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Art 21 Makes The Right To Meaningful Family Life A Component Of The Right To Life: Delhi HC [READ JUDGMENT]

According to the Delhi High Court, refusal of an inter-cadre transfer request based on marriage requires compelling reasons and is open to judicial review

By: Himkiran Kaur Sethi

The Delhi High Court ruled on Tuesday that the right to a meaningful family life, which promotes physical, psychological, and emotional well-being, will “find a home in the four corners of Article 21” of the Indian Constitution. 

According to a ruling by Justices Rajiv Shakdher and Talwant Singh,

“We do not doubt that the right to meaningful family life, which allows a person to live a fulfilling life and helps in retaining her/his physical, psychological, and emotional integrity would find a place in the four corners of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Therefore, when the State unreasonably denies a request of an employee [in this case, the petitioner] seeking inter-cadre transfer, it impinges upon such person’s right to demand respect for her/his family life.”

The Court was hearing a petition by a West Bengal cadre IAS official who requested that the State of West Bengal transmit its non-objection to the Indian government’s Department of Personnel and Training in her request for an inter-cadre transfer after marrying a Tamil Nadu cadre IAS officer.

The government of Tamil Nadu stated that it had no objections to the proposal, but the state of West Bengal stated that it was unable to provide authorization due to a severe lack of personnel. The state of West Bengal, on the other hand, offered to take in the petitioner’s husband if he wanted to transfer.

For the following three years, the petitioner accepted her circumstances, after which she filed a new complaint. After a reminder, she filed a complaint with the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), which ordered the respondents to rethink their request. The petitioner went to the Delhi High Court when the case did not receive the attention it deserved.

During the hearing, the petitioner claimed that she had been treated unfairly because numerous other officers’ requests for identical reasons had been considered.

The petitioner’s request was also said to be in line with provisions in an Office Memorandum (OM) issued by the Government of India’s Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions and the Department of Posts and Telecommunications, as well as the Indian Administrative Service (Cadre) Rules, 1954.

The petitioner’s well-being and family connections had been severely harmed as a result of the State’s judgment, which had been a violation of her basic rights under Article 21. (Protection of life and personal liberty). 

It was said that “The petitioner is unable to strike a balance between her work and personal life. The obdurate approach of the State of West Bengal has prevented the petitioner from starting a family.”

The West Bengal government, on the other hand, stated that COVID-19 has created a pressing need for administrative officers’ services and that the petitioner’s plea should be evaluated in this light.

In response to the petitioner’s OM, the State stated that it was intended to guarantee that married couples were assigned to the same location, but that it did not provide the officer the authority to require a specific cadre.

The State’s claims about a paucity of officers and the COVID-19 epidemic, on the other hand, were dismissed by the Division Bench.

As a result, it was declared that the State of West Bengal’s bald and ambiguous reasons for refusing to authorize the transfer could not be accepted since it had not submitted significant facts.

Although the Court acknowledged that an inter-cadre transfer cannot be made without the approval of the State government, it was stressed that a rejection of a request for transfer based on marriage must be accompanied by compelling reasons and would be subject to judicial scrutiny.

The Bench went on to say that the purpose of the 1954 Cadre Rules and the OM was to support the overall development and well-being of AIS members.

The petitioner’s claim that her right to family life had been “infringed” by the denial of her request had merit.

The Court considered Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which stipulates that every individual has the right to demand that the state respects her or his private and family life, home, and communications.

The Court granted the writ petition, concluding that an unjustified refusal of an employee’s request for inter-cadre transfer infringes on their right to expect respect for their family.

Within two weeks of receiving the ruling, the State of West Bengal was ordered to issue a no-objection direction in response to the petitioner’s request.

The Union of India was ordered to act on the no-objection letter and make the petitioner’s proposed inter-cadre transfer from West Bengal to Tamil Nadu.

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