widow pension
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This article is written by Chandana Pradeep, from the School of Law, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun. This article analyzes there is a right for a widow to receive a pension after she has remarried.

Introduction

Marriage is defined in a legal dictionary defines marriage as “the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a legal, consensual, and contractual relationship recognized and sanctioned by and dissolvable only by law.”Some rights and duties are fulfilled by a husband to a wife, but what happens when the husband passes away? How will these duties be fulfilled?

For this reason, there was an initiation of a scheme called the Indira Gandhi National Widows Pension Scheme, which was launched in 2009 in India, so that the necessary needs of the widow could be fulfilled, through the grant of a pension amount by the Central Government.

Historical Background

The first instance where widow pension was introduced was after the world war, where the wives of the soldiers who had lost their lives in the battle were given an amount, to take care of the standard of living of the family that the soldier had left behind. After the second world war, widow pensions had a tax of 50% that had to be levied, not only was the amount given ridiculously less but there was a deduction of tax too, there was a lot of chaos because of this in the United Kingdom.

War Widows Association (WWA) was formed in the United Kingdom, to address all the issues that were being faced by these widows. After consistent efforts, in 1976 the tax deductions were reduced to 25%.

After the introduction of the Social Security Act, 1973, women who had become widows started had one more scheme that was introduced for them from which they could avail benefit which was the Armed Forces Pension Scheme for the men who died in service or because of the service, the disparity between these had not been addressed for a long time.

Till the year 2014, those who had lost their spouse between the years 1973-2005 would not get the benefit if they had remarried, cohabited with a new partner or formed a civil partnership. Even today, once a widow or widower enters into a second marriage or any form of cohabitation with another partner, the Widowed Parent’s Allowance nor Bereavement Allowance is not allowed.

Development of widows pension

There is a National Social Assistance Program (NSAP), initiated in the year 1995 which is under the Ministry of Rural Development by the Government of India. Directive Principles of State Policies under the Indian Constitution require certain welfare measures to be taken concerning the poor and the needy people hence under the NSAP, some schemes were introduced to tackle this problem about provisions to Article 41, Items 23 and 24 of the 7th schedule in the Constitution of India.

This program was fully run with the help of the Central Government, there have been a lot of changes that have taken place over the years concerning funding, eligibility criteria among the others.

Five components are made by NSAP which are the following:

Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Act (IGNOAPA)

This scheme applies to people who are 60 years and above, who belong to a family who is below the poverty line as per the conditions which are stated by the government.

This scheme provides 200 rupees to people in the age group of 60-79 years of age, and 500 rupees to the people who are above 80years of age.

Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme (IGNWPS)

This scheme as well as the Indira Gandhi Old Age Pension Scheme was introduced in the year 2009. A widow who is between the age group of 30-79 years of age was given rupees 300 as a pension from the central government if the conditions are satisfied prior.

Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme (IGNDPS)

This scheme is for people who belong to severe poverty-ridden families as described by the government, where an amount of rupees 300 is given to people who have severe disability between the age groups of 18-79 years.

National Family Benefit Scheme(NFBS)

20000 rupees is the amount that is given under this scheme, if the sole breadwinner of the family passed away, who was in the age group between 18-59 years in a family that is below the poverty line.

Annapurna Scheme

This scheme is beneficial for those elderly people, who even though are eligible for pension under the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension, have not been receiving it. These people get 10 kg of food grains supplied to their homes every month.

Eligibility criteria for widow pension

Certain criteria have to be followed for a person to avail the widow pension and they are the following:

  1. The widow must not marry again.
  2. The widows should not have a family income which is more than 10,000 rupees.
  3. Should be between the age of 18-60 years.

The eligibility criteria vary according to the State that the applicant is residing.

Advantages of Widow Pension

  1. Financial assistance is provided to the widows through the Central government according to the pension plan.
  2. From the date of the death of her husband, the widow starts receiving a pension of rupees 300 (amount can vary according to the State that the widow resides).
  3. Direct transaction to the account of the widow.
  4. Widows above the age of 80 years, gets a pension amount of rupees 500 every month (Subject to change according to the state).

The family pension versus widow pension

Family Pension

Family pension is the amount that is received regularly by the family of the employee, who had passed away while he was in the government service. Till the year 2004, only the spouse of the deceased could get the pension but after that, there was a change made which was that the dependent daughter or son could also get the pension after the death of the spouse provided that they are below the age of 25.

