A 10-year-old girl, whose father died in January 2015, still awaits family pension and other such benefits offered to a legal heir of a deceased employee by Punjab government. Baffled Punjab and Haryana high court has now summoned the official concerned who had recently asked the mother of the petitioner girl to appoint herself as ‘legal guardian’ in order to get benefits for her daughter.
“Let superintendent grade-1, office of financial commissioner, Punjab civil secretariat, Chandigarh appear in person before the court on the next date of hearing to explain how he could insist on production of legal guardian certificate,” the high court bench of justice Kuldip Singh has now directed, also asking the Punjab government to submit the response by November 11 on the petition of the minor girl.
Appearing for the petitioner girl, advocate Amardeep Singh Gill had told the court that despite the fact that her mother was her natural guardian and that she had already produced the legal heir certificate before the authority to show that she was entitled to family pension on account of death of her father, she was being asked to produce the guardian certificate.
The parents of the girl had divorced with mutual consent in 2009 and the girl lived with her mother. The father, a steno-typist, worked in financial commissioner office at Punjab civil secretariat and died in January 2015. The girl, being entitled for all the service benefits and the family pension for being the only legal heir, in May 2016 approached financial commissioner office for release of the same. Later, deputy commissioner, Ropar in January 2016 held that the girl was the only legal heir of the deceased and her mother completed all the formalities but service benefits were not released. In May 2016, the mother gave an affidavit that service benefits released would be used for the benefit of the petitioner and if any amount was to be withdrawn, court permission would be taken for the same. But in July 2016, even though respondents admitted that the girl as legal heir of the deceased asked her mother to be appointed as legal guardian.
The petitioner had argued that the decision of financial commissioner office was against the Punjab civil service rules. Also, as per Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956, mother is the natural guardian of a minor, after the father. Respondents knew this very well and also that the mutual divorce case custody was to remain with the mother. There was no dispute regarding the mother being natural guardian. Hence, there was no reason for getting legal guardian appointed, HC was told seeking court’s indulgence in release of service benefits to the girl.