M.M.S. Bedi, J.
1. One Subhash Singh was working as a Sepoy/Cook in the Army. He died in harness on 11.7.1989. His widow Meera Devi was sanctioned special family pension with effect from 12.7.1989. She remarried on 15.2.1991 as such she became disentitled to family pension. Although special family pension was sanctioned but she was not paid a penny ever on that account. Thereafter the claim for special family pension was made on behalf of the petitioner who was the surviving mother of the deceased Sepoy/Cook. The claim was returned with the remarks that the claim should be forwarded in the name of the father of the deceased being superior eligible heir. Then the family pension claim was forwarded on behalf of late Shri Ravinder Singh father of the deceased. Accordingly family pension was sanctioned in his favour from the date of application i.e. 2.11.1993 in terms of para 230 of the Pension Regulations for the Army 1961 (for short 'the Regulations). However Ravinder Singh also died on 13.3.2005 leaving behind his widow Chanchal Devi the petitioner. She submitted an application for release of the special family pension in her favour. Vide letter dated 31.5.2005 (P-5) the request of the petitioner for grant of family pension was declined on the ground that there existed no provision for third life award for grant of family pension. Again vide communication dated 4.7.2005 (P-6) addressed to the petitioner the family pension was denied to her on the ground that as per rules there was no provision of third life award for grant of family pension and the case was treated as finally closed. The orders dated 31.5.2005 and 4.7.2005 (P-5 and P-6 respectively) have been challenged in this petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution on the ground that the provisions of Regulations have been misinterpreted.
2. Notice of motion having been issued respondents have taken the stand that she is not entitled to the grant of family pension as third life award of family pension is not permissible in terms of Sub-para (2) of Regulation 230 of the Regulations.
3. The short question which arises for determination in the present petition is whether the petitioner in her capacity as a widow mother is entitled to receive the family pension when the widow became ineligible on account of her remarriage and the father of the deceased Sepoy/Cook is no more. In that regard the respondents have relied upon Regulation 230 of the Regulations.
4. We have heard the learned Counsel for the parties at a considerable length and are of the view that this petition deserves to be allowed. Regulations 213, 214, 215 and 216 of the Regulation 213 if death is caused on account of injury or disease attributable to military service or aggravated by military service then Special Family Pension is required to be granted to the family of an individual. In this case there cannot be any doubt that the death of Sepoy/Cook Subhash Singh was caused by an injury or disease attributable to military service or aggravated by it because the authorities have already sanctioned pension in favour of Shri Ravinder Singh father of the deceased. As per Regulation 214 the service rendered in the aid of civil power has to be treated as military service for the purposes of family pensionary awards. It is significant to notice that under Regulation 215 pension is intended for the support of all the eligible members of the family irrespective of the fact that it has been released in the name of one person or the other. All the members of the family who are eligible have been mentioned in Regulation 216. These Regulations are reproduced hereunder for facility of reference:
214. Service rendered in aid of the civil power shall be treated as military service for the purpose of family pensionary awards.
215. Special family pension is intended for the support of all the eligible members of a family irrespective of in whose name it stands.
216. The following members of the family of a deceased individual shall be viewed as eligible for the grant of a special family pension. Provided that they are otherwise qualified:
(a) widow/widower lawfully married. It includes a widow who was married after individuals. release/retirement/discharge/invalidment.
(b) Son actual and legitimate/including validly adopted.
(c) Daughter actual and legitimate/(including validly adopted.
Note 1: The term 'widow' used in the above or any other regulation in this sub-section in respect of special family pensionary awards shall be deemed to include such a widow who was married after the individual's discharge/invalidment.
Note 2: The term 'child' used in the above or any other regulation in this sub-section in respect of special family pensionary awards shall be deemed to include such a child born out of a marriage after discharged/invalidment of the individual.
Note 3: The term 'father' and 'mother' or 'parents' used in the above or any other rule in this sub-section shall also be deemed to include such putative parents (or surviving parents as the case may be) as had not contracted a lawful marriage but were living as husband and wife at the time of or got lawfully married subsequent to the conception of deceased member of the forces.
5. It is appropriate to notice Regulation 219 and Regulation 230 as reliance has been placed by the respondents on the later part of Regulation 230 to deny the claim of the petitioner. The aforementioned Regulations 219 and 230 reads as under:
219. A relative specified in Regulation 216 shall be eligible for the grant of family pension. Provided:
(i) he or she is not in receipt of another pension from Government.
(ii) he or she is not employed under Government.
(iii) a widow has not remarried.
