(Appeal (civil) 409 of 2007)
Lakshmanan, J.: - Leave granted
On 07.08.1996, the Government of India, Ministry of
Finance, issued guidelines regarding scheme of appointment
of dependents of deceased employees on compassionate
grounds, which were entirely based on the observations of this
Court in Umesh Kumar Nagpal vs. State of Haryana &
Ors., (1994) 4 SCC 138. Subsequently, on 23.08.1996, the
Indian Banks Association issued a circular suggesting to all
Public Sector Banks, certain amendments to the scheme on
compassionate appointment, while taking into account the
financial condition of the family, the family pension, gratuity,
proceeds of LIC, etc should be taken into consideration. Based
on the guidelines issued by the Government of India and the
Indian Banks Association, the appellant Bank framed a
scheme for appointment on compassionate grounds for
dependent of deceased employees. A memorandum of the
same was presented before the Central Board of the Bank,
which was approved on 16.11.1996.
On 01.08.1999, Record Assistant (Cash & Accounts) in
the Dhab Wasti Ram, Amritsar branch, Sri. Sukhbir Inder
Singh (late), passed away. The respondent, widow of Sri.
Sukhbir Inder Singh applied for compassionate appointment
in the appellant Bank on 05.02.2000. On 07.01.2002, the
competent authority of the Bank declined the application of
the respondent in view of the scheme vis-`-vis the financial
position of the family. Against this decision of the authority
the respondent filed Civil Misc. Writ Petition No. 3077/2002
before the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The High Court ordered reconsideration of the case of
Jaspal Kaur, respondent herein by its order dated 11.12.2003.
On 05.03.2004, the Deputy General Manager of the Bank
reconsidered the case of the respondent and declined
appointment to the respondent on compassionate ground after
taking into consideration the financial condition of the family.
The Competent Authority thereafter declined the request of the
respondent on 03.04.2004. This decision was conveyed to the
respondent by the appellants on 05.04.2004.
Thereafter, the respondent filed one more Civil Misc. Writ
Petition No. 9629/2004 before the Punjab and Haryana High
Court praying for quashing of the order dated 03.04.2004. The
appellants filed their reply on 03.05.2005. On 20.09.2005, the
High Court allowed the writ petition filed by the respondents
and observed that, " the aforesaid kitty of Rs. 4,57,607/-
granted to the family on account of terminal benefits could not
be accepted to be sufficient . The said amount was naturally in
the shape of a security for the marriage of the daughters In
our considered view the aforesaid income is not sufficient for
the bare maintenance of the family".
It is against this order and judgment of the Punjab and
Haryana High Court, this Civil Appeal by way of Special Leave
Petition is preferred by the appellant Bank in this Court.
Learned senior counsel Mr. Mukul Rohtagi appeared on
behalf of the appellant Bank and learned Counsel Mr. P.N.Puri
appeared for the respondent.
It was submitted by Mr. Mukul Rohtagi, that the High
Court has failed to appreciate that the respondent could be
considered for compassionate appointment only under the
scheme framed by the Bank. Hence the provisions of the
scheme viz. compassionate appointment applies only in cases
wherein the deceased has left the family in penury and
without any means of livelihood are required to be taken into
consideration. Also the appellant-Bank, as per the Scheme, is
required to look at the penurious condition/indigent
circumstances existing at the time of death of the sole
breadwinner, warranting such compassion. And in any case if
there does not exist any such circumstances, a writ of
mandamus, cannot be issued, de hors the scheme.
It was submitted that, the High Court failed to appreciate
that in the present case the family of the deceased employee
consists of widow, twin daughters and one son, and the
financial condition of the family is as under:
a) a sum of Rs.4,57,607/- as terminal benefits has
been paid (after deducting Rs.19,183/- towards
b) a sum of Rs.2055/- p.m. was being paid towards
family pension and monthly income under Staff
Mutual Welfare Scheme.
c) The total monthly income of the family comes to
Rs.5855/- (monthly pension of Rs.2055/- +
Rs.3800/- p.m. as notional interest on the
investment of Rs.4,57,607/-).
It was further submitted that the High Court failed to
appreciate the fact that the terminal benefit of Rs.4,57,607/-
paid to the family is an integral part of the financial security
made available to the family of the deceased. The payment of
terminal benefits are an important factor and cannot be left
out while considering the financial condition of the family.
