there is no right for

compassionate appointment available to the surviving family

members of the deceased employee in harness and one must

seek appointment on compassionate basis in accordance with

the relevant rules, regulations and schemes. It was submitted on

behalf of the Appellants that the Respondent’s husband was

missing since 2002. The suit filed by the Respondent seeking for

declaration of civil death of her husband was in 2009. The

request for compassionate appointment was made much later in

2013. In view of the delay in making a claim for compassionate

appointment, the very purpose of providing compassionate

appointment owing to the death of the breadwinner is not

served. In addition, the Respondent was in service of the

Appellant. It was also argued that though the National Coal Wage

Agreement does not contain any clause relating to the

dependents of the employee who suffered civil death to be

ineligible for compassionate appointment, the decision taken by

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the Directors (Personnel) in 2013 should be treated as a policy

decision governing compassionate appointment.

7. On behalf of the Respondent, it was submitted that there is

no provision in the National Coal Wage Agreement that a family

member of an employee who suffered civil death is not eligible

for compassionate appointment. There is also no provision that

the Respondent’s son cannot be given compassionate

appointment on the ground that she is working in the company.

The Respondent submitted that she was diligent in participating

in the departmental inquiry initiated against her husband and in

filing the civil suit for declaration of civil death of her husband

immediately on completion of 7 years from 2002. According to

the Respondent, the order of termination of services of her

husband was set aside by the High Court which has become

final. In any event, the respondent has retired from service in

2018 and her son needs the employment to take care of his

family.

8. The whole object of granting compassionate appointment

is to enable the family to tide over the sudden crisis which arises

due to the death of the sole breadwinner. The mere death of an

employee in harness does not entitle his family to such source of

livelihood. The authority concerned has to examine the financial

condition of the family of the deceased, and it is only if it is

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satisfied that but for the provision of employment, the family will

not be able to meet the crisis that the job is offered to the

eligible member of the family 1. It was further asseverated in the

said judgment that compassionate employment cannot be

granted after a lapse of reasonable period as the consideration

of such employment is not a vested right which can be exercised

at any time in the future. It was further held that the object of

compassionate appointment is to enable the family to get over

the financial crisis that it faces at the time of the death of sole

breadwinner, compassionate appointment cannot be claimed or

offered after a signficant lapse of time and after the crisis is over.

9. We are in agreement with the High Court that the reasons

given by the employer for denying compassionate appointment

to the Respondent’s son are not justified. There is no bar in the

National Coal Wage Agreement for appointment of the son of an

employee who has suffered civil death. In addition, merely

because the respondent is working, her son cannot be denied

compassionate appointment as per the relevant clauses of the

National Coal Wage Agreement. However, the Respondent’s

husband is missing since 2002. Two sons of the Respondent who

are the dependents of her husband as per the records, are also

shown as dependents of the Respondent. It cannot be said that

1 Umesh Kumar Nagpal vs. State of Haryana, (1994) 4 SCC 138

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there was any financial crisis created immediately after

Respondent’s husband went missing in view of the employment

of the Respondent. Though the reasons given by the employer

to deny the relief sought by the Respondent are not sustainable,

we are convinced that the Respondent’s son cannot be given

compassionate appointment at this point of time. The

application for compassionate appointment of the son was filed

by the Respondent in the year 2013 which is more than 10 years

after the Respondent’s husband had gone missing. As the object

of compassionate appointment is for providing immediate

succour to the family of a deceased employee, the Respondent’s

son is not entitled for compassionate appointment after the

passage of a long period of time since his father has gone

missing.

10. For the aforementioned reasons, we allow the appeal and

set aside the judgment of the High Court.

……………………………….J.
[ L. NAGESWARA RAO ]

……………………………….J.
[ S. RAVINDRA BHAT ]

New Delhi,
April 9, 2021.

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