In a direction towards empowering fully-abled adult women, the Supreme Court has held that a daughter who attained majority and is still unmarried ‘is not entitled to claim maintenance from her father in proceedings under Section 125 Cr.P.C. if she is not suffering from any physical or mental abnormality/injury.’
The bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan held that unmarried Hindu daughter can claim maintenance from her father till she is married relying on Section 20(3) of the Hindu Adoptions & Maintenance Act, 1956, provided she pleads and proves that she is unable to maintain herself, for enforcement of which right her application/suit has to be under Section 20 of Act.
The bench also comprising of Justices R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah also added that the legislature never contemplated to burden the Magistrate while exercising jurisdiction under Section 125 Cr.P.C. to determine the claims contemplated by Hindu Adoptions & Maintenance Act, 1956.
The contention of the appellant (adult daughter) in this case was that as per Section 20 of the Hindu Adoptions & Maintenance Act, 1956, a person has an obligation to maintain his daughter, who is unmarried, extends till she is married.
The appellant, when she was a minor, had filed an application was filed under Section 125 Cr.P.C. before Judicial Magistrate First Class, Rewari. The Magistrate then had disposed the application limiting the claim of the appellant to claim maintenance till she attains majority. This order was further upheld by the High Court as well.
Supreme Court Observations
The issue before the Apex Court bench was whether a Hindu unmarried daughter is entitled to claim maintenance from her father under Section 125 Cr.P.C. only till she attains majority or she can claim maintenance till she remains unmarried.?
The appellant on the other hand contested that, even if she is not suffering from any physical or mental abnormality or injury, by virtue of Section 20 of Act, 1956, she is entitled to claim maintenance till she is unmarried. She relied on a decision in Jagdish Jugtawat Vs. Manju Lata (2002) 5 SCC 422.
The court took a broader view that the decision in Jagdish Jugtawat (supra) cannot be read to laying down the ratio that in proceedings under Section 125 Cr.P.C. filed by the daughter against her father, she is entitled to maintenance relying on the liability of the father to maintain her unmarried daughter as contained in Section 20(3) of the Act, 1956. The top court referred to Section 20(3) of the Act, and observed:
Section 20(3) of Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 is nothing but recognition of principles of Hindu Law regarding maintenance of children and aged parents. Section 20(3) now makes it statutory obligation of a Hindu to maintain his or her daughter, who is unmarried and is unable to maintain herself out of her own earnings or other property.
Section 20 of Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 cast a statutory obligation on a Hindu to maintain his daughter who is unmarried and unable to maintain herself out of her own earnings or other property. As noted above, Hindu Law prior to enactment of Act, 1956 always obliged a Hindu to maintain unmarried daughter, who is unable to maintain herself. The obligation, which is cast on the father to maintain his unmarried daughter, can be enforced by her against her father, if she is unable to maintain herself by enforcing her right under Section 20.
The provision of Section 20 of Act, 1956 cast clear statutory obligation on a Hindu to maintain his unmarried daughter who is unable to maintain herself. The right of unmarried daughter under Section 20 to claim maintenance from her father when she is unable to maintain herself is absolute and the right given to unmarried daughter under Section 20 is right granted under personal law, which can very well be enforced by her against her father. The judgment of this Court in Jagdish Jugtawat (supra) laid down that Section 20(3) of Act, 1956 recognised the right of a minor girl to claim maintenance after she attains majority till her marriage from her father. Unmarried daughter is clearly entitled for maintenance from her father till she is married even though she has become major, which is a statutory right recognised by Section 20(3) and can be enforced by unmarried daughter in accordance with law.
The bench also referred to Noor Saba Khatoon Vs. Mohd. Quasim, (1997) 6 SCC 233 and observed that effect of a beneficial legislation like Section 125 Cr.P.C. cannot be allowed to be defeated except through clear provisions of a statute. The Court observed that,
Where the Family Court has jurisdiction to decide a case under Section 125 Cr.P.C. as well as the suit under Section 20 of Act, 1956, it can exercise jurisdiction under both the Acts and in an appropriate case can grant maintenance to unmarried daughter even though she has become major enforcing her right under Section 20 of Act, so as to avoid multiplicity of proceedings.
The apex court took note of the instant application that was filed before the Magistrate invoking Section 125 CrPC. It noted:
The purpose and object of Section 125 Cr.P.C. as noted above is to provide immediate relief to applicant in a summary proceedings, whereas right under Section 20 read with Section 3(b) of Act, 1956 contains larger right, which needs determination by a Civil Court, hence for the larger claims as enshrined under Section 20, the proceedings need to be initiated under Section 20 of the Act and the legislature never contemplated to burden the Magistrate while exercising jurisdiction under Section 125 Cr.P.C. to determine the claims contemplated by Act, 1956.
The court also noted:
In the rejoinder affidavit, an affidavit of prospective purchaser has been filed by the appellant daughter, where it is mentioned that agreement to sell (of a plot purchased by father in her name) had taken place between appellant and Arjun on 31.07.2000 for a sale consideration of Rs.11,77,000/-, out of which appellant had received Rs.10,89,000 as earnest money.
While dismissing the appeal, the bench gave liberty to the appellant to take recourse to Section 20(3) of the Act, if so advised, for claiming any maintenance against her father.
One must note that boys can claim maintenance from their fathers/parents only upto the age of 18.
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