HYDERABAD: The Hyderabad High Court has ruled that the family pension becomes payable only to the widow of the deceased employee so long as she remains unmarried.
The terminal benefits of the deceased can be succeeded to his widowed wife and minor children by the mother of the deceased.
Justice Nooty Ramamohana Rao gave this ruling on a writ petition filed by two individuals _ Odamma, mother of the deceased T Sampath who was employed with Singareni Collieries company limited, and the adopted son of Odamma.
The petitioners urged the Court to declare the action of the respondent company in seeking to pay the total terminal benefits to the widow of the deceased employee ignoring the petitioners as illegal. They sought directions to the Singareni Collieries to pay the terminal benefits of Sampath, who died in a motor accident outside the work place, in terms of Section 32 and 36 of the Indian Succession Act and to appoint Odamma’s adopted son in any suitable post on compassionate grounds. Sampath’s widow was one of the respondents in the case.
The judge found some discord between the two in proper sharing of the quantum of terminal benefits liable to be paid by the company for the untimely death of Sampath. The present petition came to be instituted because they are not able to amicably settle the dispute.
The counsels appearing for the petitioners and respondents agreed, in principle, that the parties in the present case were governed by the Hindu Succession Act but not by the Indian Succession Act because the deceased was a Hindu. Section 8 of the Hindu Succession Act deals with the general rules of succession in case of male Hindu dying intestate. Under the Act, daughter, widow and mother are specified as Class I heirs of a male Hindu, whereas brother and sister are included as Class II heirs. It is made clear that for the property of a male Hindu dying intestate, a brother or a sister can only succeed in the absence of Class I heirs but not otherwise.
In the instant case, the first petitioner, being the mother, and one of the respondents, the widow, of the deceased are specified as Class-I heirs. Besides, the deceased has left behind a young daughter aged about 4 years who is also specified as Class-I heir. The judge concluded that the estate of the deceased can be succeeded to by the first petitioner (mother) and respondent (widow) and the minor daughter of the deceased.
While disposing of the case, the judge directed the company to immediately settle the terminal benefits and additional amount in lieu of dependent employment payable due to the death of Sampath in an accident outside the work place. The terminal benefits payable to the deceased will be apportioned into three equal portions i.e. the first petitioner (mother) will be entitled to one-third and the respondent widow to another one-third. The remaining one-third amount shall be confined by the company to an interest bearing fixed deposit in any nationalised bank or post office, wherever the respondent widow was residing, for the next 14-year period. As and when the minor child attains the age of majority or otherwise, the said money is liable to be released to her or the widow. The interest accrued on the deposit shall be made over to the widow once every year so that the same will be utilised for the purpose of upkeep, studies and maintenance of the daughter, the judge ordered.