In the case of Tulsi Devi v. Union of India, Tulsi Devi, who claimed herself to be a divorcee daughter of her later father Gopal Ram, a freedom fighter, and the pension under Freedom Fighter’s Scheme was granted to her mother, Kausalya Devi. Tulsi’s mother, before passing away on 17.10.2018, made a representation to the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, requesting to continue to pay the pension granted to her under the Scheme, namely, ‘Swatantrata Sainik Samman Yojana’ to her divorcee daughter.
The Government considered the representation made, and later, Kausalya was informed that her divorcee daughter is not eligible for the pension under ‘Swatantrata Sainik Samman Yojana.’ So Tulsi, the couple’s divorcee daughter, filed a petition claiming the pension to be granted to her under the ‘Swatantrata Sainik Samman Yojana,’ quoting the divorcee instances daughter is eligible for pension in respect of Armed Forces Personnel and Central Government Employees.
Under the eligibility criteria for dependents for ‘Swatantrata Sainik Samman Yojana’ Pension Scheme, 1980, the family includes (if freedom fighter is not alive) mother, father, widower/widow if not have remarried, unmarried daughters. The Himachal High Court held that there is no such provision to provide pension to divorcee daughters in the ‘Swatantrata Sainik Samman Yojana,’ like how divorcee daughters are entitled to such pensions of ‘Armed Forces Personnel’ or for that matter Central/State Government Employees.
They further briefed it, saying the ‘Swatantra Sainik Samman Yojana’ has been only launched as ‘a mark of respect to the Freedom Fighters,’ which is not in the case of Armed Forces Personnel or Central/State Government Employees, whose pension is not a ‘bounty,’ but is a property they earned during their service career. The court declined to grant a pension to her and thus dismissed the writ petition on 18 July 2019.
Tulsi Devi further appealed before the Supreme Court, represented by advocate Dushyant Parashar, who clearly stated that family pensions are allowed to only unmarried daughters and not to divorced ones with no other financial support. The advocate also cited Punjab and Haryana court decisions on the Khajani Devi case in 2016. The court ruled out to grant the divorced daughter access to her freedom fighter father’s pension.
The court relied upon the Ministry of Defence's instructions, which include a divorced daughter under the category of eligible dependents for granting special family pensions beyond 25 years of age. Tulsi Devi’s lawyer also stated how the same Hon’ble Supreme Court has fully agreed with the Punjab and Haryana court decision on this case, saying it as “progressive and socially constructive.”
The SC bench noted their submissions and asked Tulsi’s advocate to file the said instructions issued by the Ministry of Defence on December 14, 2012, which includes divorced daughter under a category of eligible dependents within three weeks.
The Union Minister Jitendra Singh said that now even a daughter of a deceased employee or pensioner who is a dead freedom fighter would be entitled to a family pension. This will be applicable even if she hadn't divorced but filed a plea for the same during the lifetime of her deceased parent. Hence a divorce application itself is enough for a divorced daughter to avail pension.
Discussing some important reforms under the Department of Pension and Pensioners' Welfare, the minister said this at a press briefing.
He mentioned that the rules had been relaxed for divorced women to receive a family pension. He further added that the earlier rule provided for payment of family pension to a divorced daughter only if the divorce had taken place during the lifetime of the deceased pensioner or his spouse. The eligibility before that did not even have a provision regarding the pension availability for a divorced daughter.
He said that the new circular would ease pension beneficiaries' lives and ensure respectable and equitable rights for divorced daughters in society, reducing the stereotypes and providing maintenance to the needful daughters.
He also ensured that orders had been issued to grant a family pension to a 'divyang' child or sibling even if the Disability Certificate was produced after the pensioner's parents' death. Still, the disability had occurred before death. At the same time, the Minister said, all pension disbursing banks have been instructed to ensure doorstep collection of Life Certificates from pensioners unable to visit the banks. The website mentioned under the scheme will have to be visited to get further information regarding pension entitlement under the scheme.
However, it is pertinent to note that the Hon'ble S.C. is yet to give its final verdict on the same matter.
This Article Does Not Intend To Hurt The Sentiments Of Any Individual Community, Sect, Or Religion Etcetera. This Article Is Based Purely On The Authors Personal Views And Opinions In The Exercise Of The Fundamental Right Guaranteed Under Article 19(1)(A) And Other Related Laws Being Force In India, For The Time Being.
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