A two-judge Bench of Justice MR Shah and Justice Sanjiv Khanna has held that the petition filed by the Respondent for the appointment of her second son on compassionate ground after 18 years from the death of her husband is barred by delay and laches and cannot be sustained.

An appeal was preferred before the Supreme Court by the Steel Authority of India (Appellant) assailing the judgment of the Orissa High Court where the Division Bench of the High Court dismissed the Writ Petition of the Appellant and upheld the order of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) which had directed the Appellant to consider the case of the Respondent-Original Applicant's second son for appointment on compassionate ground.

In this case, Respondent's husband had died in the year 1977. The application for the appointment of the first son on compassionate ground was rejected. After a period of 18 years the Respondent filed a Writ Petition before the High Court to appoint her second son on compassionate ground, without challenging the order rejecting the claim of the first son. The High Court had directed for the transfer of the Writ Petition to the CAT, Cuttack.

The Apex Court, after considering the facts of the case, noted that despite the fact there was a delay of 18 years in making the second application, unfortunately, the Tribunal still directed the Appellant to re-consider the case and appoint the second son on compassionate ground, which was also confirmed by the High Court.

The Court further observed that even on merits also, the Respondent shall not be entitled to an appointment on compassionate ground on the ground of delay and laches.

Further, the Bench relied upon the precedent Punjab State Power Corporation Limited and Ors. Vs. Nirval Singh, (2019) 6 SCC 774 where the Court held that on the ground of delay itself, the heir/dependent of the deceased employee shall not be entitled to the appointment on compassionate ground, as there was a delay of 7 years in approaching the Supreme Court.

Additionally, the Court also made a reference to the case of State of J&K and Ors. Vs. Sajad Ahmed Mir (2006) 5 SCC 766 where the Court while dismissing the claim for appointment on compassionate ground, which was made after a period of four and a half years of the death of the deceased employee, it was held that appointment on compassionate ground is an exception to the general rule that appointment to public office should be made on the basis of competitive merits.

The Court opined, "It is further observed that once it is proved that in spite of the death of the breadwinner, the family survived and substantial period is over, there is no need to make appointment on compassionate ground at the cost of the interests of several others ignoring the mandate of Article 14 of the Constitution."

In the light of these observations, the Court set aside and quashed the impugned judgment of the High Court and held that the second son of the Respondent shall not be entitled to appointment on compassionate ground and allowed the appeal.

Click here to read/download the Judgment