This condition shall not apply to a widow who remarried her deceased husband's brother and continues to live a communal life with and/or contributes to the support of the other living eligible heirs.
(iv) a son is below the age of 25 years.
(v) a daughter until she attains the age of 25 years or marriage whichever is earlier.
Second life Awards (special family Pension) shall be admissible to the parent(s) of the deceased and in the absence of the presets eligible brother and sisters of the deceased of the rate of 50% of the special family pension determined vide Regulation 227(a) if the claimants was/were largely dependent on the deceased for support and is/are in pecuniary need.
(vi) a mother who is a widow at the time of her son's death or who becomes a widow thereafter has not remarried.
If she had remarried before her son's death she shall remain eligible for the special family pension unless and until she again becomes a widow and remarries.
(vii) The brothers/sister were largely dependent on the deceased for support and are in pecuniary need.
(viii) In the case of brother he has not completed the age of 25 years.
(ix) In the case of sister she has not completed the age of 25 years or has not married.
230. After the expiry of 1st life award of special family pension to all eligible members for it second life award of special family pension may be granted to the parents and in their absence to the brothers and in the absence of parents/brothers to sisters provided they were legally dependent on the deceased for support and are in pecuniary need.
(2) Second life award shall be admissible only to one eligible member and on is/her death/disqualification it shall not be transferred to any other heirs.
(3) When both the parents are alive second life award will be payable to the father if he is otherwise eligible. It shall be payable to the mother only when father is not alive.
(4) In the case of brothers/sisters second life award shall be payable to the highest eligible brother/sister.
(5) The second life award shall be granted from the date of application of the claimant.
6. A perusal of Regulation 230 would show that the second life award of Special Family Pension could be granted to the parents and even in their absence to the brothers or sisters if they were dependent on the deceased.
7. The grant of special family pension is a social legislation and the intention to provide financial assistance to the dependent family members. Therefore a liberal interpretation as against strict construction principle has to be followed. Though the word 'dependent' has not been specifically used in Regulations 213, 215 and 216 but a specific reference has been made to the 'dependent parents' in Regulations 219 and 230. As per Regulation 219 which deals with the conditions of eligibility for family pension for various relatives a reference has been made to the eligibility of parents to receive the second life award (special family pension) but in case both the parents are not alive then the brother and sister would become entitle if they were dependents on the deceased for support and are in pecuniary need. There is a separate heading of eligible family member i.e. mother in para 6.1 of Regulation 219 which lays special emphasis on the eligibility of mother to receive special family pension in case she is widow at the time of her son's death or who becomes a widow thereafter and does not remarry. In case of mother the Regulation keeps her right alive to receive special family pension even when she had remarried before her son's death unless and until she again becomes a widow and remarries. The father has been mentioned as an eligible member of the family under Regulation 216 but Note-3 appended to Regulation 216 in reference to the term father mother and parents used in Regulation 216 clarifies that the father mother and parent would include putative parents (or surviving parent as the case may be). It cannot by any stretch of imagination be concluded on the basis of the bare reading of the above regulations that a widow mother who falls in the category of 'parent' can be deprived of the family pension on the ground that the third life award is not admissible. There is no prohibition engrafted in the Regulations to grant Special Family Pension to the mother who is otherwise eligible by virtue of Regulation 219. It will not be prudent to read Regulation 230 to mean that a mother who was otherwise dependent on her son and is a widow will not be eligible for family pension when the father is not alive. The objective to grant family pension as per Regulation 215 of the Regulations is to support all the eligible members of a family irrespective of the fact in whose name it stands. A widowed mother is a member of the family and is eligible as per Regulation 215.
8. There is another aspect of the case. In the present case the widow of the deceased never received any amount of family pension though it was sanctioned in her favour as is apparent from the pleadings. A request had been made by the petitioner for the grant of family pension but for the reasons best known to the respondents it was instead awarded to the father. It is even doubtful whether the family pension now payable to the petitioner is a third life award. It appears that in case the family pension had not been claimed by the wife as first award the father was the first awardee as such the benefit of special family pension to the petitioner will be a second life award.
9. In view of the above discussion we are of the view that the petitioner who is the mother of deceased Sepoy/Cook Subhash Singh is entitled to the grant of special family pension after the death of her husband. Therefore the impugned orders dated 31.5.2005 and 4.7.2005 (P-5 and P-6 respectively) are hereby quashed and a direction is issued to the respondents to grant special family pension to the petitioner along with entire arrears w.e.f. 13.3.2005 within a period of three months from the date of receipt of certified copy of this order. In case the needful is not done within the specified period then the petitioner will be entitled to interest on the arrears @ 9% per annum.