Delhi HC: Right to meaningful family life is part of right to life

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday said the right to a meaningful family life is part of the right to life and directed the West Bengal government to issue a no-objection directive for the transfer of an IAS officer to Tamil Nadu.

The verdict was passed on a petition filed by IAS officer Lakshmi Bhavya Tanneeru against a Central Administrative Tribunal order, which in February had set aside the West Bengal government’s decision to deny her inter-cadre transfer but remanded the matter back to the state government for reconsideration on the non-issuance of no objection on her transfer.

Tanneeru, a 2015-batch officer, had sought the transfer after she got married to Tamil Nadu cadre IAS officer Raja Gopal Sunkara in 2016. The West Bengal government in November 2016 refused to grant its consent for the inter-cadre transfer citing shortage of officers and reiterated the same in August this year after a fresh representation by Tanneeru.

“We have no 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,” said the division bench of Justices Rajiv Shakdher and Talwant Singh in the judgement.

The division bench said the West Bengal government’s reason for rejection was vague as nothing has been placed for record to make the accept its stand that there was a shortage of officers due to which Tanneeru’s request could not be entertained.

“The State of West Bengal’s attempt to defend its decision, to reject the petitioner’s request for inter-cadre transfer by citing the occurrence of the pandemic does not impress us, as it seems tenuous for the very same reason. The petitioner has placed on record the details of officers who have been transferred by other State Governments on the ground of marriage, during the pandemic; presumably having regard to the familial interest of the officers. As a matter of fact, the State of West Bengal has received via inter- cadre transfers, three IAS officers from the States of Manipur, Kerala and Rajasthan,” it said in the judgement.

The court said that the petitioner’s assertion that the denial of her request has resulted in an infraction of her right to family life has much weight and the fact that such rights are recognised as part of human rights clearly emerges on perusal of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Directing the West Bengal government to issue the no-objection directive for effectuation of the inter-cadre transfer within two weeks, the court said that the Centre will act on the same. The Centre agreed to do so expeditiously.

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