Second ‘Wife’ in bigamous marriage cannot claim to be a ‘widow’ entitled to pension: Bombay HC [Read Judgment]

Second ‘Wife’ in bigamous marriage cannot claim to be a ‘widow’ entitled to pension: Bombay HC [Read Judgment]

Bombay High Court on Wednesday held that if marriage is contracted with second lady in subsistence of first marriage, then the second lady cannot claim to be a widow entitled to pension after the death of the man. “The Indian system has adopted monogamy as a legal structure of the marriage institution and, therefore, occasional second marriage in subsistence of first marriage is held void in law,” Justice Mridula Bhatkar observed, adding, “The second woman cannot be given a status of a legally wedded wife.”

The Court was hearing an appeal challenging a 2010 judgment rendered by the Joint Civil Judge, Senior Division, Sangli. The appeal for succession and heirship certificate was filed by two ladies, Draupada Jaydeo Pawar and Indubai Jaydeo Pawar, who claimed to be wives of the deceased Jaydeo Pawar.

Draupada claimed to have married the deceased in 1979 and applied for heirship after Jaydeo’s death. Indubai had also filed an application for heirship, contending that she got married to the deceased in 1981 and had filed an application for maintenance a few years later, which was decided in her favor.

The Trial Court Judge had found in favor of Indubai, ruling that Draupada had failed to prove a valid marriage with the deceased. Meanwhile, Draupada passed away. The Trial Court then directed to issue succession certificate in Indubai’s name, enabling her to arrears of family pension and future family pension. This was however on the condition that she would pay a share of the family pension to Draupada’s five children. This order was challenged by Draupada’s children before the High Court.

The appellants had submitted various documents to support the claim of Draupada’s marriage to the deceased. They also submitted Jaydeo’s Will, which he had executed before his death. He had bequeathed the entire property in favor of his wife Draupada through the will. On the basis of the will, Draupada had also succeeded in receiving the Letters of Administration of movable and immovable properties. Further, Draupada was named as Jaydeo’s nominee in his pension papers. They hence submitted that Indubai’s status as a second wife was illegal and that her marriage with Jaydeo was void.

On the other hand, Indubai had claimed that all documents produced were forged and were rightly disregarded by the Trial Court. She had further submitted that pension is not an ‘estate’ of an employer, which would be disposed of by a Will. Therefore, she claimed, the bequeathing of pension in favor of Draupada in the Will was not legal.

The Court ruled in favor of Draupada and disregarded the evidence of the written statement filed by Jaydeo in the case for maintenance filed by Indubai, wherein he had not mentioned Draupada. It opined that the suppression of the fact of first marriage by Jaydeo was obvious because he was in Government service and if he would have disclosed the fact of his first marriage, he would have been charged for misconduct under Rule 26 of the Maharashtra Civil Services (Conduct) Rules.

With regard to the question of bequeathing family pension through a Will, the Court observed that payment of pension is strictly governed by the service rules and therefore, they cannot be an ‘estate’ disposable by will. However, the Court observed that the statements made in the will about the status of Draupada and his final wish that Draupada alone should have the right over his pension, corroborated the fact of valid nomination of Draupada as his first wife. The Court thereafter held that family pension cannot be paid to the second wife, as she cannot claim to be a widow entitled to pension.

Read the Judgment here.