Armed Forces Tribunal

Armed Forces Tribunal (Lucknow Bench): The Division Bench of Justice Umesh Chandra Srivastava, Member (J) and Vice Admiral Abhay Raghunath Karve, Member (A) held that special Family Pension cannot be granted merely on being mentioned in Discharge book that cause of death was aggravated by military service. The Bench specified that fact that death was aggravated by military service can only be certified by medical opinion.

Facts of the Case

Brief facts of the case were that the husband of the applicant, deceased-Ex Rfn Kishan Singh was enrolled in the Army on 15-02-1971, who was married to one Bachuli Devi who eloped with Balwant Singh in the year 1975. The deceased remarried to Sabuli Devi on 03-07-1977 (after death of Bachuli Devi on 08-10-1976). The deceased had one son named Raghuvir Singh from the first marriage and another son named Yashpal Singh from the second marriage.

The grievance of the applicant was that the deceased died on 10-05-1979 due to ‘MALIGNANT COCHEXIA’ and as per discharge book, his death was aggravated due to military service, however, the case of the applicant for grant of special family pension was rejected on the ground that death of deceased soldier was neither attributable to nor aggravated by military service. Ordinary Family Pension was sanctioned to Raghuvir Singh for the period from 11-05-1979 to 19-12-1997 and Yashpal Singh was granted Ordinary Family Pension from 20-12-1997 to 04-01-2005.

The applicant represented her case to PCDA (P), Allahabad for grant of family pension which was rejected by the respondents on the ground that late Kishan Singh married to the applicant without taking divorce from first wife as well as date on certificates of marriage submitted by her were different.

Earlier, the Tribunal while referring the petition of the applicant transferred by the Uttranchal High Court had direct PCDA (P), Allahabad to decide the claim again keeping in mind that the first wife being died on 08-10-1976, it was not possible for the Ex serviceman to seek divorce with her. The Bench had also imposed cost of Rs. 10,000 to be recovered from the officer who had dealt with the matter. Despite aforesaid, the PCDA (P), Allahabad had again dismissed the claim of the applicant saying applicant had represented three marriage certificates showing three dates.

Observations and Findings

While addressing the instant application, the Bench opined that the reasons assigned by the PCDA (P), Allahabad for denying applicant’s claim of family pension were not acceptable more so when applicant had come up with a specific plea that her marriage with late Kishan Singh had taken place after his first wife had deserted him and eloped with someone else and that too after her (first wife) death.

Therefore, the Bench opined that the applicant’s claim was wrongly denied and it was granted to sons of the deceased for which the applicant could not be punished. The Bench stated, the respondent could not deny legal right of the applicant only on the ground that there was difference in date of marriage certificates produced by the applicant. The Bench added,

At least respondents after ascertaining the factual position should assist the widow lady in granting family pension and means of livelihood. Respondents cannot be hard to say that date of marriage mentioned in marriage certificates produced by the applicant is different, therefore, they are not under obligation to grant family pension.”

Accordingly, the applicant was held entitled for grant of family pension from after the next date of death of the first wife. The respondents were directed to grant family pension to applicant from 05-01-2005 with interest at 8% per annum till actual payment. [Sabuli Devi v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine AFT 7126, decided on 03-12-2021]

Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Appearance by:

For the Applicant: Shailendra Kumar Singh, Advocate

For Union of India: Amit Jaiswal, Central Govt Counsel

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