Wife and illegal companion ordered to share family pension

Women in live-in relationships and partners are entitled to payment of maintenance by their male partners since the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, recognises such relationships, the Madras High Court Bench here has ruled.

Referring to a broad definition given to the term ‘domestic relationship’ under the Act, Justice R. Mahadevan said: “The purpose of enacting such a law [the Domestic Violence Act] would only make way for maintenance not only to a legally wedded wife but also to a second wife or concubine.”

The judge made the observation, disposing of a writ petition filed by the estranged wife of a former Chief Educational Officer (since dead) against payment of family pension to his illegal second “wife” with whom he had lived for 47 years without obtaining divorce from the petitioner.

Though the case was filed to restrain the officials concerned from disbursing the pension to the second “wife” nominated by the deceased government servant, the two women entered into a compromise midway and informed the court that they wanted to share the monthly pension equally.

Pointing out that the deceased government employee was a Hindu by faith, the judge initially wondered whether the court could give its stamp of approval for sharing of pension between his legally wedded wife and illegal companion when the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, does not authorise a second marriage during the subsistence of the first.

However, after referring to various forms of protection granted to women in general under the 2005 Act, the judge directed the Accountant-General’s office to disburse the pension in equal share to the petitioner as well as her husband’s companion. “And in case of death of either of them, the surviving party shall be entitled to full pension.”

Mr. Justice Mahadevan also said: “The concept of paying pension to the family members is to enable them to lead a decent life after the life time of the pensioner. Therefore… the memorandum of compromise is accepted and recorded.”