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Unmarried Hindu daughter can Claim maintenance from Father on Proving inability to maintain Herself

ABHILASHA V. PARKASH AND ORS., Criminal Appeal No. 615 of 2020 (arising out of SLP (Crl.) No. 8260/ 2018)

15th September 2020.

Counsel for Appellant: Senior Counsel Vibha Datta Makhija.

The Hon'ble Supreme Court comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Justice R. Subhash Reddy, Justice M.R. Shah held that an unmarried daughter shall claim maintenance from father, on proving that she is unable to maintain herself, even after attaining majority. The present case was filed under Sec. 125 before the Judicial Magistrate First Class who passed the order dated 16.02.2011. The Magistrate while looking into the admissions could not enforce the Jurisdiction under Sec. 20 of the Act, 1956 and hence the contention of the appellant stating that the Magistrate court did not allow maintenance for unmarried daughter cannot be accepted. The Court did not find any infirmity in the order of the Judicial Magistrate First Class and of the Learned Additional Magistrate in not granting maintenance for the appellant who had become major.

Respondent no.2, the appellant's mother, on behalf of herself, her two sons and the appellant daughter filed an application against her husband, Respondent no. 1, under Sec. 125 Cr.P.C. claiming maintenance for herself and her three children. The Judicial Magistrate vide its judgment dated 16.02.2011 dismissed the same for the applicant nos. 1, 2 and 3 and allowed the application for applicant no. 4 (appellant before us) for grant of maintenance till she attains majority. Aggrieved, the criminal revision petition by the four applicants before the Sessions Court was also dismissed by the Additional Sessions Judge by order dated 17.02.2014 and the only modification being appellant no.4 (appellant before us) entitled to get maintenance till she attains majority till 26.04.2005 and not until 07.02.2005 when she originally attains majority. The Learned Additional Sessions Judge held that under Sec.125 of Cr.P.C, people who had attained majority are entitled to maintenance only if because of any physical or mental abnormality or any injury, they are unable to take care of themselves. And the same being the reason, the application has been dismissed. Challenging the order of the Sessions Judge and the Judicial magistrate, all the applicants including the appellant applied to the High Court under Sec.482 of Cr.P.C. The same has been dismissed by the High Court on the note that both the courts were consistent about declining the maintenance to petitioners no.1, 2 and 3 and the fact that the High Court did not find any illegality or infirmity in the judgment passed by the Sessions Court and the Judicial Magistrate, which might have called for interference by the High Court by exercising its jurisdiction under Sec.482 of Cr.P.C.

The Legal issues framed and presented before the court from the given contention are as follows:

1. Whether the appellant who has attained majority but is still unmarried, entitled to claim maintenance from her father under Sec.125 of Cr.P.C, even though she is not suffering from any physical/ mental abnormalities or injury?
2. Whether the order passed by the Learned Judicial Magistrate and Sessions Judge limiting the claim of the appellant to claim maintenance till she attains majority on 26.04.2005 deserves to be set aside with a direction to the Respondent no.1 to provide maintenance for the appellant even after 26.04.2005, till she remains married?

The learned senior counsel for the appellant contends that the court has erred by deciding on the wrong premise under Sec. 482 of Cr.P.C that since the appellant has become a major and has no physical/ mental abnormalities or injury, the appellant is not entitled to claim maintenance after 26.04.2005. She states that as per provisions of Sec. 20 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 (hereinafter referred to as 'The Act,1956') obligation of a person to maintain his unmarried daughter, remains till she is married. The counsel relies on the judgment of this Court in JagdishJugtawat v. ManjuLata and Others, (2002) 5 SCC 422 and condemns that the court has committed an error by giving an order contrary to the above judgment. She further states that since the appellant is unemployed, she is entitled to claim maintenance from her father.

The learned counsel for the respondent refutes the above by contending that the court has done right by confining the claim to maintenance until the appellant attains majority on 26.04.2005. He further states that under Sec. 125 of Cr.P.C the entitlement of a daughter to claim maintenance after majority, confines to only if, by any reason due to physical/ mental abnormalities or injury, she is unable to maintain herself. Since the Revisional Court has provided with a finding that the daughter is not unable to maintain herself, it is contended that the court has rightly dismissed the application under Sec. 482, since no case was found of interference with the orders passed by the Judicial Magistrate and Sessions Judge under Sec. 482 Cr.P.C.

The court to answer the above issues looked into Sec. 488 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 which was the provision for maintaining the wife and legitimate or illegitimate children of any person. The court in Nanank Chand Vs. Chandra Kishore Aggarwal and Others, (1969) 3 SCC 802, explained the provisions Sec. 20 of the Act and Sec. 488 of Cr.P.C and concluded that both the acts shall stand side by side and there is no inconsistency present between these two. The court further concluded that Sec. 488 Cr.P.C provides a summary remedy and is for all religions and has no relation with the personal laws of people. In the above case, the court has approved the judgments of Allahabad and Patna High Courts in Ram Singh v. State, AIR 1963 All 355( Sec. 18 of the Act,1956 cannot be substituted for Sec.488 of Cr.P.C) and Nalini Ranjan v. Kiran Rani, AIR 1965 Pat. 442( Sec. 488 Cr.P.C provided separate remedy and covered civil liability of husband under personal law). This court in Yamunabai Anantrao Adhav v. Anantrao Shivram Adhav and Another, (1988) 1 SCC 530, personal laws cannot be altogether excluded for consideration under Sec. 125 of Cr.P.C.

In case of a family court dealing with the jurisdiction of the case under Sec. 125 Cr.P.C and suit under Sec. 20 of the Act, 1956, the family court can exercise jurisdictions under both provisions and in such eventuality, it may grant maintenance to the unmarried daughter by enforcing her right under Sec. 20 of the Act and avoid multiplicity of proceedings like the court in the Jugtawat case. However, a magistrate of power under Sec. 125 Cr.P.C cannot pass such an order.

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 34 Section 125 Cr.P.C. to determine the claims contemplated by Act, 1956. (Para 36)

The Court stated the reasons which satisfied that the orders passed by the learned Judicial Magistrate as well as learned Additional Sessions Judge in the revision was not required to be interfered with by the High Court in exercise of jurisdiction under Section 482 Cr.P.C.

The Court held that

We, thus, accept the submission of the learned counsel for the appellant that as a preposition of law, an unmarried Hindu daughter can claim for maintenance from her father till she is married, relying on Section 20(3) of the 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, 1956. (Para 38)

In facts of the present case the ends of justice be served by giving liberty to the appellant to take recourse to Section 20(3) of the Act, 1956, if so advised, for claiming any maintenance against her father and the appeal stand dismissed.

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M. Maheswari