Mr. Mukul Rohtagi submitted that the Division Bench of
the High Court erred in substituting its views with the
views/findings of the competent authority, by holding that the
family income "is not sufficient for the bare maintenance of the
Learned senior counsel relied on the decisions of this
Court in support of his contentions. He submitted that this
Court has held that the Court exercising the jurisdiction of
judicial review should not interfere with findings of fact arrived
by the competent authorities, except in the case of mala fides
or perversity as held in the case of Bank of India & Anr. vs.
Degala Suranarayana, (1999) 5 SCC 762. He also relied on
a recent decision of this Court in the case of Union Bank of
India & Ors. vs. M.T.Latheesh, (2006) 7 SCC 350, (Dr. AR.
Lakshmanan and Tarun Chatterjee, JJ) where this Court held
that, "the specially constituted authorities in the rules or
regulations like the competent authority in this case are better
equipped to decide the cases on facts of the case and their
objective finding arrived on the appreciation of the full facts
should not be disturbed".
The learned senior counsel also made the following
It is well established that the High Court, while exercising
jurisdiction under Art. 226 of the Constitution of India, does
not act as a Court of appeal.
The High Court failed to appreciate that clause (1) of the
Scheme provides that in order to determine the financial
condition of the family, the amounts paid towards terminal
benefits, investments, income from other sources and size of
the family etc. are required to be taken into account.
However, in the present case while holding the condition of the
family is not sufficient for the bare maintenance of the family,
the High Court has failed to appreciate that the monthly
income of Rs.2055/- p.m. and the terminal benefits of
Rs.4,57,607/- has been paid to the family of the deceased.
The High Court also failed to appreciate a well settled
principle of law laid down by this Court in the case of L.I.C. of
India vs. Asha Ramchhandra Ambekar (Mrs) & Anr., (1994)
2 SCC 718 that the Court cannot order appointment on
compassionate ground, de hors the provisions of the statutory
regulations and instructions and that hardship of the
candidate does not entitle him to compassionate appointment
de hors the statutory provisions.
The High Court also failed to appreciate that the
appointment under the scheme of compassionate appointment
was at the discretion of the authority which was to be
exercised keeping in view the scheme and the object/rationale
behind it. It was submitted that compassionate appointment
cannot be claimed as a matter of right. Moreover the public
office is not heritable.
The High Court failed to appreciate the ratio in General
Manager (D&PB) & Ors. vs. Kunti Tiwary & Anr., (2004) 7
SCC 271 case where it was held that the criteria of penury has
to be applied and only in cases where the condition of the
family is "without any means of livelihood" and "living hand to
mouth" that compassionate appointment was required to be
The learned counsel appearing for the respondents
submitted that the touchstone of compassionate employment
is a stage of penury and destitution to which the family is
reduced to as a result of the death of an employee in harness.
Late Shri. Sukhbir Inder Singh was drawing a monthly salary
of Rs. 15000/- when he died. On his death, besides his widow
he left behind three minor children including two 15 years old
daughters and a son who was 8 years of age. The respondents
contented that the bank has not considered the case of
dependent of Sukhbir Inder Singh keeping in view the size of
the family and liabilities.
Further the respondents relied on para 8 of the Scheme
which reads as under:-
Ex-gratia on compassionate grounds in lieu of
compassionate appointment may be granted to the family of
the employee and subject to the ceilings specified below, if
the monthly income of the family from all sources calculated
in the manner shown below in paragraph 9 (B) is less than
60% of the last drawn gross salary (net of taxes) of the
employee. The family shall be deemed to be eligible for ex-gratia payment if the income so arrived at is below 60% of
the gross salary (net of taxes) last drawn, and ineligible if it
is 60% or more of the gross salary (net of taxes). Ex-gratia
will be paid to the family of the deceased employee or the
employee who has retired due to incapacitation of eligible
under the Scheme within three months of the receipt of
application, complete in all respect".
It was submitted that the Bank in its policy issued in
2005 laid down criteria for determining penury i.e. the income
of the family of the deceased employee/dependents have been
reduced to less than 60% of the salary which was drawn by
the deceased at the time of death. In the present case, as have
been stated above, the income of the family of deceased is
Rs.3000/- only, but even according to the finding given in
order dated 03.04.2004, the said income is Rs.5855/- which is
less than 40% of the salary last drawn by Late Shri. Sukhbir
Inder Singh. The respondents claimed that this scheme
formulated on 18.08.2005, was not complied with by the
appellant bank while deciding her claim for appointment in
the Bank on compassionate ground.
