Rule 12-A CCS Extraordinary Pension Rules | Widow Entitled To Pension Even If Death Of Husband Not Attributable To Govt Service: Punjab & Haryana HC
The Punjab and Haryana High Court recently directed the Centre to restore pension to a woman, whose husband - an employee of the Indian Air Force, had died in service in 1975. Her family pension was stopped in April 1982 when the authorities came to know that she had remarried the younger brother of her deceased husband.
The division bench of Justice M.S. Ramachandra Rao and Justice Sukhvinder Kaur ordered the authorities to restore the pension to her from 29.04.2011 with interest @ 6% from the said date till the date of payment.
"The respondents Nos. 1 to 3 shall make payment of arrears to petitioner under Rule 12-A of the CCS (Extraordinary Pension) Rules within three months from the date of receipt of the certified copy of this order and shall continue to pay the same to her during her lifetime," said the court.
Sukhjeet Kaur, the petitioner, had challenged the order of the Central Administrative Tribunal, Chandigarh which had earlier rejected her claim for pension, ruling that as per Rule 12-A of the CCS (Extraordinary Pension) Rules, even though a widow of an employee who remarried her deceased husband's brother and continued to live a communal life with, or contributed to the support of the other dependents of the deceased, was entitled to pension, the petitioner stood disqualified since the death of her husband was not attributable to government service.
Kaur in June 1974 had married Mohinder Singh. He died in March 1975. A daughter was born to Kaur in April 1975. in June 1975, she married younger brother of Mohinder Singh. Though family pension was sanctioned to her in July 1976, it was stopped when authorities came to know about the second marriage.
Proceedings before the Armed Forces Tribunal
Aggrieved by the decision, she approached the Armed Forces Tribunal, Chandigarh for restoration of the family pension. However, the AFT denied her claims citing that her deceased husband Mohinder worked in civilian service, and therefore, the AFT lacked jurisdiction.
Proceedings before the Central Administrative Tribunal, Chandigarh
The petitioner, aggrieved by the order of the Tribunal, approached the Central Administrative Tribunal, Chandigarh, which in a 2015 order held that family pension could not have been discontinued to her in light of Rule 54 of CCS (Pension) Rules, 1972, Rule 219 of Army Pension Regulations, 1961 and Rule 12-A of the CCS (Extraordinary Pension) Rules. The CAT asked the authorities to reconsider the matter.
The respondents, however, again rejected her claim in 2015 stating that as per Rule 54 of CCS, a widow is entitled to family pension only upto the date of her remarriage. As an exception to that, even a widow who remarries is entitled to family pension provided she has no child from her previous marriage. Since the petitioner has a female child from her marriage with Singh, she was held to be not entitled to family pension.
The petitioner filed another application before the Central Administrative Tribunal, Chandigarh for claiming family pension under Rule 12-A of the CCS (Extraordinary Pension) Rules, which was rejected via the impugned order stating that the rule applied only in the event of death or disability of the Government servants attributable to the government service. The Tribunal also cited the principle of delay and laches while rejecting the claim.
Challenge before High Court
The petitioner contended that as per Rule 12A of the CCS (Extraordinary Pension) Rules, extraordinary pension is granted even to a widow who remarries, provided such remarriage is with her deceased husband’s brother. Reliance was also placed by the petitioners on the decision in Smt. Kashmiro Devi v. Union of India and Others, 2008 (5) SLR 335 (DB).
The high court allowed the petition of the woman and held that she is entitled to the benefit of Rule 12-A, irrespective of the fact that death was not attributable to the government service.
The division bench placed reliance on the decision in Kashmiro Devi where the Delhi High Court, in the case of family pension of a widow whose husband had died on account of Thrombosis in the artery while in active service, had held that even though the death was neither attributable to nor aggravated by military service, the widow was still entitled to family pension.
The Delhi High Court had considered Army Pension Regulations, 1961 in that case. The division bench of Punjab and Haryana High Court said Rule 12-A of the CCS (Extraordinary Pension) Rules specifically permits a widow of an employee who remarries deceased husband’s brother and continues to live communal life and contributes to the support of other family dependents of the deceased to get extraordinary pension like Regulation 219 of the Army Pension Regulations, 1961 which was considered by the Delhi High Court in Smt. Kashmiro Devi.
The court said:
“The view of the Delhi High Court in the above decision that there ought not to be a distinction between a widow of a person who had died by reasons attributable to or aggravated by military service and a person who had died just in service, since the problems faced by the widows are identical, undoubtedly applies even in the instant case if we substitute the word ‘Government service’ for the word ‘Military service’ in the said judgment.”
In connection with the delay and laches, the court said that contention of the counsel for the respondents that laches on the part of the petitioner disentitles her to any relief cannot also be countenanced because admittedly, no such plea was taken by the respondents earlier. "Therefore, they had waived the said plea and so are barred by application of principle of constructive res judicata from raising the said plea," it added.
Case Title: Sukhjeet Kaur v. Union of India and Others
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (PH) 14
Case No: CWP-14372-2016
Coram: Justice M.S. Ramachandra Rao and Justice Sukhvinder Kaur
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