Chh HC | Second wife, wedded in contravention of S. 5 HMA, held not entitled to share in family pension of deceased Government employee

Chhattisgarh High Court: Sanjay K. Agrawal, J. allowed a second appeal filed by the first wife of the deceased who died in harness while working as Supervisor in Chhattisgarh State Power Generation Co. Ltd., and held that his second wife was not entitled to any share in the family pension.

Provisions of the Chhattisgarh Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1976, provide that where a Government servant dies, while in service, the family of the deceased shall be entitled to contributory family pension. Rule 47(a)(i) provides that where the family pension is payable to more widows than one, the family pension shall be paid to the widows in equal shares.

First wife of the deceased filed a suit claiming the entire family pension. Per contra, the second wife relied on Rule 47(a)(i) and claimed an equal share in the family pension.

Relying on Section 5 read with Section 11 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and several decisions of the Supreme Court, including Lila Gupta v. Laxmi Narayan, (1978) 3 SCC 258 and A. Subash Babu v. State of A.P., (2011) 7 SCC 616, the High Court held that since the second wife married the deceased during subsistence of her marriage with the first wife, therefore, the marriage of the second wife with the deceased was void and she could not be said to be the legally wedded wife of the deceased and therefore her claim in the family pension was liable to be rejected.

Furthermore, reference was made to Rule 22 of the Chhattisgarh Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1965, sub-section (1) of which, prohibits Government servants for performing second marriage during the lifetime of their spouse living, without obtaining permission from the Government. The said prohibition is absolute and unconditional, and even if the personal law of the employee permits second marriage, then also, it is prohibited unless done with the leave of the Government. In other words, the applicable statutory rule will prevail over the personal law applicable to the Government servant concerned.

It was held that the second wife of the deceased Government employee was not entitled to any share in the family pension. Resultantly, the judgment of the first appellate court reversing the decision of the trial court and decreeing the second wife’s claim of equal share in the family pension was set aside. The Court also recorded appreciation for Hari Agrawal, Advocate, who acted as Amicus Curiae, for providing valuable assistance to the Court on short notice. [Nanbai Rathore v. Meena Bai, Second Appeal No. 373 of 2018, decided on 14-10-2019]

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