Karnataka High Court overturns single-judge order allowing freedom fighters’ pension to 89-year-old widow

The Court found that a circular issued in 2014 by the Central government, which barred the sanction of freedom fighters’ pension after the death of the freedom fighter, was applicable in this case.

The Karnataka High Court recently set aside a single-judge order directing State authorities to provide freedom fighters’ pension, along with all the arrears, to an 89-year-old widow. [State of Karnataka & Ors v Savantrewwa]

A division bench of Justices R Devdas and Rajesh Rai K allowed an appeal preferred by the State authorities after noting that a circular issued by the Central government in 2014 applied to the present case.

The said circular concerned the Central Government Sanman Pension Scheme.

It provided that no person shall be sanctioned any pension in the name of a freedom fighter after his or her death, even if such person’s application was under examination at the time of death. The State government had also issued orders under this circular.

Hence, in our considered opinion, the first appellant (State Government) rightly rejected the claim of the respondent (widow) for grant of freedom fighters’ pension,” the Court held.

The widow’s husband had initially been sanctioned freedom fighters’ pension in 1992.

However, the government later decided to re-verify all cases where freedom fighters pension was sanctioned. As a result, in 1995, the Deputy Commissioner recommended the cancellation of the pension earlier sanctioned to the widow’s husband, who passed away in 2003.

After a period of 12 years, the widow submitted a representation in 2014, requesting the grant of freedom fighters’ pension along with the pending arrears. She attached copies of co-prisoners’ certificates to her representation.

Her request was not accepted readily, prompting her to move the High Court for relief. Four rounds of litigation later, a single judge of the High Court ordered the authorities to grant her pension by an order passed in 2021.

This 2021 order was challenged by the State authorities before the High Court division bench.

After considering rival submissions, the bench found that, the the documents provided by the widow was not authentic enough to support her claim.

The division bench also disagreed with the single judge on the question of whether the 2014 circular/ guidelines applied to the present case. The single judge had ruled that since the 2014 guidelines were prospective, they did not apply to the widow’s case, since he husband had already been granted the pension earlier in 1992.

The division bench, however, pointed out that the 2014 guidelines were already in existence when the widow approached the authorities with a fresh request for grant of pension in 2014.

“In such circumstances, though the circular/guidelines are prospective in nature the same will be applicable in the case of respondent also,” the Court observed.

Hence, the Court allowed the appeal and set aside the single judge order.

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