The Bombay High Court today said as per law, if a man has two wives and both lay claim to his money, only the first wife would be entitled for it but his children from both marriages would get the money.
A bench of Justices SJ Kathawalla and Madhav Jamdar made the above observation orally after the state government submitted that there existed a previous full bench judgement of the high court’s Aurangabad bench that gave a similar direction.
The bench led by Justice Kathawalla was hearing a petition filed by the second wife of Suresh Hatankar, an assistant sub-inspector in the Maharashtra railway police force who died of COVID-19 on May 30.
As the state government’s resolution promises a compensation of Rs 65 lakh to police personnel who died of COVID-19 while on duty, two women, both claiming to be Suresh Hatankar’s wives, had laid a claim to the compensation amount.
Later, Shraddha, Suresh Hatankar’s daughter from his second wife, approached the Bombay High Court, seeking that she be given a proportionate share of the compensation amount to save her and her mother from “starvation and homelessness”.
On Tuesday, the state’s counsel Jyoti Chavan told the bench that the state would deposit the compensation amount in the court for the time that HC takes to decide who is entitled to the amount.
Mr Chavan also informed the court about the judgement of the Aurangabad bench.
The court then said, “The law says that the second wife might not get anything. But the daughter from the second wife, and the first wife and the daughter from the first marriage will be entitled to the money.”
Mr Hatankar’s first wife Shubhada and the couple’s daughter Surbhi, who were present before the court through video-conferencing, claimed they were not aware that Suresh Hatankar had “another family”.
However, Shraddha’s counsel Prerak Sharma told the court that Surbhi and Shubhada knew about Suresh Hatankar’s two marriages and they had contacted Surbhi on Facebook on previous occasions.
Mr Sharma also said that Suresh Hatankar had been living with his second wife and their daughter in the railway police quarters allotted to him in Dharavi.
The high court, therefore, directed Mr Hatankar’s first wife and her daughter to file an affidavit by Thursday, clarifying if they knew Suresh Hatankar had two families.
The court posted the matter for hearing on Thursday.
Suresh Hatankar married for the first time in 1992 and his second marriage took place in 1998.
Shraddha told the court in her plea that both the marriages were registered with the Registrar of Marriages and under the Hindu Marriage Act.
She claimed in her plea that being the child of Mr Hatankar’s second wife, she too had the right to family pension, and death-cum-retirement gratuity. Therefore, she and her mother should get equal proportion of the compensation disbursed by the state government and the Railways.
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