Madurai: In a significant judgment in a case of denied pension to the second spouse of a dead government employee, the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court said registration of marriages was discretionary and the validity of a marriage could not be questioned just because it was not registered.
The petition was filed by R Thavamani, the second wife of Raju who retired as a Revenue Supervisor with Samayanallur division of Tamil Nadu Electricity Board in 2000 and died in September 2014. Raju married Thavamani in 1977 three months after his first wife, Durgai Ammal, died.
In her petition, Thavamani claimed she had three sons with Raju and the only son Raju had with Durgai Ammal was also under her care.
Soon after his death, Thavamani applied for family pension to the Superintendent Engineer of TANGEDCO, Madurai who forwarded her application to the Internal Audit Officer (Pension) after verifying necessary documents that proved that Thavamani was indeed the second wife of Raju.
However, the Internal Audit Officer rejected her application stating that the marriage registration certificate was not attached.
Setting aside the Internal Audit Officer's order, Justice S Vaidyanathan said that while Section 3 of the Tamil Nadu Registration of Marriages Act of 2009 made it mandatory to register all marriages, Section 23 of the same act stated that a marriage could not be deemed invalid just because it was not registered under the Act.
Moreover, the Judge said that while the act came into force only in 2009, Raju married Thavamani in 1977.
Citing provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 and the Tamil Nadu Hindu Marriage Registration Rules, the Judge said it was "vividly clear that registration of marriage is only discretionary, not compulsory."
He further observed that questioning the validity of a marriage just because it was not registered "will not only collapse the entire system of marriage, but also create problems to the children born through the said marriage."
As Thavamani had given ample proof including her marriage invitation, Justice Vaidyanathan directed the Internal Audit Officer (Pension) to extend the family pension to Thavamani with all the due benefits calculated within two months.