Denying married daughter benefit of compassionate appointment is unconstitutional: Karnataka High Court

Marriage does not determine the continuance of the relationship of a child with the parent, whether a son or a daughter, the Court observed.
Denying married daughter benefit of compassionate appointment is unconstitutional: Karnataka High Court
Marriage, Karnataka High Court

Observing that marriage does not determine the continuance of a relationship between parent and child, the Karnataka High Court recently held that excluding a married daughter from being considered for appointment to government jobs on compassionate grounds is discriminatory and unconstitutional. (Bhuvanishewari V Puranik v. State of Karnataka and ors.)

The Court passed the ruling while allowing a writ petition moved by a daughter against the denial of appointment on compassionate grounds to her deceased father's job on account of her being a "married" woman.

Justice M Nagaprasanna held:

"Marriage does not determine the continuance of the relationship of a child with the parent, whether son or a daughter. Son continues to be a son both before and after marriage and a daughter also should continue to be a daughter both before and after marriage. This relationship does not get effaced by the fact of marriage, as marriage does not severe the relationship of the daughter with the parent..."

If the marital status of a son does not make any difference in law to his entitlement for seeking appointment on compassionate grounds, then the same should be applicable to a daughter as well, the Court said.

"... the married daughter does not cease to be a part of the family and law cannot make an assumption that married sons alone continue to be the part of the family", the Court added.

In this case, the deceased Government servant (petitioner's father) had a son and a daughter. The son and the mother had declined to take up the appointment. Therefore, the daughter claimed the appointment. However, the same was denied to her on the ground that she is married.

Appearing for the petitioner, Advocate Manmohan PN submitted that the Rule which empowers the Government to reject an application of a married daughter falls foul of Article 14 of the Constitution of India (right to equality).

It was further contended that the Rule 2(1)(a)(i), Rule 2(1)(b) and Rule 3(2)(i)(c) of the Karnataka Civil Services (Appointment on Compassionate Grounds) Rules, 1996 (Rules) are ultra vires the Constitution for being discriminatory. Therefore, these rules should be held as unconstitutional, it was argued.

Additional Advocate General Subramanya R rebutted that compassionate appointment is not a matter of right but a concession that is shown by the Government for a family which loses its breadwinner to tide over the immediate crisis that engulfs such families.

The Court ultimately opined that the Rules, insofar as it creates a division on the basis of gender by denying appointment to a daughter for being married, cannot but be held to be discriminatory

The factor of dependency, which is the key to grant or deny compassionate appointment, is not considered as the definition of 'dependants' and 'family' under the Rules exclude a daughter who is married, the Court noted.

The Bench went on to hold that the exclusion of married daughters from the ambit of the expression 'family' in the above-referred Rules is illegal and unconstitutional for violating Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution. The Court, therefore, struck down the word "unmarried" from the Rules.

As stated in the order:

"The Rule that is called in question and has fallen for interpretation, without a shadow of a doubt is discriminatory as the words "unmarried" permeates through the entire fabric of Rule 2 and 3 as extracted hereinabove to deny appointment to a married daughter. If the Rule is left as is... (it) would create a discrimination on the basis of gender... Therefore, the Rule which becomes violative of Articles 14, 15 on its interpretation will have to be struck down as unconstitutional as excluding the daughters purely on the basis of marriage will constitute an impermissible discrimination which is invidious and be violative of Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India."

The Bench added that when "nature bestows so much on women; the law cannot bestow too little."

With these pertinent observations, the Bench directed the State government to reconsider the claim of the petitioner for appointment on compassionate grounds.

"I allow the writ petition and hold that the exclusion of married daughters from the ambit of expression ‘family’ in Rule 2(1)(a)(i), Rule 2(1)(b) and Rule 3(2)(i)(c) of the Karnataka Civil Services (Appointment on Compassionate Grounds) Rules, 1996 is illegal and unconstitutional being violative of Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution", the order states.

[Read the order]

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