The Supreme Court ruled that a son or daughter adopted by the widow of a deceased government employee after the employee's death cannot be considered a member of the family for purposes of claiming a family pension under Rule 54(14)(b) of the Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972.
The bench of Justices K M Joseph and B V Nagarathna noted that the term "family" cannot be expanded to encompass individuals who were not even the government employee's dependents at the time of his death.
In this instance, Shridar Chimurkar's wife adopted a boy over two years after her husband's passing as a government employee (Sri Ram Shridhar Chimurkar). His request for a family pension was denied on the grounds that, in accordance with Rule 54 (14) (b) of the Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, children adopted by a widow of a government employee after the employee's death would not be eligible for a family pension. After considering his request, the Central Administrative Tribunal in Mumbai issued a directive instructing the authorities to treat him as the adopted son of the late government employee Shridar Chimurkar when determining whether to grant his request for a family pension. The Tribunal stated that under Sections 8 and 12 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 (referred to as the "HAMA Act" for short), a Hindu male widow is qualified to adopt a son or a daughter even if her deceased husband did not give her a directive or express a wish to do so. Therefore, the impact of a widow adopting a kid would be that the child so adopted would be considered to be the child of her late husband, according to the Tribunal. Sri Ram Shridhar Chimurkar petitioned the Supreme Court after the High Court overturned this Tribunal ruling.
The question put to the bench of the Apex Court was whether a child adopted by the widow of a government employee after the employee's passing would be covered by the definition of "family" under Rule 54 (14)(b) of the CCS (Pension) Rules and thus be eligible to receive family pension paid under said Rules.
The court noted that on adoption by a widow, the adopted son or daughter is deemed to be a member of the family of the deceased husband of the widow. However, the provisions of the HAMA Act, 1956 determine the rights of a son adopted by a Hindu widow only vis-à-vis his adoptive family, it said.
"Rights and entitlements of an adopted son of a Hindu widow, as available in Hindu Law, as against his adoptive family, cannot axiomatically be held to be available to such adopted son, as against the government, in a case specifically governed by extant pension rules. The provisions of the HAMA Act, 1956, as discussed above, relate generally to the capacity of the female Hindu to take a son or daughter in adoption and the effects that follow such an adoption. The said provisions do not lend much assistance in the instant case which does not pertain to the rights of the adoptee such as the Appellant herein under Hindu Law, but to his rights and entitlements under the CCS (Pension) Rules. There exists a vital difference between the rights of an adopted son under Hindu Law and his rights to draw family pension, which creates a burden on the public exchequer"
The bench then noted the phrase “in relation to a government servant” as appearing in Rule 54 (14)(b) of the CCS (Pension) Rules. The court made the following observations:
family member must have a close nexus with the deceased government servant
"In Rule 54(14)(b) of the CCS (Pension) Rules, the phrase “in relation to a government servant” would indicate that the categories of persons listed thereunder, such as wife, husband, judicially separated wife or husband, son or unmarried daughter who has not attained the age of twenty-five years, adopted son or daughter, etc. are sought to be brought into association with the deceased government servant. The context requires that association or connection of such persons with the deceased government servant must be direct and not remote. The said Rule requires that the family member must have a close nexus with the deceased government servant, and must have been dependent on him during his lifetime. Therefore, a son or daughter adopted by the widow of a deceased government servant, after the death of the government servant, could not be included within the definition of ‘family’ under Rule 54(14)(b) of the CCS (Pension) Rules."
term ‘family’ cannot be extended to include those persons who were not even dependents of the government servan
family pension was devised as a means to help the dependents of the deceased government servant tide over the crisis and to extend to them some succour. Therefore, the definition of the term ‘family’ cannot be extended to include those persons who were not even dependents of the government servant, at the time of his death.
The court further observed that case where a child is born to the deceased government servant after his death has to be contrasted with a case where a child is adopted by the widow of a government servant after his death
The former category of heirs are covered under the definition of family since such a child would be a posthumous child of the deceased government servant. The entitlement of such a posthumous child is wholly distinct from a child being adopted subsequent to the demise of the government servant by the surviving spouse. The reason for the same is not far to see. This is because the deceased government servant would have had no relationship with the adopted child which would have been adopted subsequent to his demise, as opposed to a posthumous child. Therefore, the definition of the word “family” in relation to a government servant means various categories of persons coming within the nomenclature of the word “family” and all persons who would have had a familial relationship with the government servant during his lifetime. Any other interpretation would lead to abuse of the provision in the matter of grant of family pension.