Family pension to second wife: HC ruling

Dear Editor,
The Karnataka High Court has ruled that Family Pension is not payable to second wife when first marriage subsists. (Case Title: Mahalakshmamma and The Secretary, Department of Rural Development and Panchayatraj). Case No: Writ Appeal No. 256 of 2023. Citation No. 023 Live Law (Kar) 447. Dismissing an appeal filed by the second wife of a deceased State employee seeking family pension, the division bench of Chief Justice Prasanna V Varale and Justice Krishna S Dixit has rightly held that the benefit of family pension should be made available to only the legally wedded wife. Second marriage when the first marriage is subsisting is no marriage in the eyes of law. The Division bench has upheld the judgment of a single bench that had dismissed the plea of the appellant. The plea of the appellant for family pension along with arrears has been rejected on the ground that she was espoused by the employee (Nanjundaiah) while his first marriage was subsisting. The court viewed that the appellant was not the legally wedded wife for the purpose of grant of Family Pension. The court has invoked Section 17 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Under this section, bigamy is an offence. The court has observed that the provisions of the Rule 294 of the Karnataka Civil Services Rules (KCSR) provide for the sanctioning of a Family Pension to the family of a Government servant, after his demise, in harness or post-retirement. Accordingly, the court found the appeal devoid of merit. But, Rule 294 of KCSR has been deleted. Rules 294 to 297B have been deleted vide GN No. FD4 SRA 2000 dated 04/01/2003 (with effect from 01/04/1998). Doubt arises if the counsel for appellant is not aware of the fact that Rule 294 has been deleted or if the advocate for state government has concealed it. Rule 292-B: Again B. Death Gratuity Note 6 D (b) says that the gratuity amount is payable “To the surviving widow or if there are more widows than one, to all of them in such manner as Government deem fit, in the case of a male officer” If the gratuity is payable in case the deceased employee leaves more than one widow, there cannot be any bar to distribute Family Pension among the surviving wives. The law is not firm on the bigamous marriage. It is not enough if the bigamous or polygamous marriage is prohibited by law. In so far as bigamous and polygamous marriages are concerned, the law makers should be stone-hearted while enacting laws because the marriages of this kind do not keep any family happy. Denial of terminal benefits to other wives of deceased employee when first marriage is subsisting can effectively discourage the women, women only, from going after the married person. “Women only” has been used because the case of more than one husband claiming the terminal benefits of the deceased woman employee has not surfaced. Denial of terminal benefits to the next of the first living wife may not eradicate the bigamous or polygamous marriage. But it certainly makes them repent for going in contravention of the established law and tradition. At least some women intending to marry a married person can learn some lesson from some women having already married the married persons.
K.V. Seetharamaiah

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