Widowed/divorced daughters of freedom fighters entitled to pension

The Court ruled that the term “unmarried” encompasses not only those who are not married but also those who have been divorced or widower

The widowed or divorced daughter of a freedom fighter is entitled to a pension 

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The Delhi High Court ruled on Friday [Union of India v. Kolli Uday Kumari] that a widowed or divorced daughter of a freedom fighter is entitled to a pension under the Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme of 1980. The division bench dismissed the Centre’s claims that widowed and divorced daughters are not included in the definition of “unmarried daughter,” and that granting benefits to them would invite abuse and put a strain on the government funds.

“Unmarried” not only encompasses “not married”

The Court ruled that the term “unmarried” includes not only those who are not married but also those who were married but divorced, as well as widowed women. The 1980 Scheme did not, in our opinion, anticipate the exclusion of bereaved daughters, as is sought to be argued on behalf of UOI, the Court said in its decision.

MHA denied pension

The petitioner Kumari’s father, a liberation fighter, took part in the Independence movement between 1941 and 1942. In December 1997, he began receiving pension payments. The government announced revised policy guidelines in 2014 to close the gaps and address the problem of banks giving pensions to married daughters who weren’t eligible. When her father passed away in November 2019, the petitioner wrote to the bank to ask for a pension. On February 12, 2020, the request was accepted by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), but it was rejected.

Appeal to Delhi HC

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She then appealed the judgment to the High Court. Despite the solitary judge’s decision in her favor, she passed away in October 2021. The Central government appealed in November 2021. When the case was up for hearing, it was argued that Indira Kumari would receive the benefits of the 1980 Scheme. The appeal and all pending applications were closed in light of the stand. The government later changed its mind and filed a petition for a review.

Para 6.2.1 of 2014 guidelines violates the Right to equality

After considering the reasons, judges emphasized that para 6.2.1 of the 2014 Guidelines excludes a widow of a deceased freedom fighter from the status of a dependent person if she remarries but does not extend this exclusion to a widower. Despite stating that there is a good chance that the aforementioned sentence violates Article 14 of the Constitution, the bench chose to move on because the issue was not brought up.

Justified extending benefits

A widowed or divorced daughter is not eligible for a pension, according to paragraph 5.2.5 of the guidelines, which the Court further noted contradicts the 1980 system. The bench highlighted that there is no excuse for not providing a widowed or divorced daughter with the benefit of the plan.

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