Today, in the case of Abhilasha vs Prakash and Others (Criminal Appeal No. 615 of 2020), a three Judges Bench of Supreme Court held that an unmarried Hindu daughter could claim maintenance from her father till she is married, if she fulfils the requirement of Section 20 of Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956.
The respondent No.2, mother of the Appellant, on her behalf, as well as on behalf of her two sons and the appellant daughter, filed an application under Section 125 Cr.P.C. against her husband, the respondent No.1, Parkash, claiming maintenance for herself and her three children. The Judicial Magistrate dismissed the Application under Section 125 Cr.P.C. of the applicant Nos. 1, 2 and 3 and allowed the same for applicant No.4 (Appellant) for grant of maintenance till she attains majority.
Aggrieved against the judgment dated 16.02.2011, all the four applicants filed a criminal revision before the Court of Sessions Judge, which was dismissed by learned Additional Sessions Judge, vide order dated 17.02.2014 with the only modification that revisionist No.4 (Appellant) shall be entitled to maintenance till 26.04.2005 when she attains majority.
Challenging the order of Sessions Judge as well as the Judicial Magistrate, an application under Section 482 Cr.P.C. was filed before the High Court by all the applicants, including the Appellant. High Court dismissed the Application filed under Section 482 Cr.P.C, upholding that Appellant is entitled to payment of maintenance till she attains majority and not after that, as she is not suffering from any Mental or Physical abnormality or injury.
Contention of Appellant:
- Even though Appellant has attained majority on 26.04.2006, but since she is unmarried, she is entitled to claim maintenance from her father.
- Counsel for Appellant relied upon Section 20 of Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956 and submitted that as per Section 20 obligation of a person to maintainer his daughter, who is unmarried, extends till she is married.
- Reliance was placed upon the Judgment of Supreme Court in the case of Jagdish Jugtawat vs Manju Lata and Others (2002) 5 SCC 422 in support of the above submission.
- It was further submitted that the Appellant was still unemployed; hence she is entitled to claim maintenance from her father.
Contention of Respondents:
- Courts below have rightly confined the claim of the maintenance of the Appellant till she attains majority on 26.04.2005.
- Under Section 125 Cr.P.C, maintenance beyond the age of majority is available under special circumstances only.
- Since the revisional Court has returned a finding that none of such special circumstances exists, therefore Appellant is not entitled to claim maintenance from her father, post the age of majority.
- Whether the Appellant, who although had attained majority and is still unmarried is entitled to claim maintenance from her father in proceedings under Section 125 Cr.P.C. although she is not suffering from any physical or mental abnormality/injury?
- Whether the orders passed by learned Judicial Magistrate as well as learned Revisional Court 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 continue to give maintenance even after 26.04.2005 till the Appellant remains unmarried?
A Bench Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice R.Subhash Reddy and Justice M.R. Shah held that:
- Hindu Law prior to the 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.
- 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 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, 1956 to avoid multiplicity of proceedings.
- The purpose and object of Section 125 Cr.P.C. is to provide immediate relief to the applicant in a summary proceeding.
- 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.
Ultimately the Court held that an unmarried Hindu daughter can claim 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.