New Delhi, Nov. 27: Children from an illegally wedded wife of a deceased government employee are entitled along with the legal wife to a share of the family pension, according to rules amended by the Centre today.
According to a 1996 rule, considered path-breaking then, such offspring became eligible for their father's pension only when "their turn" came. "They will have no claim whatsoever to receive family pension as long as the legally wedded wife is the recipient," the old rule had said.
Sources said the old rule had to be amended as it went against legal provisions and recent Supreme Court judgments.
A source said the Hindu Marriage Act of 1956 treated children born out of live-in relationships as legitimate for all purposes, barring inheriting ancestral property. Children from live-in relationships could inherit or claim a share of only property acquired by the father on his own.
But in April 2011, the Supreme Court described earlier verdicts as too "narrow" an interpretation of the Hindu Marriage Act. It said divesting illegitimate children of inheritance rights was not consistent with the "constitutional values enshrined in the Preamble of our Constitution which focuses on the concept of equality of status and opportunity and also on individual dignity".
A two-judge bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly had pointed out that "a child born in such relationship is innocent and is entitled to all the rights which are given to other children born in valid marriage".
Government sources said the precedent of giving family pension to children from live-in relationships or void or voidable marriages only after the legally wedded wife passed away was "re-examined in consultation with the ministry of law and justice and ministry of finance".
After this, the ministry of personnel, public grievances and pensions amended the 1996 rule which now reads: "The share of children from illegally wedded wife in the family pension shall be payable to them in the manner given in" existing rules for legitimate children "along with the legally wedded wife".
The ministry, however, said that to avoid litigation and interminable paper work "no recovery from the previous beneficiary should be made" in retrospect.
"On receipt of an application from eligible child/children of the deceased government employee/pensioner born to an ineligible mother, a decision regarding division or otherwise of family pension may be taken by the competent authority after satisfying himself/herself about veracity of facts and entitlements of the applicant(s)," the ministry said in a memorandum.