Concluding his submissions, Mr. P.N.Puri, submitted
that the stage of penury and destitution is to be determined
after balancing the assets vis-`-vis liability which was not
done in this case by the appellant bank.
We heard both the parties in detail. We have also perused
through all the documents presented in the Court and both
the judgments passed by the High Court of Punjab and
We are now of the view that, the submissions made by
the appellants deserve favourable consideration and merit
The law with regard to employment on compassionate
grounds for dependents of a deceased employee was laid down
by this Court in case of Umesh Kumar Nagpal vs. State of
Haryana & Ors. (supra), where this Court observed that,
"Appointments in the public services are made strictly on the
basis of open invitation of applications and merit. However,
exceptions are made in favour of dependents of employees
dying in harness and leaving their family in penury and
without any means of livelihood".
This Court has further observed in General Manager
(D&PB) & Ors. vs. Kunti Tiwary & Anr. (supra), that, "the
particulars of their income have been noted in their
application and it certainly could not be said on the basis
thereof that the respondents were living hand to mouth. The
Division Bench erred in diluting this criteria of penury to one
of "not very well to do".
It was again observed in 2005 by this Court in the case of
SBI vs Vikas Dubey, (Civil Appeal No.7003/05 dated
21.11.2005), also followed the decision in Kunti Tiwary
Hence a major criterion while appointing a person on
compassionate grounds should be the financial condition of
the family the deceased person left behind. Unless the
financial condition is entirely penury, such appointments
cannot be made. In the present case the financial condition of
the respondents family is not one of destitution, the appellants
have already paid a sum of Rs.4,57,607/- as terminal benefits
(after deducting Rs.19,183/- towards liabilities); a sum of
Rs.2055/- p.m. was being paid towards family pension and
monthly income under Staff Mutual Welfare Scheme and in
addition the total monthly income of the family comes to
Rs.5855/- (monthly pension of Rs.2055/- + Rs.3800/- p.m. as
notional interest on the investment of Rs.4,57,607/-). The
competent fact finding authority on the basis of the above
financial details had arrived at the conclusion that the
financial condition of the family is not penurious and that the
family earns sufficient income to maintain themselves. Hence
appointment on compassionate ground was not granted to the
respondent. We however, do not feel the necessity to interfere
with this order of the Bank Authority on the fact situation of
The competent authority of the bank had to consider the
case of the respondent as per the laid down parameters laid
down in the scheme. Accordingly, while deciding on the
financial condition of the respondent factors like:
a) Family Pension
c) Employee's/Employer's contribution to the
d) Any compensation paid by the Bank or its
e) Proceeds of LIC Policy & other investments of the
f) Income for family from other sources
g) Employment of other family members
h) Size of the family and liabilities, if any, etc.
were taken into consideration by the Competent Authority and
based on these details appointment was declined to the
respondent on compassionate ground.
Also we are of the view that the specially constituted
authorities in the rules or regulations like the competent
authority in this case are better equipped to decide the cases
on facts of the case and their objective finding arrived on the
appreciation of the full facts should not be disturbed. Both
the Benches of the High Court that heard this present matter
have erred in entertaining the claim of the respondent and
allowing the claim of the respondent. This was the view taken
in a recent decision of this Court in Union Bank of India and
Others vs. M.T. Latheesh (supra), where the court observed
that, "Learned Single Judge and the Division Bench by
directing appointment has fettered the discretion of the
appointing and selecting authorities. The Bank had
considered the application of the respondent in terms of the
statutory scheme framed by the Bank for such appointment".
Finally in the fact situation of this case, Sri. Sukhbir
Inder Singh (late), Record Assistant (Cash & Accounts) on
01.08.1999, in the Dhab Wasti Ram, Amritsar branch, passed
away. The respondent, widow of Sri. Sukhbir Inder Singh
applied for compassionate appointment in the appellant Bank
on 05.02.2000 under the scheme which was formulated in
2005. The High Court also erred in deciding the matter in
favour of the respondent applying the scheme formulated on
04.08.2005, when her application was made in 2000. A
dispute arising in 2000 cannot be decided on the basis of a
scheme that came into place much after the dispute arose, in
the present matter in 2005. Therefore, the claim of the
respondent that the income of the family of deceased is
Rs.5855/- only, which is less than 40% of the salary last
drawn by Late Shri. Sukhbir Inder Singh, in contradiction to
the 2005 scheme does not hold water.
In the result, we allow the appeal filed by the appellant
the Bank in this case and set aside the order passed by the
two Benches of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana.
However, there shall be no order as to costs.
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