Second wife, not legally married cannot claim compassionate appointment

Delhi High Court: Recently before the Delhi High Court, a case regarding compassionate employment to a second wife of the deceased husband came up. Champa Devi- the second wife and the appellant pleaded that she was the legally wedded wife of the deceased as the late husband and employee (government) of GTB Hospital had sworn and declared on affidavit in 1990 that the petitioner was his lawful wife. However, the first wife of the petitioner was still alive at the time he sworn in the affidavit. It was only in 1994 that the first wife passed away.

The High Court noted that it was only in 2013 while she had the opportunity to state so when she applied for succession certificate or sough appointment on compassionate grounds, the petitioner claimed before the Court that she married the deceased as per Hindu rites in 1994 after the death of his first wife, but couldn’t present enough evidence to prove it. The same was not mentioned even in the certificate of marriage issued by Gram Panchayat of their village. Ever since the inception of the suit, her contention had been that she married the deceased by way of execution of a marriage deed and an affidavit.

On this, the Court went on to observe that under Hindu Law, marriage is a sacrament and not a contract which can be entered into by execution of a marriage deed.  She never even disputed the fact that at that time, he had a living spouse. She even contended that as she was the only wife alive at the death of her husband and therefore, she must be entitled to all the benefits. All these contentions were rejected by the Court and it upheld the judgment of the courts below observing that the appellant can not claim the status of a legally-wedded life and relied on the reasons stated above. [Champa Devi v. Lt. Governor of Delhi, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 6562, decided on January 17, 2017]

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