25 April 2023 7:53 AM GMT
The Patna High Court has held that a marriage certificate obtained under the Special Marriage Act, without proof of the fact that it was finally entered into the marriage certificate book as provided under Chapter III of the Special Marriage Act, is a mere "evidence of marriage" and not "proof of marriage in accordance with the Act".The bench of Justice Purnendu Singh held, “Section 18 of...
The Patna High Court has held that a marriage certificate obtained under the Special Marriage Act, without proof of the fact that it was finally entered into the marriage certificate book as provided under Chapter III of the Special Marriage Act, is a mere "evidence of marriage" and not "proof of marriage in accordance with the Act".
The bench of Justice Purnendu Singh held,
“Section 18 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 stipulates that where a certificate of marriage has been finally entered in the Marriage Certificate Book under Chapter III of Special Marriage Act, the marriage shall, as from the date of such entry, be deemed to be a marriage solemnized under the Act…The registration of the marriage is under Section 16 and accordingly it has to be entered into the marriage certificate book under Chapter III of the Act and from the date of entry in the marriage certificate book, the marriage is deemed to be a marriage solemnized under the Act and then only the certificate will be proof of the fact that a marriage under the Act between the petitioner and late Prema Devi has been solemnized as is also clear from Sub-Section ‘2’ of Section 13 of the Act. The marriage certificate as contained in Annexure-1 to the writ petition in want of a clear provision as to whether certificate has been issued under Section 13 of Chapter II of the Act, the same can only be taken as evidence and not proof of the marriage in accordance with the Act.”
The High Court made the observations in its decision on a petition seeking quashing of the orders wherein the claim of the petitioner for grant of pension was negated by the Bihar State Electricity Board. The petitioner Ganga Ram Paswan has been seeking family pension, following the death of his wife.
One Mrs. Prema Devi (deceased) was earlier married to Ram Prakash Chaudhary, an employee of the Bihar State Electricity Board (BSEB). When he died on 30.04.1993 in harness, she was appointed as Class-IV employee on compassionate grounds on 16.11.1994.
It is the Paswan's claim that he married Prema Devi on 27.09.1993 and obtained a marriage certificate, thereafter, they lived as husband and wife. Subsequently, Prema Devi died on 07.01.1995 leaving behind the petitioner and her minor son, Alok Kumar Paswan @ Gandhi as their legal heir and representatives.
After the death of Late Prema Devi, the petitioner filed a petition for a direction to BSEB to make payment of entire dues amount of death cum retiral benefits payable to her. During the pendency, almost all the dues were paid to the petitioner on the basis of succession certificate. However, certain dues and the claim of family pension was not considered. The High Court disposed of that writ petition by directing the respondent board as follows:
“However, in view of the assurance given to the Court by the learned counsel for the Company, the matter is being disposed off with a direction to the respondent Company to clear the remaining dues admissible to the petitioner, on account of the death of his wife, latest by 15th January, 2015. In the event, the Company fails to live up to its commitment before the Court the petitioner shall be at liberty to file an application in the present proceeding itself bringing such fact to the notice of the Court for passing appropriate orders.”
The petitioner then filed representation before BSEB which was rejected vide two separate orders dated 20.08.2005 and 15.02.2016. It is these two orders that were challenged by the petitioner in the present petition.
The counsel appearing for the petitioner submitted that the petitioner’s claims were rejected without granting him any opportunity of hearing. He further submitted that the Board failed to live up to its commitment in terms of the orders of the High Court.
The counsel appearing on behalf of the respondent submitted that Prema Devi died on 07.01.1995 and prior to her death, she had neither submitted any application to her controlling officer to get permission for remarriage nor any remission had been granted to her to that effect. While contending that the petitioner is not liable to get the family pension, the respondent’s counsel submitted that no intimation whatsoever was made by the deceased employee to the Board regarding her marriage with the petitioner nor she had made the petitioner her nominee.
He further submitted that it is an admitted case of the petitioner that his marriage with Late Prema Devi was solemnized on 27.09.1993 whereas the date of birth of their child from the wedlock, Mr. Alok Kumar Paswan@Gandhi, was mentioned as 05.05.1993, which is prior to the purported marriage.
It was further submitted on behalf of BSEB that the claim of the petitioner seeking quashing of the order dated 20.08.2005 is not maintainable on the ground of delay and laches and the order dated 15.02.2016 cannot be challenged solely on the ground that all post retiral benefits of Late Mrs. Prema Devi as a guardian of Mr. Alok Kumar Paswan @ Gandhi on the basis of Succession Case and Guardian Case had already been paid by BSEB.
While declining to get into the validity of the marriage and succession certificate produced by the petitioner, the bench said it cannot delve into the disputed question of fact as to whether marriage was solemnized
"The petitioner has annexed xerox copies of the marriage certificate and the succession certificate whose veracity cannot be ascertained by this Court in the extraordinary writ jurisdiction,” said the court.
The court said proceeding under section 372 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925 being Summary in nature, the standard of proof required in such inquiry is adhered or not is to be looked into by a competent civil court.
"The High Court has no jurisdiction to interfere with the Succession Certificate on which basis the retiral dues has been paid to the petitioner,” it added.
The court said the grant of succession certificate does not determine question of title or what privilege does or does not belong to estate of deceased. It merely enables the party to whom a certificate is granted to collect any debts or securities belonging to deceased, added the court.
“Thus, family pension payable to the legal representative of the deceased does not need a Succession Certificate, even if it were a debt belonging to the deceased,” the bench added.
While referring to Section 214 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925, the court noted, “family pension is an independent claim and cannot be claimed through a deceased employee. Pension is not a debt, rather now it has been held to be property."
Whether the petitioner is entitled to get family pension?
The bench noted that Board never recognized the petitioner as husband of deceased employee and there is no evidence for such recognition beside marriage certificate on which the sign of deceased employee is also present.
"The paternity of the child will not prove that there was a marriage as the cohabitation between Husband and Wife is the main objection raised by the respondents," said the court.
While pointing out that the petitioner was not able to adduce satisfactory evidence before the Court to show that his marriage was solemnized on 27.09.1993 under Special Marriage Act and that his claim on the basis of natural guardian of his minor son was also rejected by the Board which had not been interfered with by the High Court either, the bench noted, “On the basis of above admitted facts also, the relief as prayed for by the petitioner in the present writ application to claim family pension is not sustainable.”
“The petitioner’s claim of having solemnized marriage with his wife (deceased employee) under Special Marriage Act, 1954 on the basis of the copy of the marriage certificate annexed, and the conflicted issue of legitimacy of the child who was born even before the solemnization of the alleged marriage, are disputed question of facts and can only be dealt by a competent civil court,” the bench added.
While granting liberty to the petitioner to approach the competent Court for declaration regarding his marriage with late Prema Devi, the court said that upon being successful he may approach the Board for payment of family pension.
"The Board is, hereby, directed to consider the claim of the petitioner, in case the petitioner obtains declaration of the competent Court with respect to his marriage with the deceased employee of the Board namely Prema Devi in accordance with law," said the court.
However, the court also said if the marriage is found to be fictitious, the Board may proceed to recover the amount already paid on account of death cum retiral dues to the petitioner, in accordance with law.
Case Title: Ganga Ram Paswan vs. Chairman, Bihar State Electricity Board
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Pat) 37
Click Here To Read/Download Judgment