Pensions and Second Wives: A Deep Dive into the Legal Complexities
Analysing the Rights of Second Wives to Pensions in Government Employees: A Perspective on the Narji Begum vs The State of Assam Case
When a government employee passes away, their pension and other benefits are typically disbursed to their surviving family members. But what happens when there is more than one wife? The case of Narji Begum vs The State of Assam sheds light on the complexities involved in such scenarios.
Background of the Case
The Tragic Incident
Narji Begum, the second wife of Taiyab Ali, a government employee serving as an Un-armed Branch Constable in Assam, filed a writ petition against the State of Assam for non-disbursal of family pension and other benefits. Taiyab Ali met with a fatal road accident while on duty on September 15, 2019.
Narji Begum’s Claim
Narji Begum claimed that she married Taiyab Ali on July 13, 2000, and had two children with him. After her husband’s death, she approached the authorities for the disbursement of his unpaid salary, GPF, GIS, Gratuity, and pension amount, but was denied as her name was not recorded as his wife in his service record.
The court referred to various judgments and rules that were crucial in determining the outcome.
Sirazun Nessa vs State of Assam
- The Division Bench held that both the surviving widows of a deceased Government employee of the Muslim Faith are entitled to a proportionate family pension.
- It was observed that the proportionate family pension payable to the wives shall be considered by the Accountant General, Assam in accordance with the Mohammedan Law.
Khursheed Ahmad Khan vs State of Uttar Pradesh and Another
- The Supreme Court upheld the removal of a government servant for contracting a second marriage during the existence of the first without government permission.
- The court noted that bigamous marriage among Muslims is neither a religious practice nor a mandate.
Assam Services (Pension) Rules, 1969
- The rules did not specifically provide entitlement to family pension by more than one wife.
- However, it indicated that the eldest surviving widow would be entitled to the family pension.
- Taiyab Ali’s first wife, the respondent No. 6, had no objection to sharing the Family Pension.
- Neither the petitioner nor the state respondents placed any material on record to establish that Taiyab Ali divorced his first wife or obtained government permission for the second marriage.
- The court observed that, following the decision of the Supreme Court in Khursheed Ahmad Khan’s case, family pension has to be granted to the first wife as per the Assam Services (Pension) Rules, 1969.
- Narji Begum, as the second wife, was not legally entitled to any proportionate pension on her husband’s death during the lifetime of the first wife.
- However, the court noted that the first wife stated she does not have any objection for a proportionate share of the pension with Narji Begum.
- The court observed that in case of a joint petition by both wives for an agreed proportionate pension, the authorities may consider the same in accordance with the law.
Implications and Future Perspectives
This case illustrates the legal complexities in pension disbursement in cases involving multiple wives. The judgment implies that:
- Second wives may not be entitled to pension as per rules.
- Cooperative action between the wives might open avenues for proportionate sharing.
Conclusion: The Legal Stance on Pension Disbursement to a Second Wife
The verdict in the Narji Begum Vs. State of Assam case reiterates the legal position on the distribution of family pension to the second wife of a deceased government employee. It is evident that the courts have taken into consideration the provisions of service conduct and personal laws that apply to government employees. While a second marriage might be valid under personal law, government employees are subject to the rules that govern their service, and violating them may have repercussions.
In the Narji Begum case, despite the first wife not objecting to share the pension, the court held that the second wife is not legally entitled to any proportionate pension during the lifetime of the first wife under the 1969 Pension Rules. This was in line with the precedents set by the Supreme Court and other judgements, as mentioned below:
Reference to Other Judgments
- Sirazun Nessa -Vs- State of Assam: In this case, it was held that both surviving widows of a deceased government employee are entitled to a proportionate family pension. However, the judgment was delivered before the Supreme Court ruling in Khursheed Ahmad Khan’s case, which holds a higher legal bearing.
- Khursheed Ahmad Khan -Vs- State of Uttar Pradesh and Another: In this Supreme Court case, the appellant was removed from service for contracting another marriage during the existence of the first marriage without the permission of the Government. This highlighted that even though a second marriage might be valid under personal laws, it can be misconduct under service rules.
- Javed -Vs- State of Haryana: The Supreme Court held that bigamous marriage amongst Muslims is not a religious practice or mandate. This implies that service rules and laws of the land apply regardless of personal laws.
- Somela Khatun -Vs- State of Assam and Others: Similar to the Narji Begum case, the court denied pension to a second Mohammedan wife of a deceased government employee under the 1969 Pension Rules.
- Rejina Begum (Musstt.) -Vs- State of Assam and Others: This case also supports the stance that a second Mohammedan wife is not entitled to pension under the 1969 Pension Rules.
In light of these judgements, it’s clear that the pension distribution to a second wife is contingent upon various factors including the service rules, personal laws, and the legal precedents. The pension rules, as they stand currently, tend to favor the first wife in accordance with the service conduct rules, and a second marriage without the permission of the government can be viewed as misconduct.