A Rewari woman – who was declined the benefit of family pension by central government for past 12 years for the reason that her absconding husband, a former BSF personnel, is wanted for murder of his own son in a 2001 case – has been granted relief by Punjab and Haryana High Court which has ruled the presumption of law has arisen in her favour after a civil court in 2013 declared her husband to be dead on the basis of claims that he had not been seen since 2003.
Directing the authorities to process the case of woman Ram Kala Devi for family pension along with the arrears and per annum interest, a single bench of the High Court said, “In the peculiar facts and circumstances, the petitioner had lost not only her son on account of the criminal offence which the husband had committed and thereafter, he had gone absconding and her right of family pension was also denied. It is, in such circumstances, the benefit of the Civil Court decree has to be granted to the petitioner”.
The Court, however, has also added a condition while granting the relief and said, “that in case the petitioner’s husband is traced or arrested and produced in Court, the benefit, as such, of presumption, would no longer survive”. The civil court in 2013 had declared Devi’s husband Singh Ram as dead taking into account the witness statements that he had not been seen by anybody or by his relatives anywhere in India and he had not returned to the village or the locality since 2003. Ram had earlier taken voluntary retirement from the BSF in 1993. Her first request for family pension in his absence was declined in 2008.
The family pension had been denied to the woman saying that her husband had disappeared on his own volition as he was an accused in the murder case and was a proclaimed offender. According to a circular issued in 1989, “where an official would disappear after committing frauds, the family pension would be sanctioned only when the Government employee is acquitted by the Court of law”.
Devi’s counsel in the court argued that her right to family pension cannot be curtailed due to the misconduct of her husband, adding that there was a presumption of his death which has now been “fortified” by the civil court decree of 2013. Central government counsel argued that pension was not a matter of right and that the High Court had already turned down her plea in 2009 saying there could be no presumption that he had died if he was absconding and it was his conscious act.
On the earlier dismissal of the same prayer for family pension by the court, the High Court in the verdict passed on July 03 said, “This Court had only rejected the claim on the ground that the Writ Court cannot presume that the person is dead. At that point of time, no decree had been passed by the Civil Court. The petitioner had filed the suit and as noticed above, placed sufficient evidence on record to claim that her husband was missing and had not seen the light of the day for the relevant 7 years”.