Punjab and Haryana High Court: G.S. Sandhawalia, J., allowed the instant petition against the order of State whereby the petitioner’s claim for grant of arrears of monthly financial assistance and family pension had been rejected.  While hearing the petition, the Bench stated,

“It is not disputed that the petitioner has committed the offence of murder and is on bail and her sentence has been suspended and, therefore, she requires to maintain herself and cannot be denied the financial assistance and it is not a bounty, as such, and is her right on account of the services rendered by her husband to the Government.”

The petitioner was widow of one Tarsem Singh, who was a teacher in the respondent-Education Department on regular basis since 1986. On his death on 17-11-2008, financial assistance became payable to his widow as per Rules of 2006, and the same was to be continued till the date specified in the Rules of 2006 or the date the employee would have retired from the Government service on attaining the age of superannuation, which in the present case was 31-10-2017. The petitioner continued to draw the monthly financial assistance for some time, but later on, she alleged that no order had been passed for releasing the family pension and other admissible benefits.

The respondents took the defence that since the order of conviction for murder and sentence had been passed against the petitioner, therefore, on account of her lack of good conduct, the amount of monthly financial assistance had been stopped. The respondent claimed,

“The pension is not a charity or bounty and it is a conditional payment depending upon the sweet will of the employer. The person, convicted for the offence of murder, cannot be allowed the said benefit”

 Since the petitioner’s conviction had not been stayed and only her sentence had been suspended while releasing her on bail, the respondent stated that the widow was not entitled to any pecuniary benefits. The provisions relied by the respondent were:

 Punjab Civil Services Rules, Volume-II 2 .2 (a):

Future good conduct is an implied condition of every grant of pension. The appointing authority reserves to itself the right of withholding or withdrawing a pension or any part of it if the pensioner be convicted of serious crime or is guilty of grave misconduct.

 Rule 4(a) and (b) of the Family Pension Rules, 1964 4-A.

(a) If a person, who in the event of death of government employee while in service, is eligible to receive family pension under this rule, is charged with the offence of murdering the Government employee or for abetting in the commission of such an offence, the claim of such a person, including other eligible member or members of the family to receive the family pension, shall remain suspended till the conclusion of the criminal proceedings instituted against him.

(b) If on the conclusion of the criminal proceedings referred to in clause (a), the persons concerned– (i) is convicted for the murder or abetting in the murder of the government employee, such a person shall be debarred from receiving the family pension which shall be payable to other eligible member of the family, from the date of the death of government employee.

The Bench, after observing the above provisions stated that, there was nothing mentioned about the misconduct, as such, of the family members for not being entitled for the monthly financial assistance and, therefore, eligibility to continue receiving monthly financial assistance could not have been denied by the respondents as per Punjab Civil Service Rules. Further, the Bench said that, only if the Government employee had been murdered, the disqualification, as such, would arise. The said provision was based on the principle as provided under Section 25 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, wherein any person who commits murder or abets the commission of murder is disqualified from inheriting the property of the person murdered. In the present case, the conviction of the petitioner was not on account of murdering her husband, the Government employee.

“Even as per Rules of 2006, the object, is to tide over the emergent situation of the family of the deceased employee, resulting from the loss of the bread-earner by giving financial assistance…it is a beneficial piece of legislation, which fact has been lost sight of while passing the impugned order.”

 Resultantly, the Court opined that the order of denying pension to the petitioner on account of her conviction was unrelated to the death of her husband and was not sustainable. Accordingly, the said order was set aside and mandamus was issued to the respondents to pay the arrears of monthly financial assistance to the petitioner.

The Court further directed that the case of the petitioner for payment of family pension should also be processed and the arrears be paid to her with interest at 6% per annum. [Baljinder Kaur v. State of Haryana, 2021 SCC OnLine P&H 192, decided on 25-01-2021]

Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

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