Second woman in a man’s life cannot be given status of a legally wedded wife, and therefore, she is not entitled to family pension of her deceased “husband,” the Bombay high court has held.
“The Indian system has adopted monogamy as a legal structure of the marriage institution and, therefore, occasional second marriage in subsistence of first marriage is held void in law,” said justice Mridula Bhatkar, adding, “The second woman cannot be given a status of a legally wedded wife.”
The judge added that the second lady in the life of a man whose first marriage is subsisting is not later entitled to his family pension on the ground of being his widow.
The court was hearing an appeal filed by a Sangli resident, Draupada, challenging the rejection of her plea for succession and heir-ship certificate for claiming family pension of her deceased husband, a government servant. She had approached the high court after the local court rejected her plea stating that she failed to prove the fact of her marriage.
When Draupada’s plea was pending before the local court, another woman, Indubai approached the court seeking the same certificate, claiming that she was also the wife of the same person, whom Draupada claimed to have been married. While Draupada’s married had been solemnised in 1979 and five children were born out of the wedlock, Indubai claimed that she got married to the same man in 1982 and a daughter was born out of the relationship.
The high court, however, reversed the finding of the local court at Sangli that Draupada failed to prove fact of her marriage and held that she had proven her marriage with the deceased government servant, and since she was the first wife — being the legally wedded wife she was entitled to family pension of her husband.
In this case, the deceased had made a will and bequeathed his retirement benefits to Draupada. Accordingly, she had approached the court and obtained probate — got the will certified from the court.
Justice Bhatkar, however, held that family pension is not an estate and therefore it cannot be bequeathed by the pensioner by will to some other person. But, the decision will not affect the legally wedded wife’s claim, as the judge held that the will shows the intention of the deceased to confer the benefit of family pension on his first wife and thus the will made it abundantly clear that he wished to nominate her as the beneficiary.