Bee Vs. The General Manager, South Central Railway & Anr  Insc 519 (4 December 2002)
Hegde & B.P.Singh. Santosh Hegde,J.
out of SLPNo.18565 of 2001)
appellant in this appeal is the widow of a Railway employee who died in harness
on 21st November, 1969. According to the appellant, she
was entitled for family pension on the death of her husband, but because of
ignorance and lack of legal assistance, she could not stake her claim for
family pension till 12.3.1991.
she made an application for grant of family pension to the Divisional Railway
Manager (Personal) of South Central Railway (Vijaywada), her claim for said
pension was rejected by the Railways on 24.3.1992 on the ground that her
husband on the date of his death was not in the service of Railways because he
was earlier medically invalidated. The appellant pursued her claim by
representations to the Railways which having failed, she filed a writ petition
before the High Court of Judicature: Andhra Pradesh at Hyderabad in the year
1992 which came up for consideration before a learned Single Judge of the High
Court who was pleased to allow the writ petition and directed the
respondent-Railways to fix and pay the family pension payable to the appellant,
according to the rules, with arrears w.e.f. the date of death of the
appellant's husband i.e. 21st of November, 1969.
giving the above direction, the learned Single Judge rejected the contention of
the Railways that the appellant's husband was medically invalidated. He also
rejected the contention of the Railways that under the Rules or the Scheme the
appellant was not entitled to family pension. The further contention of the
Railways that the appellant had an alternate remedy in approaching the Central
Administrative Tribunal was also rejected.
aggrieved respondent-Railways preferred an appeal before a Division Bench of
the same High Court in writ appeal No.1890/99. The Appellate Bench agreed with
the learned Single Judge in regard to the right of the appellant for receiving
family pension and also rejected the argument of the Railways in regard to the
availability of alternate remedy. It, however, held that since there was some
latches on the part of the appellant in approaching the court, it applied the
principle of law of limitation applicable to suits and confined the
retrospective benefit given by the learned Single Judge to a period subsequent
to 1.4.1992 the date on which a legal notice was given by the appellant.
this appeal, the appellant questions this restriction on her right to claim
family pension w.e.f. 21.11.1969 the date on which her husband died. It is
submitted on behalf of the appellant that the Division Bench having agreed with
the learned Single Judge on the legal right of the appellant to receive family
pension ought not to have confined the said right to a date much subsequent to
the death of her husband, merely because a demand for payment of family pension
was made only in the year 1992. Learned counsel for the appellant pointed out
from the judgment of the Division Bench itself that it had held that the denial
of family pension to the appellant amounted to violation of her fundamental
right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution and that the
Division Bench had also held that in the circumstances of this case the delay
in approaching the railway authorities cannot be considered to be fatal for the
maintainability of the writ petition.
learned counsel submitted, based on these findings, that the Division Bench
could not have restricted the appellant's claim to a date much subsequent to
the date of death of her husband. Per contra, the learned counsel for the
railways contended that the delay in approaching the court was so large that it
was not a fit case for the exercise of the discretionary remedy under Article
226 of the Constitution and that the High Court was in fact very generous to
the appellant in granting the relief from the year 1992.
notice that the appellant's husband was working as a Gangman who died while in
service. It is on record that the appellant is an illiterate who at that time
did not know of her legal right and had no access to any information as to her
right to family pension and to enforce her such right. On the death of the
husband of the appellant, it was obligatory for her husband's employer, viz.,
Railways, in this case to have computed the family pension payable to the
appellant and offered the same to her without her having to make a claim or without
driving her to a litigation. The very denial of her right to family pension as
held by the learned Single Judge as well as the Division Bench is an erroneous
decision on the part of the Railways and in fact amounting to a violation of
the guarantee assured to the appellant under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The factum of the appellant's lack of resources to approach the legal forum
timely is not disputed by the Railways.
then arises on facts and circumstances of this case, the Appellate Bench was
justified in restricting the past arrears of pension to a period much
subsequent to the death of appellant's husband on which date she had legally
become entitled to the grant of pension ? In this case as noticed by us herein
above, the learned Single Judge had rejected the contention of delay put forth
by the Railways and taking note of the appellant's right to pension and the
denial of the same by the Railways illegally considered it appropriate to grant
the pension with retrospective effect from the date on which it became due to
her. The Division Bench also while agreeing with the learned Single Judge
observed that the delay in approaching the Railways by the appellant for the
grant of family pension was not fatal inspite of the same it restricted the
payment of family pension from a date on which the appellant issued a legal
notice to the Railways i.e. on 1.4.1992. We think on the facts of this case
inasmuch as it was an obligation of the Railways to have computed the family
pension and offered the same to the widow of its employee as soon as it became
due to her and also in view of the fact her husband was only a Gangman in the
Railways who might not have left behind sufficient resources for the appellant
to agitate her rights and also in view of the fact that the appellant is an
illiterate. The learned Single Judge, in our opinion, was justified in granting
the relief to the appellant from the date from which it became due to her, that
is the date of the death of her husband.
we are of the considered opinion that the Division Bench fell in error in
restricting that period to a date subsequent to 1.4.1992.
said view of the matter, we allow this appeal, set aside the impugned order of
the Division Bench to the extent that it restricts the right of the appellant
to receive family pension only from 1.4.1992 and restore that right of the
appellant as conferred on her by the learned Single Judge, that is from the
date 21.11.1969. The Railways will take steps forthwith to compute the arrears
of pension payable to the appellant w.e.f 21.11.1969 and pay the entire arrears
within three months from the date of the receipt of this order and continue to
pay her future pension.
the reasons stated above, this appeal succeeds to the extent mentioned herein
above and the same is allowed with costs of Rs.10,000/-(Rs. Ten thousand only).