-Report by Harshita
It was held by the hon’ble Supreme Court recently in the case of Ahmednagar Mahanagar Palika vs Ahmednagar Mahanagar Palika Kamgar Union that the provision of employment to the heirs of employees on compassionate grounds was unsustainable and thus prohibited.
Ahmednagar Municipal Council was converted to Ahmednagar Mahanagar Palika in 2003, and an important demand on the part of employees was the assurance that their heirs would be employed by the Ahmednagar Mahanagar Palika. As a major demand of its employees, it was agreed upon by the Municipal Council. Hence, the Industrial Court administered that the employees in Class-IV category(if they die before their retirement, if they become invalid, or if they retire), their heirs should be given employment in their stead. When some further demands were raised and the decision was supposed to be modified, the Industrial Court changed the condition. This led to the Ahmednagar Mahanagar Palika being instructed to (1) provide employment to heirs of ‘CLASS-IV’ employees working in healthcare only, (2) provide employment to heirs of all the classes on compassionate grounds as per government regulations and directions. This meant that the heirs of employees won’t be rewarded with employment on compassionate grounds on retirement and only provided to heirs of deceased employees of the Class-IV category.
Later on, Ahmednagar Mahanagar Palika Kamgar Union went on to demand the employment of heirs of the retired employees according to the previous judgment. Under the guidance of the High court, the Industrial court changed the course of action and provided the legal heirs of the employees with work on grounds of retirement and superannuation.
Dissatisfied with the decision, Ahmednagar Mahanagar Palika presented the current appeals.
The Learned Counsel contended that both the Industrial Court and the High Court have based their judgment on the decision from the original situation when Ahmednagar Mahanagar Palika was a Municipal Council, which was regarded as an error by the petitioner side. The judgment for the case of The Secretary to Govt. Department of Education (Primary) & Others v. Bheemesh alias Bheemappa was considered relevant in this situation.
Another argument was that such employment given to the heirs of retired employees is opposing Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. Further, the provision of such employment should be based on other factors which are the financial situation of the employees’ family, the role of the deceased and such. Again, the remuneration of the sum of Rs. 5 lakhs instead of employment for heirs who have crossed the age of 45 should itself be unfeasible.
With the case of Subhadra v. Ministry of Coal and another as reliance, the respondent’s side supported their situation that neither the Industrial Court nor the High Court made any mistake in presenting the judgment. Introducing the concept of ‘varas hakka’, they said the employment is not based on compassionate grounds but because of varas hakka.
Regarding the present situation of the country as opposed to when the first judgment came out in 1979, it is unreasonable to provide employment to heirs of employees on compassionate grounds as observed by both the Industrial Court and the High Court. After the conversion of the institution, it is now under the jurisdiction of the State government and there is no provision for any such heirs’ rights. Compassionate employment is already considered as an exception and cannot be provided as it opposes Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. Even if it is known as ‘varas hakka’, it is not provided by any act or employment scheme. It was observed
“the employees of the Mahanagar Palika/Municipal Corporation shall be governed by the scheme of the State Government at par with the government employees, which does not provide for appointment on compassionate grounds to the heirs of the employees on their retirement and/or superannuation. Even otherwise, such an appointment to the heirs of the employees on their retirement and/or superannuation shall be contrary to the object and purpose of appointment on compassionate grounds and is hit by Article 14 of the Constitution of India.”
The court also observed that if the compassionate employment is not scrutinized properly, it may be unfair to the outsiders who are more qualified, as only the heirs will be reappointed. Therefore the appeal was allowed.