Read Order: Tmt.K.Rathinammal And Ors v. Government of Tamil Nadu And Ors 

Tulip Kanth

Chennai, June 23, 2022: In a case of retiral benefits which was contested by two women, both claiming to be wives of an employee of the NCC Directorate, the Madras High Court has opined that when two wives are claiming family pension in respect of the deceased employee, the status of the wives are to be declared by the Competent Court of Law. 

Further on the issue at hand, the Bench of Justice S.M.Subramaniam asserted, “The High Court cannot conduct an adjudication in respect of such disputed facts, which all are to be decided based on the documents and evidences. Roving enquiry cannot be conducted in the writ proceedings under Article 226 fo the Constitution of India.”

In this matter, two writ petitions were filed by the wives of one (late) Mr.C.Krishnan who was working as Selection Grade Store Attender at NCC Directorate. The petitioner submitted her representation to settle the pensionary benefits, including the family pension. The Assistant Director rejected the request of the writ petitioner stating that the petitioner had divorced her husband late Mr.C.Krishnan and got remarried to one Tmt.Rathinammal(another petitioner) and therefore, the petitioner-Tmt.Bakkiyam was not entitled for the family pension.

The Counsel for the the petitioner in another petition, filed by Tmt.K.Rathinammal, who also claimed to be the legal wife of late Mr.C.Krishnan, made a submission that her husband late Mr.C.Krishnan divorced his first wife Tmt.Bakkiyam in the year 1973 itself and thereafter he married the writ petitioner-Rathinammal. Thus Tmt.Rathinammal was the legally wedded wife of late Mr.C.Krishnan.

Mentioning that the parties under these circumstances were bound to approach the Competent Court of Law for the purpose of an adjudication of the issues and to establish their rights, the Bench held that only after this exercise,  the Government Department will be in a position to form an opinion for grant of retiral benefits and also the family pension.

The counsel for the petitioner, Tmt.K.Rathinammal, stated that the documents were available to establish the customary divorce granted between Tmt.Bakkiyam and late Mr.C.Krishnan. However, the Bench held that all such documents are to be adjudicated by way of trial before the Competent Court of Law. Therefore, according to the Bench, the decision taken by the Department was in consonance with the principles and there was no infirmity. 

It was also clarified by the Bench that only if an appropriate declaration is granted by the Competent Court of Law and the issues between the two wives are resolved, the Department would be in a positon to settle the benefits and therefore, the writ petitioners in both the writ petitions were held to be at liberty to approach the Competent Court of Law for establishing their respective rights. Only after reaching finality, they would be at liberty to approach the Competent Authorities for settlement of retiral benefits, including the family pension, held the Bench.

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