S.S. Sodhi, J.
1. The issue in controversy here concerns the benefit of reservation in posts for dependents of Ex -serviceman. To be specific, whether it also extends to dependents of deceased Ex-serviceman ?
2. The relevant rule and the proviso thereunder governing the matter being Rule 4 of the Punjab Recruitment of Ex-Servicemen Rules 1982 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Rules'). This Rule 4 reads as under : -
'--(1) Subject to the provisions of Rule 3, fifteen per cent of the vacancies to be filled in by the direct appointment in all the State Civil Services and posts connected with the affairs of the State of Punjab shall be reserved for being filled in by recruitment of Ex- Serviceman:
Provided, that where an Ex-Serviceman is not available for recruitment against reserved vacancy, such vacancy shall be reserved to be filled in by recruitment of the wife or one dependent child of an Ex-Serviceman, who has neither been recruited against a reserved vacancy nor is eligible to be recruited against such vacancy under these rules.'
3. The precise point raised here arose before a Division Bench of this Court in C. W. P. 3450 of 1984 (Dr. Gajinder Kumar Diwan v. State of Punjab and Ors. , C. W. P. No. 3450 of 1984.) decided on September 7, 1984, where, it was held that the benefit of reservation for dependents of Ex-Serviceman, was available only to a child of a living Ex-Serviceman. The reasoning in support being, 'The Legislature in its wisdom has afforded the benefit not to any child-of the Ex Serviceman but a dependent child. The Child of an Ex Serviceman who had died cannot be termed as a dependent child of such an ex-serviceman. Further more, the phraseology used in the latter part of the proviso 'who has neither been recruited against a reserved vacancy nor is eligible to be recruited against such vacancy' is also indicative of the fact that the intention of the Legislature was to confer a concession under the said proviso only to living Ex-Serviceman and not to the one who had died. The emphasis appeals to be more on granting the relief to Ex-Serviceman during his life time Faced with this situation, the learned counsel submitted, an alternative argument that the non-granting of the concession to the children of deceased Ex-Serviceman tantamounts to discrimination and is thus, violative of the Constitution of India. We, however, do not find any such discrimination. It is indeed for the Legislature to grant a certain benefit or concession to a limited group or class of persons under a certain policy provided there is a reasonable classification for this pupose. As already observed, the object of enacting the proviso appears to be to confer a certain relief to the Ex-Serviceman himself by providing succour to his dependent family members and thus, reduce his financial burden.'
4. The view expressed in Dr. Gajinder Kumar Dwarfs case (supra) did not, however, find favour with the Motion Bench before which the present case came up for preliminary hearing. When confronted with a similar question, in the context of a son of a deceased Ex- Serviceman, being denied, a certificate of being a dependent of an Ex-Serviceman, in order to enable him to avail of the benefits of reservation under the Rules, the Division Bench in Dr. Gajinder Kumar Diwan's case (supra) deserved reconsideration. It being observed in this behalf, -'a bare reading of the above proviso would show that the benefit is allowed to one dependent child of an Ex-serviceman. If the intention was as ruled by the Bench, a different phraseology would have been used and instead of word 'one dependent child of an Ex-serviceman' the words 'one child dependent of Ex-serviceman' would have been used. As the provision stands the requirement is that he should be a dependent child of an Ex-Serviceman. Whether the Ex-Serviceman is alive or dead, is no consideration to determine the eligibility of his child. If the child is dependent, which means is not an earning hand, he would be entitled to the benefit of the said provision. The latter words of the clause 'who has been neither recruited against such vacancy under these rules,' are also in no way negatory to the view which we propose to take. Even if an Ex-Serviceman is not alive, the disqualification would be applicable if he in his life time has been recruited against a vacancy. Moreover, there is no rational basis to make a discrimination between the child of a living Ex-Serviceman on the one hand and the child of a deceased Ex-Serviceman on the other. --' This is how this matter came to be referred to a Full Bench.
5. It will be seen that the issue raised hinges upon the interpretation of the proviso to Rule 4. The contention of Mr. H. S. Riar, Additional Advocate General, Punjab being that this proviso had to be construed by giving to the words used their ordinary and natural meaning. Read in this manner, it was contended, it could not but be interpreted to restrict the benefit to dependents of only living Ex-serviceman and not to those who had already died. The argument being that no one could be said to be dependent of a dead person
6. The primary rule of interpretation is no doubt to construe the language of a statute by giving the words used, their ordinary and natural meaning, but it is equally well settled that there is another aspect of it too, which has so aptly been expressed by Judge Learned Hand. It is true that the words used even in their literal sense are the primary and ordinarily the most reliable source of interpreting the meaning of any writing be it a statute contract or anything else ; But it is one of the surest indices of a mature and developed jurisprudence not to make fortess out of the dictionary, but to remember that statutes always have some purpose or object to accomplish whose sympathetic and imaginative behaviour is the surest guide to their meaning.
7. In a similar vein, there is the statement in Maxwell on the interpretation of statutes, twelfth Edition, at page 228, 'Where the language of a statute, in its ordinary meaning and grammatical construction, leads to a manifest coatradiction of the apparent purpose of the enactment, or to some inconvenience or absurdity which can hardly have been intended, a construction may be put upon it which modifies the meaning of the words and even the structure of the sentence' and further, 'Where the main object and intention of a statute are clear, it must not be reduced to a nullity by the' draftsman unskillfulness or ignorance of the law, except in a case of necessity, or the absolute intractability of the language used'.
8. Seen in its true and proper context, there can be no manner of doubt that the purpose and rationale for the proviso to Rule 4 of the Rules was to extend the benefit of reservation to the dependants of all Ex-Serviceman, whether deceased or living It is pertinent to note in this behalf, that the words used in the proviso are dependent- children of deceased Ex-Servicemen.
9. Patently, irrational and anamolous consequences could follow if the dependents of the deceased Ex-Servicemen were to be held to be excluded by the proviso to Rule 4 from the benefits available thereunder. It could for instance, mean that dependants of posthumous Gallantry Award Winner would not be entitled to those benefits while those of Ex-Servicemen who happened to serve on some free from danger posts and were thus alive, would be entitled to them. Not only this, it would also mean that even in the case of a dependant of a 1iving Ex-Serviceman, the moment his Ex Serviceman parent dies, the benefit available to him would cease, a happening which could occur any time between his applying for a post and actually being appointed to it. We cannot, therefore but apply; here the oft-repeated rule of interpretation namely; that absudrity cannot be imputed to the Legislature.
10. With respect, we too cannot, thererefore, accept as correct the view expeessed in Dr. Gajinder Kumar Diwan's case (supra) that the benefit of reservation for dependants of Ex-Serviceman is confined only to dependants of livng Ex Servicemen. We are consequently hereby constrained to overrule this judgment and hold instead that the benefit of reservation under the Rules extends to dependants of all Ex Servicemen whether living of deceased.
11. Keeping in view the fact that the judgment in Dr. Gajinder Kumar Diwan'scass (supra) has held the field for many years, we direct that the view now expressed, shall operate prospectively only, that is, with effect from the date of this judgment.
12. In so far as the petitioner is concerned, it follows that he would clearly be entitled to the Certificate of dependency as sought by him. We consequently hereby allow his writ petition and direct the District Sainik Welfare Officer, Gurdaspur to issue him a Certificate of dependency under relevant Rules.
13. This reference is thus answered accordingly and this writ petition is accepted with costs. Counsel fee Rs. 1,000/-