Uncompassionate Process

Moa Jamir

The recent judgment by the Gauhati High Court, Kohima Bench, shedding light on the process of compassionate appointments in the Nagaland Government's Home Department, reveals a distressing reality. The court, in no uncertain terms, has "deprecated" the implementation of the Addendum dated 09.04.2019, terming it as "unacceptable."

The Court has rightfully expressed serious apprehension about the insincerity of the state respondents in ensuring the appointment of deserving individuals and observed that "compassionate appointments appear to have been misused to suit the interests of some vested circles."

Stating that the facts of the case give an impression that "certain unacceptable steps seem to have been taken on the basis of the 2019 Addendum," Justice Kardak Ete's judgment order on July 6 strongly asserted that such flagrant abuse of power cannot be tolerated and those responsible must be held accountable. This matter would "require proper attention and deliberation of the highest executive functionaries in the State."

At the core of compassionate appointments lies the principle of aiding families facing dire financial situations due to the untimely demise of an employee. The State Government's scheme is intended to provide relief to such families. However, the judgment raises concerns about the failure to adhere to the provisions of the scheme, resulting in applicants being left pending for years. This neglect is both callous and uncompassionate, leaving vulnerable families in a state of uncertainty and despair.

The original Office Memorandum (OM) of 2015 clearly stipulated the criteria for compassionate appointments. It limited such appointments to the spouse, son, or daughter of the deceased employee, and only in Group C and Group D posts, up to a maximum of 50% of the vacancies. Additionally, it mandated the maintenance of a waiting list in chronological order, with applicants assigned a waiting list number upon application. However, the 2019 Addendum deviated from these provisions, giving first preference to those who had died earlier, regardless of their eligibility.

As per the Court's order, this departure from the established guidelines opened the floodgates for irregularities and discrepancies. The court discovered cases where individuals who had passed away more than 30 years ago were allowed to submit applications, and kin who were ineligible under the 2015 scheme were included in the list. Such practices render the entire process of compassionate appointments suspect and unjust.

The court's examination of the materials on record revealed the illegality in preparing the compassionate applicant list. While acknowledging the reasonableness of the 2019 Addendum itself, it unequivocally stated that the implementation in the present case was unacceptable and deserving of deprecation.

In quashing the Seniority List of March 22, 2022, the court sends a clear message that such a list is not sustainable and directed the respondent authorities to strictly follow the provisions of the 2015 OM for compassionate appointments in the state. The court also calls for the compilation and publication of a fresh compassionate appointment applicants list based on the prospective implementation of the 2019 Addendum.

Apart from the discrepancies in the application list, several arguments questioning the appointment process in the concerned department were put forward during the hearings. Furthermore, several other petitions regarding compassionate appointments are pending before the Court. One of the primary sources of confusion being the 2015 Office Memorandum (OM) and the 2019 Addendum, as well as discrepancies in their implementation.

The Gauhati High Court's judgment is a timely call for the State Government to come out with comprehensive Office Memorandum or guidelines on compassionate appointments in Nagaland, lest the process become an uncompassionate process, as recently proved by the judgement, and defeat the whole intent. As noted by the judgment, it is a clarion call for accountability and proper attention from the highest executive functionaries in the state.

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