Read Order: Swaran Kaur v. State of Punjab and others

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, April 16, 2022: While dealing with a case wherein the mother of a deceased Punjab Armed Police personnel, being the sole survivor of the family after the widow and son of the deceased got remarried and died respectively, was aggrieved by the refusal of the respondent- department to grant her the benefit of family pension on the ground that the first right over such pensionary benefit is of the widow followed by that of the children of the deceased to the exclusion of all others, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that the entitlement for the grant of family pension to the dependent parents needs to be seen after the widow or the children lose their eligibility for the grant of the said benefit also.

The Bench of Justice Harsimran Singh Sethi held, “… the widow initially is entitled for the grant of family pension to the exclusion of the others, thereafter, in case she becomes ineligible, the children will be entitled… but when the children also become ineligible for the said benefit, then in case the parents are still alive, who were also dependent upon the deceased and fulfill the other eligibility criteria required for the grant of family pension, their case for the grant of family pension cannot be ignored merely on the ground that the deceased had left behind a widow or the children at the time of death.”

The present petition before the High Court was filed for the grant of a family pension to the petitioner, who is the mother of the deceased.

Essentially, the case of the petitioner is such that the petitioner being a widow was dependent on her only son Satnam Singh who was employed with the Punjab Armed Police (second respondent). Satnam Singh was married and had a son. Unfortunately, in 2006, Satnam Singh and his son died in a car accident.  

Thereafter keeping in view the rules governing the service of Satnam Singh, his widow was found eligible for the grant of a family pension. However, as per the said rules, in case the widow remarries, she loses her right to the grant of family pension, and it so happened in the present case that in 2008, the widow of Satnam Singh got remarried and started living with her second husband. 

Thus, the petitioner, being the lone survivor of the family and claimant for the grant of family pension, filed an application for the grant of family pension to her. Her case was initiated by the authorities concerned but the same was never finalized and ultimately, the respondents concluded that the rules governing the service of the deceased explicitly did not grant the benefit of the family pension to the mother, since the family pension was already extended to the widow, and the petitioner’s claim was not accepted, thus resulting in the filing of the present petition.

The respondents stated that keeping in view the rules governing the service of the deceased, the family pension is to be extended initially to the widow of the deceased in exclusion of everyone else and if the widow becomes ineligible for grant of the same, the grant of family pension is extended to the children of the deceased in exclusion of everyone else. 

Further, it was added that the parents of the deceased are also entitled to the grant of family pension, in case they are dependent upon the deceased, but the said benefit can only be extended to them, in case the deceased did not leave behind either a widow or any child and the total income of the parents, from all sources, does not exceed Rs.2,620/- per month.

The Court observed at the very outset that the family pension is to be allowed to the dependent so as to mitigate the financial hardships of the family and the rules governing the service of the deceased are to be adhered to while examining the eligibility/entitlement of the family left behind by the deceased. 

After perusing the rules applicable to the present case regarding grant of family pension, the Court opined that the first right on the pension (to the exclusion of others) is of the widow of the deceased and in case of her becoming ineligible owing to her remarriage, the children of the deceased become entitled to such pension to the exclusion of others. 

Further, the court observed that the dependent parents are also entitled to the grant of family pension, but the interpretation being extended to the above-mentioned rule is that though the parents are entitled to the grant of family pension but in the case when the said benefit of family pension has already not been extended at any given point of time either to the widow or the children of the deceased. 

The Court noted that as per the respondents, the entitlement of the parents is to be seen at the first instance of granting the family pension, i.e. immediately after the death of the deceased, and not thereafter. Not finding substance in such interpretation, the court opined that the said interpretation does not achieve the purpose for which the family pension is to be extended. 

It was added by the Court that in case the family pension is to be extended by the Department so that the dependent of the deceased are supported and do not suffer from financial hardships, then though it is correct that the widow initially is entitled for the grant of family pension to the exclusion of the others, thereafter, in case the widow becomes ineligible, the children will be entitled to the grant of family pension in exclusion of the others, but when the children also become ineligible for the said benefit, then in case the parents are still alive, who were also dependent upon the deceased and fulfill the other eligibility criteria required for the grant of family pension, their case for the grant of family pension cannot be ignored merely on the ground that the deceased had left behind a widow or the children at the time of death. 

The entitlement for the grant of family pension to the dependent parents needs to be seen after the widow or the children lose their eligibility for the grant of the said benefit also, held the court. 

Thus, while holding that the correct interpretation of the rule is that parents cannot be granted the family pension to the exclusion of the widow or the children of the deceased employee, the Court allowed the Writ Petition for the grant of the benefit of the family pension to the mother who is the lone survivor of the family. 

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