Case Study: Abhilasha v. Prakash & Ors.

By Nishant Singh Rawat 10 Minutes Read

“Unmarried Major Daughters can claim maintenance from their parents under Hindu law but not under Section 125 CrPC”

Citation: 2020 SCC OnLine SC 736

Date of Judgement: 15th September 2020

Bench: Ashok Bhushan (J), R. Subhash Reddy (J), M. R. Shah (J)

Facts:

  • Mother (Respondent in the case) of the appellant filed an application dated 17th Oct, 2002 u/s 125 Cr.P.C., 1973 against her husband Prakash (Respondent in the case) claiming maintenance for herself and her three children. In the present appeal, the youngest daughter Abhilasha is the appellant.
  • Judicial Magistrate through judgement dated 16th Feb, 2011 dismissed the application for all except appellant and allowed her grant of maintenance till she attains majority.
  • An application for criminal revision was filed before the court of Sessions judge by all four applicants, which was dismissed by judgement dated 17th Feb, 2014. The Additional Sessions Judge held that according to Sec 125 Cr.P.C., only those children (who had attained majority) are entitled to maintenance, who by reason of any physical or mental abnormality or injury are unable to maintain themselves., which was not the case with the appellant. So, she was entitled to maintenance only by the day she did not attain majority, i.e, 26th April, 2005.
  • Application u/s 482 Cr.P.C., 1973 was filed by all applicants challenging the order of Sessions Judge which was dismissed by the High Court through its judgement dated 16th Feb, 2018. Hence, appeal was made to Supreme Court.

The decision of the Apex Court

The Apex Court accepted that an unmarried Hindu daughter can claim maintenance from her father until she is married, relying on Section 20(3) of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, provided she pleads and proves that she is unable to maintain herself. For enforcement of this right, such unmarried daughter must file her application/suit has under Section 20 of HAMA, 1956. Since, under present circumstances such application was filed u/s Section 125 Cr.P.C. instead of Section 20, HAMA, 1956, therefore the case is not maintainable and hence, the appeal was dismissed.


Key Law Positions established in the Case:

  • Whether a Hindu unmarried major daughter, is entitled to claim maintenance from her father under Section 20 of HAMA, 1956 if she has filed such an filed the application under Section 125 Cr.P.C., 1973?

No

The Supreme Court discussed the difference between Section 125 Cr.P.C. and Section 20 HAMA, 1956 as maintenance under HAMA, 1956 is a larger concept as compared to maintenance under Section 125 Cr.P.C., which is just for providing immediate relief in a summary proceeding. A bare perusal of Sec 125(1) Cr.P.C. as well as Section 20 of Act, 1956 indicates that whereas Sec 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 herself. The Scheme under Section 125(1) Cr.P.C., thus, contemplates that the 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.

In Nanak Chand v. Chandra Kishore Aggarwal & Ors.[1] also court held that there is no inconsistency between Sec 488 Cr.P.C., 1898 (Maintenance provision) and Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act (HAMA), 1956. Sec 488 Cr.P.C., 1898 provides a summary remedy and is applicable to all persons belonging to all religions and has no relationship with the personal law of the parties.

In Noor Saba Khatoon v. Mohd. Quasim[2] also court held that effect of a beneficial legislation like Sec 125 Cr.P.C. cannot be allowed to be defeated except through clear provisions of a statute. A Muslim father’s obligation, like that of a Hindu father, to maintain his minor children as contained in Sec 125 Cr.P.C. is absolute and is not at all affected by Sec 3(1)(b) of Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986.

Appellant relied upon Jagdish Jugtawat v. Manju Lata & Ors.[3] where High Court accepted the legal position that u/s 125 Cr.P.C., a minor daughter is entitled to maintenance from her parents only till she attains majority but declined to interfere with the orders passed by the family court taking the cue from Sec 20(3) of the HAMA, 1956. Court observed that provisions require literal interpretation and a daughter could cease to have the benefit of the provision u/s 125 Cr.P.C. on attaining majority, though she would be entitled to claim the benefits further under the statute/ personal law.  

However, the court rejected the contention laid down in Jagdish Jugtawat case and said that it cannot be read to lay down the ratio that in proceedings under Section 125 Cr.P.C.,1973 filed by unmarried daughter against her father, she is entitled to maintenance under Section 20(3) of HAMA, 1956.

Hindu and Muslim law recognises the obligation of father to maintain his daughters until they are married and Section 20(3) of HAMA, 1956 is just a statutory recognition of principles of Hindu law. 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.

Discussing the evolution of Family Courts, court observed that after enactment of Family Courts Act, 1984, Family Courts shall have the jurisdiction only with respect to city or town whose population exceeds one million. Where there are no Family Courts, proceedings under Section 125 Cr.P.C. shall be considered 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 HAMA, 1956 shall only be before the District Court or any subordinate Civil Court.

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 HAMA, 1956. In such an 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 HAMA, 1956 so as to avoid multiplicity of proceedings as observed by this Court in the case of Jagdish Jugtawat. However, the Magistrate only exercising powers under Section 125 Cr.P.C. cannot pass such an order.

In the present case, the application was filed under Section 125 Cr.P.C. before Judicial Magistrate First Class, Rewari. The Magistrate while deciding proceedings under Section 125 Cr.P.C. did not had any jurisdiction under Section 20(3) of HAMA, 1956. Proceedings need to be initiated under Section 20 of HAMA, 1956 as the Legislature never contemplated such power to Magistrate, while exercising his jurisdiction under Section 125 Cr.P.C. to determine the claims contemplated by HAMA, 1956.

[1] (1969) 3 SCC 802.

[2] (1997) 6 SCC 233.

[3] (2002) 5 SCC 422.

Nishant Singh Rawat

Contributing Editor @LegalWires A Research Scholar at the University of Delhi also graduated from the University of Delhi and Himachal Pradesh National Law University with specialization in criminal law. He is an egalitarian and strong supporter of human rights. He is a keen traveller and mountaineer. Whatever challenges the societal structure and norms, attracts his attention.

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