SC: Unmarried major daughter can’t enforce right u/s 20(3) Hindu Adoptions & Maintenance Act in a proceeding u/s 125 CrPC

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, on 15th September 2020, in the matter of Abhilasha v. Parkash & Ors. held that an unmarried Hindu daughter can claim maintenance from her father till she is married relying on Section 20(3) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956. However, maintenance u/s 125 Cr.P.C cannot be granted to unmarried daughter after she has become major unless she is by reason of any physical or mental abnormality or injury is unable to maintain itself.

Question before the Hon’ble Supreme Court

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 ?

Hon’ble Supreme Court’s observation(s)

A bare perusal of Section 125(1) Cr.P.C. as well as Section 20  indicates that whereas Section 125 Cr.P.C. limits the claim of maintenance of a child until he or she attains majority. By virtue of Section 125(1)(c), an unmarried daughter even though she has attained majority is entitled for maintenance, where such unmarried daughter is by reason of any physical or mental abnormality or injury is unable to maintain itself. The Scheme under Section 125(1) Cr.P.C., thus, contemplate that claim of maintenance by a daughter, who has attained majority is admissible only when by reason of any physical or mental abnormality or injury, she is unable to maintain herself. (Para 12)

The laws are nothing but collective consciousness of community. It is in the interest of the community and social order that woman and child who are neglected be maintained and should be provided a forum to obtain urgent relief to enable them to sustain. (Para 14)

In Classical Hindu Law prior to codification, a Hindu male was always held morally and legally liable to maintain his aged parents, a virtuous wife and infant child. Hindu Law always recognised the liability of father to maintain an unmarried daughter. (Para 25)

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. (Para 27)

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. Hindu Law prior to enactment of Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance 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. (Para 28)

The provision of Section 20 of Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance 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. 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. (Para 31)

After enactment of Family Courts Act, 1984, a Family Court shall also have the jurisdiction exercisable by a Magistrate of the First Class under Chapter IX of Cr.P.C. relating to order for maintenance of wife, children and parents. Family Courts shall have the jurisdiction only with respect to city or town whose population exceeds one million, where there is no Family Courts, proceedings under Section 125 Cr.P.C. shall have to be before the Magistrate of the First Class. In an area where the Family Court is not established, a suit or proceedings for maintenance including the proceedings under Section 20 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 shall only be before the District Court or any subordinate Civil Court. (Para 32)

There may be a case 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 Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, in such eventuality, Family Court 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 Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956. However the Magistrate in exercise of powers under Section 125 Cr.P.C. cannot pass such order. (Para 33)

The maintenance as contemplated under Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 is a larger concept as compared to concept of maintenance under Section 125 Cr.P.C. (Para 35)

As a preposition of law, an unmarried Hindu daughter can claim maintenance from her father till she is married relying on Section 20(3) of the Hindu Adoptions and 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 Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956. (Para 38)

Copy of judgement: Judgement_15-Sep-2020

-Adv. Tushar Kaushik

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