Withholding the pension of a freedom fighter was not justified, the Bombay High Court has said and directed the Maharashtra government to respond to a plea filed by a 90-year-old wife of a freedom fighter, who died 56 years ago, seeking benefits of a government pension scheme.
A division bench of Justices Ujjal Bhuyan and Madhav Jamdar issued the order on September 24 and a copy of it was made available on Monday.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Shalini Chavan, a resident of Raigad district, seeking benefits of the ‘Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme, 1980’ to be accorded to her as her late husband was a freedom fighter.
As per the plea, the woman’s husband, Laxman Chavan, was a freedom fighter and had participated in the Quit India Movement in 1942.
He was later sentenced following which he was imprisoned at the Byculla jail in Mumbai from April 17, 1944 to October 11, 1944. He died on March 12, 1965.
The petitioner’s lawyer, Jitendra Pathade, told the court that the pension scheme’s benefit was not extended to Shalini Chavan on the ground that records of her husband’s arrest and imprisonment were not available.
Pathade argued that the petitioner had in 1966 submitted the imprisonment certificate of her late husband to the state government, but it could not verify the same as the old records of the Byculla prison containing details of her husband’s imprisonment seem to have been destroyed or must have perished over the years.
The court, after hearing the matter briefly, noted that from the material available on record, there does not appear to be any dispute as to the status of Laxman Chavan being a freedom fighter and as regards the petitioner being his widow.
“If that be so, then withholding of a freedom fighter’s pension, that too for such a long period, is not justified,” the high court said.
The bench directed government pleader Purnima Kantharia to obtain instructions from the state government and apprise the court on September 30.
In her plea, Shalini Chavan said she is a senior citizen without any support following her son’s death, and is struggling for her daily needs.
According to the petition, after the death of Laxman Chavan, she applied for an imprisonment certificate from the superintendent of Byculla jail in 1966. After the certificate was issued to her, the petitioner approached the government in 1993 for grant of pension and other benefits under the scheme.
The plea said the petitioner had submitted all required documents to the government. In 2002, the petitioner also appeared before the state government’s ‘freedom fighter high powered committee’ where she was informed that her pension claim would be sanctioned.
“However, till date, the petitioner has not received any pension and hence, she was left with no remedy than to approach the high court,” the petition said.
In her plea, Shalini Chavan also sought a direction to the state government to pay her an ex-gratia sum of ₹ 10 lakh.