KOLKATA: Calcutta High Court has said that the stepson of a government employee is entitled to compassionate appointment on the death of the employee.
The petitioner in this case was a man, who had been born out of wedlock to a Kolkata Police traffic constable. After he was born, he was subsequently ‘adopted’ by his biological father. The petitioner claimed he had applied for a job on compassionate grounds after his adoptive father passed away, but was denied because the adoption was never formalised.
Justices Debangshu Basak and Md Shabbar Rashidi observed that the word “son” had to include a biological son, stepson, adopted son as well as an illegitimate son.
The petitioner’s mother, Bina Kar, had given birth to both him and his sister in 1981, out of wedlock while she had still been legally married to Ganesh Chandra Saha. Saha died in 1989 and thereafter Bina married constable Bhola Nath Kar the following year. After Kar died in 2003 while in service, the petitioner applied for compassionate appointment. After finding out that Bhola Nath had not formally adopted the petitioner, the authorities declared in 2011 that they would not be able to offer employment on compassionate grounds.
“Limiting the meaning of ‘son’ only to biological or adopted (sons) would be incorrect,” the judges observed on Monday. “The word ‘son’ would include stepson as much as it would include a biological, adopted or illegitimate son.” The court also held that such a limited definition would violate Article 16(2) of the Constitution, which enshrines that no citizen shall be eligible for or discriminated against in respect of any employment or office under the state on ground of descent, among others.
The advocate for the state of Bengal argued that according to the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, an adopted son of a government employee would come under the meaning of ‘son’. The Calcutta HC dismissed this line of argument, saying, “Compassionate appointment is not a hereditary right”, so recourse to the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act was baseless.

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