Haryana State Electricity Board & ANR Vs. Hakin Singh  INSC 755
(30 September 1997)
ANAND, K.T. THOMAS
appeal by the Haryana State Electricity Board (`the Board' for short) is in
challenge of the order of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana declaring that
respondent is entitled to be considered as eligible for appointment in the
employment of the Board on compassionate grounds.
facts leading to this appeal are the following:
of the respondent one Hakim Singh was a Lineman in the employment of the Board.
He died on 24.8.1974 in harness leaving behind him his widow and minor children
including the respondent. About 14 years after the death of Hakim Singh his
widow applied for appointing her son (the respondent) in the employment of the
Board on compassionate grounds mainly basing on two circulars issued by the
Board, one on 26.9.1985 and the other, in partial modification of the earlier,
on 1.10.1986. As per the said circulars one member of the family of the
deceased employee could be considered for employment in the service of the
Board as a goodwill gesture, provided request for such employment is made
within one year of the death of the employee.
who filed the writ petition in the High Court submitted that when his father he
was only four years old and hence his mother could make the application in the
prescribed from only when he attained majority and that the Board has not given
any favourable response to the repeated representations made in this matter.
The Board took the stand that as the application was not made within the period
specified in the circulars the Board was unable to entertain the request for
employment on compassionate ground. While resisting the writ petition the Board
cited the decision of the same High Court dated 18.1.1995 in Sohan Lal vs.
HSEB, in support of their stand.
Single Judge of the High Court distinguished Sohan Lal's case on the premise
that the claimant therein waited for five years after attaining majority and
that made him disentitled to employment on compassionate grounds, whereas in
the present case the request was made soon after respondent attained majority.
Learned Single Judge found support from three other decisions of the High Court
as the facts therein were more comparable with the facts in this case. The
extended period of three years indicated in the circular has been interpreted
by the High Court to mean in the case of a minor child as applicable from the
date he became a major. High Court has observed that "this is the only
possible way to give effect to the policy of giving employment to the deceased
employee where his dependents happen to be minor children." Accordingly,
learned Single Judge allowed the writ petition and directed the Board to
entertain the claim of the respondent.
the Board has filed an appeal before a Division Bench of the High Court the
same was dismissed summarily.
the Division Bench granted further period of three months to the Board to comply
with the directions issued by the learned Single Judge.
consideration of the Special Leave Petition an endeavour was made to have the
matter otherwise settled between the parties. But learned counsel for the
Board, after taking instructions, submitted to us that a decision on the legal
position is very much warranted from this Court as large number of similar
claims are pending consideration before the Board.
rule of appointments to public service is that they should be on merits and
through open invitation. It is the normal route through which one can get into
a public employment. However, as every rule can have exceptions, there are a
few exceptions to the said rule also which have been evolved to meet certain
contingencies. As per one such exception belief is provided to the bereaved
family of a deceased employee by accommodating one of his dependents in a
vacancy. The object is to give succour to the family which has been suddenly
plunged into penury due to the ultimately death of its sole bread-winner. This
Court has observed time and again that the object of providing such
ameliorating relief should not be taken as opening an alternative mode of
recruitment to public employment.
first circular which afforded such a beneficial provision to the dependants of
a deceased employee was issued by the Board on 14.9.1983 wherein it was
specified that "only one member of the family of the deceased employee is
to be considered for employment in the Board's service as a goodwill gesture
and the intention is not that the employment is to be provided as a matter of
course." In the circular the time-limit within which the dependent of the
deceased employee is to be accommodated was fixed as one year. The circular
further stressed that "the request for employment would be entertained
only in the case in which the widow submits application for employment
immediately after the death of her husband." On 26.9.91983 the Board
issued a circular clarifying that the purpose of such a provision was not that
employment would be given as a matter of course. However, the Board extended
the period as in the case of a widow with minor children from one year to three
years "provided a request for giving such employment is made to the Board
within one year of the death of the employee." High Court relied on an
earlier decision of the same High Court in which after considering the same
circulars it was observed thus:
in the service of the Haryana Government nor in the service of the
respondent-Board a person below the age of 18 years can be given employment.
Therefore, if a deceased employee is survived by minors, it is impossible to
give effect to the condition incorporated in the circulars of the Board dated
26.9.1985 and 1.10.1986, which requires submission of application within three
years of the death of the employee. A condition which is impossible to be
performed is ordinarily liable to be treated as arbitrary and unconstitutional
but if such condition can be given a reasonable meaning so as to avoid the charge
of unconstitutionality that interpretation has to be preferred. Therefore, the
instructions contained in the circulars dated 26.9.1985 and 1.10.1986 will have
to be interpreted to mean that in case of a minor child the period of three
years would be applicable from the date he becomes major." Learned Single
Judge followed the aforesaid observations and issued the impugned directions to
of the view that the High Court has erred in over stretching the scope of the
compassionate relief provided by the Board in the circulars as above. It
appears that High Court would have treated the provision as a lien created by
the Board for a dependent of the deceased employee. If the family members of
the deceased employee can manage for fourteen years after his death one of his
legal heirs cannot put forward a claim as though it is a line of succession by
virtue of a right of inheritance. The object of the provisions should not be
forgotten that it is to give succour to the family to tide over the sudden
financial crisis befallen the dependents on account of the untimely demise of
its sole earning member.
Court has considered the scope of the aforesaid circulars in Haryana State
Electricity Board vs. Naresh Tanwar and Anr. etc. etc [1996 (2) JT 542].
that case widow of a deceased employee made an application almost twelve years
after the death of her husband requesting for accommodating her son in the
employment of the Board, but it was rejected by the Board.
she moved the High court the Board was directed to appoint him on compassionate
grounds. This Court upset the said directions of the High Court following two
earlier decisions rendered by this Court, one in Umesh Kumar Nagpal vs. State
of Haryana & ors. [1994 (4) SCC 138], the
other in Jagdish Prasad vs. State of Bihar & anr. [1996 (1) SCC 301].
former, a Bench of two Judges has pointed out that "the whole object of
granting compassionate employment is to enable to family to tide over the
sudden crisis. The object is not to give a member of such family a post much
less a post for the post held by the deceased." In the latter decision,
which also was rendered by a Bench of two Judges, it was observed that
"the very object of appointment of a dependent of the deceased employees
who die in harness is to relieve unexpected immediate hardship and distress
caused to the family by sudden demise of the earning member of the
family." The learned Judges pointed out that if the claim of the dependent
which was preferred long after the death of the deceased employee is to be
countenanced it would amount to another mode of recruitment of the dependent of
the deceased government servant "which cannot be encouraged, dehors the
recruitment rules." It is clear that the High Court has gone wrong in giving
a direction to the Board to consider the claim of the respondent as the request
was made far beyond the period indicated in the circular of the Board dated
if he is interested in getting employment in the Board, has to pass through the
normal route now.
therefore, allow this appeal and set aside the impugned judgment of the High