Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: The Three-Judge Bench of Ashwani Kumar Singh, Birendra Kumar and Anil Kumar Upadhyay, JJ. disposed of an appeal arising out of a reference made by the Division Bench of this Court, in view of conflicting judgments on the aspect of maintainability of a claim for compassionate appointment of a child born from the second marriage of deceased employee, while the first marriage is subsisting.

A circular issued in 2005 under by the Personnel and Administrative Reforms Department of Government of Bihar declared that if a government servant marries while earlier marriage is subsisting, without the permission of the government, then such spouse and the ward of such spouse would be disentitled for appointment on compassionate ground. In a petition filed before this Court, the learned Single Judge quashed the said circular and directed the petitioner authority to appoint minor-respondent herein (whose father died in harness and who was the son of deceased’s second wife) on compassionate grounds. 

The Court relied on Union of India v. V.R. Tripathi, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 3097 where the right to compassionate appointment to child of second marriage was acknowledged under Section 16(1) and 16(3) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (HMA); and where it was held that while designing a policy of compassionate appointment, State can prescribe the terms on which it can be granted. However, while making a scheme/ rule, State could not lay down conditions inconsistent with Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

It was opined that once Section 16 of HMA regards a child born from a marriage entered into while the earlier marriage is subsisting to be legitimate, the State could not exclude such a child from seeking the benefit of compassionate appointment. An employer, who is amenable to Part III of the Constitution, could not deny the benefit of compassionate appointment available to other legitimate children. Such a condition of exclusion would be arbitrary and ultra vires as it would bring out unconstitutional discrimination between legitimate children, who form one class.

If a government servant performs the second marriage, it would amount to misconduct committed in service. In such a case, if he is proceeded against for such misconduct while in service and misconduct is proved, the government may be free to take any action against such employee and the same may be a relevant consideration for denying the prayer for compassionate appointment of dependents of the deceased employee. However, if no disciplinary proceeding is initiated for any misconduct against an employee while in service; after his death, his dependents cannot be denied compassionate appointment on the ground that while in service, the employee had been guilty of misconduct.

It was observed that appointment on compassionate ground is not a source of recruitment but an exception to the general rule, the purpose of which is to prevent destitution and penury in the family of a deceased employee. Application for compassionate appointment must be decided on facts of each individual case. Therefore, the impugned order was modified and the subject circular was quashed to the extent it prevented children of the second wife from being considered for appointment on the compassionate ground; with a direction to the appellant to consider the claim of the respondent for appointment on compassionate ground on merit.[Bihar State Electricity Board v. Chadra Shekhar Paswan, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 562, decided on 18-04-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of S.A. Bobde and L. Nageswara Rao, JJ. allowed an appeal filed against the judgment of Delhi High Court whereby the marriage between the appellant and the respondent was held void.

The interesting factual matrix of the case is that, earlier, the appellant was married to one Rachna Agarwal. In August 2009, she had filed a divorce petition under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 which was allowed by the Additional District Judge and thus their marriage was dissolved. The appellant filed an appeal against the decree in the High Court. During pendency of the appeal, the appellant and the said Rachna Agarwal reached a settlement. Pursuant to the settlement, the appellant filed an application for withdrawing the appeal. It is pertinent to note that the settlement was reached on 15-10-2011; the application for withdrawal was filed on 28-11-2011, and the High Court dismissed the appeal as withdrawn on 20-12-2011. In the meanwhile, on 6-12-2011, the appellant married the respondent. Subsequently, consequent to matrimonial discord, the respondent filed a petition for declaring the marriage void under Section 5(i) read with Section 11. The main ground being that the appellant married the respondent during pendency of appeal against the decree of divorce from his first wife. The family court dismissed the respondent’s petition. However, on appeal, the High Court declared the marriage between the appellant and the respondent as null and void. Aggrieved by the same, the appellant filed the instant appeal.

To adjudicate the issue, the Supreme Court, inter alia, perused Section 15 of the Act. The Court observed that the section provides that it shall be lawful for either party to marry again after dissolution of marriage if there is no right to appeal against the decree. A second marriage by either party is lawful only after dismissal of an appeal against the decree of divorce is filed. The object of the provision was observed to provide protection to the appellant party and ensure that the said appeal is not frustrated. The purpose of the section is to avert complications that would arise due to a second marriage during pendency of the appeal, in case the decree of dissolution of marriage is reversed. The protection that is afforded is primarily to a person who is contesting a decree of divorce. In the instant case, after entering into the settlement as mentioned hereinabove, the appellant did not want to contend the decree of divorce. His intention was made clear by filing the application for withdrawal of appeal. The Court was of the view that it could not be said that he had to wait till a formal order was passed in the appeal, or otherwise his marriage dated 6-12-2011 was unlawful. Following the principles of purposive construction, the Court held that the restriction placed on second marriage under Section 15 till dismissal of an appeal would not apply to a case where parties have settled the matter and decided not to pursue the appeal. The judgment of the High Court annulling the marriage between appellant and respondent was held to be erroneous. Accordingly, the judgment impugned was set aside and the appeal was allowed. [Anurag Mittal v. Shaily Mishra Mittal, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1136, dated 24-08-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Tarlok Singh Chauhan, J. allowed the family pension to be paid to the parents of a Martyred Armyman after his wife performed the second marriage. The Court based its Judgment on an earlier decision of Kerala High Court.

The petitioners were parents of an Armyman enrolled in Assam Rifles who died in a terrorist encounter. Respondent 5, his wife, was receiving family pension. Subsequently, she performed the second marriage, and according to the petitioners, this disentitled her to the family pension which then ought to have been paid to them. Official respondents cited provisions of CCS Rules, contending that parents are not entitled to a pension in the event of the death of an employee of Paramilitary  Forces.

While adjudicating, the Court found that the issue was squarely covered by the decision of Kerala High Court in Panchami v. Union of India,2013 SCC OnLine Ker 24322, wherein the said High Court perused Liberalised Pensionary Awards (LPAs) as framed by the Union as well as notifications/orders issued thereunder, to hold that the family pension is intended to all the dependents of the deceased. Since, on re-marriage of the widow, she may not be able to take care of the parents of the deceased, the parents are entitled to the pension subject to limits mentioned in Section 4(4) of LPAs. In the context of placing reliance on the decision of another High Court, Neon Laboratories Ltd. v. Medical Technologies Ltd., (2016) 2 SCC 672 was referred wherein Supreme Court observed that every High Court must give due deference to the law laid down by other High Courts. In view of the aforesaid, the Court found merit in the petition and held the petitioners entitled to a pension to an extent of 75% of the pay last drawn by the deceased. [Bhagwati Devi v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine HP 847, decided on 05-07-2018]