The Delhi High Court in its recent order observed that a separated father cannot abdicate his responsibility of looking after his unmarried daughters. The court remarked that he has a duty and obligation to maintain them, including taking care of their expenses towards education and marriage.
A Bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh described ‘Kanya Daan’ as a solemn and pious obligation of a Hindu Father, from which he cannot renege.
The present appeal has been filed under Section 28(2) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 read with Section 19 (1) of the Family Courts Act, 1984 against the judgment and order dated 28.11.2020 passed by the Family Court.
In the impugned judgment, the Family Court has allowed the petition filed by the Appellant wife under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for dissolution of marriage by a decree of divorce on the ground of cruelty and has dissolved the marriage between the parties. However, the Appellant-wife is aggrieved by the non-grant of maintenance allowance for herself and the two major daughters of the parties.
The Delhi High Court allowed an appeal filed by the wife challenging a Family Court order, though granting her divorce on the ground of cruelty, however, denying maintenance for herself and the two major daughters.
The Court thus directed the father to pay a sum of Rs 35 Lakhs and Rs 50 Lakhs towards the expense of marriages of his two daughters.
Arguments by Father
It was argued on behalf of the respondent father that all the children were majors, and that Section 24, 25 and 26 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 were not attracted in the facts of the present case.
It was submitted that the only statutory provision that could be attracted was Section 20 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 which also restricted the maintenance only to the extent of providing the same to unemployed and dependent daughters.
Delhi High Court
Not agreeing with the findings of the Family Court which held that since the daughters were majors on the date of filing the application, they were not entitled to any maintenance, the Delhi High Court said that while the daughters may be of majority age but the father cannot simply resile from that relationship, and the accompanying legal and moral obligation to state that he will not take care of them. The court said,
The father’s duty to maintain his unmarried daughters, including his duty to provide for their marriage is clearly recognized by the law.
Adding further on the HAMA provision, the court remarked,
Firstly, we must take note that under Section 20 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, maintenance will only be paid to children or infirm parents, if they are unable to maintain themselves. There is no section which states that the inability to maintain themselves (both with regard to children and parents) is equivalent to not earning an income.
We must distinguish between the two categories. An individual could be earning an income, but still not necessarily be able to maintain herself/himself.
The Court made the following observations:
- An unmarried daughter, even if employed and earning, cannot be assumed to have sufficient resources to meet her matrimonial expenses
- In the Indian context, the marriage of a son or a daughter would be expected to be performed, in keeping with the financial and social status of the parents
- It is customary for the parents of the son/daughter– who is getting married, to deploy their resources for the wedding, to the best of their financial capacity. This is particularly true when marrying of a daughter, as the parents try to ensure that she is well provided for in the matrimonial home when she would begin her new life
- In the Indian society, the marriage of a daughter is considered of paramount importance from the birth of the child. Parents from the very beginning start saving jewelry and money for the marriage of their daughters
Accordingly, the Court opined that the two daughters, who had attained majority, were also entitled to maintenance amount for their wedding expenditures.
Looking at the financial status of the father, the Court observed that his refusal to pay towards marriage expenses of his unmarried daughters was most unfortunate and not acceptable. The bench added,
We cannot close our eyes to the fact that both the daughters are, in fact, of marriageable age. The younger daughters’ marriage is fixed, and the elder daughter will also require a corpus for her marriage.
The Respondent is the father of the 3 children and has responsibility in that regard towards them. Simply stating that the daughters are major and earning an income, without adducing how, and how much, is a non sequitur.
The Court further observed that morally and legally, it is the obligation of both the parents to provide these amenities, according to the status of life being led by them, to their children by way of maintenance. The court also said,
The bond between a parent and his child, particularly between a father and his daughter, is one of the strongest bonds that any two human- beings can have. Even when this bond is weakened due to unfortunate past incidents, in our view, there is nothing to prevent the said bond being restored because, deep inside, both the daughter and the father are bound to have that natural and inherent love for each other.
It only requires the layers of anger, hurt and ego to be brushed aside to expose the pure love & affection which a father and his daughter share.
The Court therefore concluded by expressing the hope that the father and his daughters would make the required effort to restore their relationship, even if their parents had fallen apart. It said that the father should realise that he is the only person whom his daughters can look upto as their father. The court added,
To have a father, and not to be able to talk to him or go to him for advice or financial or moral support and guidance, must be very painful for the two daughters. Similarly, it would be very depressing for the Respondent to have two daughters, and not to be able to spend time with them, and receive love, care and affection from them.
No Maintenance To Appellant Wife
The Family Court has held that the Petitioner is herself not entitled to any maintenance allowance or permanent alimony, as she was doing well professionally, and earning substantial sums of money. As far as the finding vis-à-vis the Appellant wife is concerned, the Delhi High Court upheld the judgment of the Family Court, since there is sufficient material on record, as well as the income affidavit of the Appellant, which shows her to be engaged in the profession of tarot reading.
While her total resources, as taken note by the learned Family Court, amounted to Rs 67 lakh, her income affidavit of the year 2019-2020, shows an income to the tune of Rs 11,66,770 per annum.
Note to Mother
The Delhi High Court said,
We are hopeful that the appellant would also play a positive role in bridging the gap between the Respondent and his daughters – who are now grown-up, and there is no reason for her to come in the way of the relationship of his daughters and their father.
We, therefore, expect that as and when the daughters of the parties get married, the Respondent would happily participate in the functions, and the appellant, the children and other family members would respectfully and gracefully, with love & affection, welcome him to the functions and facilitate his participation in the functions wholeheartedly.
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