There have been amendments that have been made which makes a lot more people eligible to avail this pension, which includes dependent parents and widowed, divorced or unmarried daughters.

In case, a situation arises where the deceased was separated from his wife, then if the children refuse to make use of the family pension, it can be used by the wife. Children who have a physical disability can also avail this pension where they will get the lifelong benefit of this pension.

There are exceptions in family pensions. A government employee may be exempted from commuted pension and in the case of a non-government employee, commuted pension is exempted partially.

Widow Pension

Widow pension is the pension that is provided to widows by the central government. There was an amendment which was made in 2013-14, where the age ambit was brought lower, and pension was given to women who were in the age group of 18 onwards, a monthly pension of rupees 300.

To implement the recommendation, IGNWPS will need an additional outlay of Rs 392 crore per annum, which will benefit an additional 11 lakh poor widows. Only widows are getting this pension, whereas the other women who have never been married, abandoned etc are not included in this, and this has been a serious cause of concern over the years.

The certain states in India like Tamil Nadu and Kerala, do make these women eligible for widow pension under these criteria, but it has to be implemented throughout India, for it to be effective.

The awareness of the IGNOAPS and IGNWPS is higher among the elderly in Haryana (78 percent), Himachal Pradesh (77 percent), Bihar (82 percent), Jharkhand (78 percent), Odisha (74 percent), Assam (84 percent), and Dadra & Nagar Haveli (78 percent). The level of awareness for the IGNOAPS, IGNWPS, and Annapurna scheme increases as the level of education increases, the study noted.

Can widow pension be availed after remarriage?

The question of whether the widow pension can be availed by remarriage has been a question which has been going on for a long time and it can only be understood through a series of case laws.

A widow is eligible for a pension after remarriage in the case of family pension but not in the case of widow pension.

Case laws

Suman v State of Haryana (2020)

This case of Suman v State of Haryana is a historic judgment and is the latest development of widow pension as it shows the present position of the pension scheme.

In this case, Suman who is the widow had remarried after three months of her husband’s death to her brother-in-law through the ritual of “Kareva” but she had still been getting widow pension. After further investigation, it was found that Suman had gone to the office to cease the pension, it was held by the court of Punjab and Haryana, that it has to be seen that Suman had any intention of stopping the amount given as pension to her, so in this case, the petitioner could not avail any more benefit from the said scheme, neither could the respondents recover any of the amounts that had been issued to her.

The high court has said that the ceremony that had taken place, had enough evidence for it to be considered as a remarriage. The court said that the purpose of widow pension was to provide economic assistance to a woman who is either helpless or a destitute, having no regular source of income on the death of her husband.

However, if the situation of family pension is looked upon, the situation is different.

Renu Gupta v M/O Defence (2018)

In this case of Renu Gupta v M/O defence, it was held that even after remarriage, a widow of a government service employee would be entitled to family pension. The facts of this case were as follows:

Renu Gupta who was the widow made repeated requests for transferring the pension to the name of her son after her remarriage, but this was rejected every time as the tribunal had stated that this plea was made without the consequences being understood. There was a provision which stated that he could only get the pension till the son attains 25 years of age. The rejection was made by the court based on CCS (Pension) Rules,1972 where she was entitled to pension legally and that there was no bar on the court to retransfer the pension amount to her son and she was also entitled to family pension.

Suggestions

Though the widow pension is an efficient one, there are a few shortcomings which are as follows:

  1. The age of women getting the widow pension must be uniform throughout India, and should not differ in different States.
  2. There should be the inclusion of other females in this pension scheme, such as those whose husbands are missing, abandoned etc. the period of the husband returning should be for a lesser duration than 7 years so that the woman can get the benefit of this scheme sooner.
  3. There should be enough awareness of various schemes provided to the people, as with knowledge, the awareness increases. There should be regular camps and workshops which should be conducted to educate the different sectors of society.

Conclusion

Widow pension is given in India by the Scheme of Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme (IGNWPS) which is for the benefit of the widows who do not have a source of income or earn below the amount which the government has prescribed.

This scheme, however, beneficial for the widow, ceases to be of effect once she remarries, since the purpose of this pension will not be of use, as once she remarries there is a notion that, she will not be a widow anymore and her rights and necessary needs for her daily life will be fulfilled by her new husband upon remarriage and she is no longer a widow in the eyes of law.

References


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