NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court has set aside a Central government order which stated that a widowed or divorced daughter of a deceased freedom fighter was not eligible for dependent pension under its Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme.
Justice V Kameswar Rao, who was hearing a challenge to the order filed by a widowed daughter of a deceased freedom fighter, asked the Centre to consider within eight weeks the case for grant of dependent pension to her if she satisfied the other conditions as contemplated under the scheme.
The judge said that he concurred with the view taken by the other high courts in the country, which have extended the benefit of pension under the scheme to divorced and widowed daughters who are dependent.
"The present writ petition is allowed. The impugned order dated February 12, 2020 is set aside. The respondents shall consider the case of the petitioner for grant of dependent pension under the Pension Scheme to the petitioner, if she satisfies the other conditions as contemplated under the Scheme," the court ordered.
Referring to a decision passed by the Punjab & Haryana High Court, the court noted that daughters were not excluded altogether from the ambit of the scheme as an unmarried daughter was mentioned in the list of eligible dependents and thus it would be a travesty to exclude a divorced daughter who is a dependent.
"The Division Bench (of P&H HC) was of the view that both the liberalized/special family pension and Swatantarta Sainik Samman Pension Scheme are intended to honour the valour of the uniformed people who laid down their lives or suffered for the cause of the country and thus, would not place any demeaning interpretation on the Scheme to deprive the unsung heroes of the country of benefits meant to ensure a life of dignity to their dependents," the court said.
In the present case, the deceased freedom fighter, who was receiving the benefits of the scheme, passed away in November 2019 and left behind his widowed daughter who was physically handicapped, mentally challenged, unemployed and bed ridden.
In February 2020, the Centre sent her a communication saying that her request for dependent had been rejected as the revised policy guidelines did not consider a widowed/divorced daughter to be eligible.
The widowed daughter then moved the high court through her lawyer Mahesh Kumar Tiwari, saying that denial of the benefit of the Pension Scheme to her was contrary to the settled position of law.