Chh HC | Govt. servant cannot make Will of family pension; guiding principles regarding retiral benefits vis-a-vis testamentary disposition recapitulated

Chhattisgarh High Court: Sanjay K. Agrawal, J. has held that a Government servant is not entitled to make a Will of the family pension which is granted in accordance with the service rules.

Vijay Kumar Kaushik, Head Constable in the Police Department, died in harness. He had two wives and children from each of them. After his death, the first wife and her children (petitioners) made an application under Section 372 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925 for grant of Succession Certificate claiming family pension, gratuity, and other benefits. This was opposed by the second wife and her children (respondents) contending that Vijay Kumar had already made a Will in their favour and also nominated them in service records, and therefore the petitioners were not entitled for grant of succession certificate. Petitioner’s application was rejected by the trial court, which decision had been affirmed by the appellate court. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioners filed the present revision petition under Section 388(3) of the 1925 Act.

Shivali Dubey, Advocate appeared for the petitioners; Devesh Chandra Verma, Advocate represented the respondents (second wife and her children); and Hari Agrawal, Advocate appeared as amicus curiae, whose assistance was appreciated by the Court.

Applying the principles laid down by the Supreme Court in Jodh Singh v. Union of India, (1980) 4 SCC 306; Violet Isaac v. Union of India, (1991) 1 SCC 725; and Nitu Singh v. Sheela Rani, (2016) 16 SCC 229, the High Court recapitulated the guiding principles of law relating to retiral benefits vis-a-vis their testamentary disposition:

(i) An employee has no power of testamentary disposition with respect to something which was not payable to him during his lifetime.

(ii) If the qualifying event/benefit occurs only on the death of the deceased while he is in service and due to this, some monetary benefits accrue, it would not form part of the estate of the deceased and the same cannot be disposed by testamentary disposition because there is an element of uncertainty of happening of event.

(iii) If the scheme and/or service rules designate certain persons who are entitled to receive benefits out of the scheme, then no other person except those designated persons can be entitled to the said benefits.

(iv) If the employee makes no contribution to the benefit, he has no control over the same to dispose it by testamentary disposition.

(v) If the scheme/Rules do not provide for the nomination of any person during the lifetime of the deceased employee, he has no title to the same and it cannot be disposed by testamentary disposition.

However, it was made clear that the said principles are not exhaustive and the condition laid above are independent of each other and not mutually destructive and in the event of any of the conditions being fulfilled, it cannot be said that testamentary disposition can be made with respect to the said benefit.

In light of the principles, the Court decided the present revision petition under different heads. The disbursement of the family pension, gratuity and other retirement benefits in the present case were governed by Chhattisgarh Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1976. As far as family pension was concerned, it was held that same was payable only to the family of a deceased employee, and Petitioner 1 being the legally wedded wife of Vijay Kumar, she was entitled to the entire amount of the said pension. Similarly, ex-gratia amount and police welfare amount were payable only after the death of the employee. As such, they did not form part of the estate of the deceased and thus could not be disposed by way of testamentary disposition. However, the benefits under the heads of gratuity, leave encashment, group insurance scheme, family benefits fund and department provident funds formed part of the estate of the deceased employee and therefore could be disposed by in terms of the Will made by the deceased employee.

Consequently, the petitioners were held entitled to the Succession Certificate with regard to family pension, ex-gratia and police welfare payment. The revision petition was disposed of in such terms. [Samunda Bai v. General Public, 2019 SCC OnLine Chh 29, dated 15-04-2019]

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