Hearing a plea for compensation by the daughter from the second marriage of a Railway policeman who succumbed to Covid-19, the Bombay High Court Tuesday said the money could be shared among her, the man’s first wife, and her daughter. The second wife, however, would not be entitled to a share.
Both the families have claimed they were unaware of the other’s existence till the policeman passed away on May 30.
The HC has allowed the first wife and daughter to file counter claims within two days, and said it would decide on the matter as per past judgements.
A division bench of Justice S J Kathawalla and Justice Madhav Jamdar had Monday directed the Railways and the state government to deposit the compensation money in court. The daughter from the second marriage had sought equitable and proportionate distribution of the amount of over Rs 60 lakh among the two wives and children of the policeman.
On Tuesday, the first wife and her daughter told the court they were unaware of his second family, and needed time to file counterclaims.
The policeman, who was posted as assistant sub-inspector with Maharashtra Railway Police Force, had married his first wife in 1992 and the second wife in 1998.
Advocate Prerak Sharma, representing the petitioner, told the court that his client’s mother wrote to the Railways to provide her with pension benefits, employment and gratuity in her deceased husband’s name. However, she came to know that a similar letter had been written by another woman, who also claimed to be his wife and had a daughter.
The petitioner told the court that both marriages were registered with the Registrar of Marriages and under the Hindu Marriage Act. Sharma submitted that his client being the child of the second wife had a right to family pension and death-cum-retirement gratuity, and therefore, she and her mother should get equal proportion in the compensation given by the state and the Railways.
The court then asked the first wife and her daughter to remain present during the hearing Tuesday as it could not decide on distribution of compensation without them. The bench had said it would proceed to pass necessary orders if its direction was not complied with.
On Tuesday, the first wife and her daughter appeared before the court through videoconference. They told the court the policeman resided with them continuously, and they were unaware of the existence of the second wife and daughter.
When the petitioner’s advocate, Sharma, said that the second wife’s daughter had posted information about herself and her relation with the policeman on the Facebook page of the first daughter, the latter denied this.
After hearing submissions, the court asked the first wife and her daughter to file their counter claims within two days and to appoint a lawyer to represent them.
The Court also directed the state government to deposit the compensation amount with it within a week.
However, on the request of additional government pleader Jyoti Chavan, the court allowed the authorities to withhold the gratuity amount accruing in the name of the deceased policeman.
Deputy Commissioner of Police, West Zone, Railways, confirmed that the compensation amount from the police welfare fund and other outstanding dues of the policeman would be deposited in the court within a week.
The next hearing is on Thursday, August 27.
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