CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 615 OF 2020
[2020 SCC Online SC 736]
On October 17, 2002, the mother of the appealing party filed an application under Section 125 CrPC against her spouse (the respondent) for herself and her three children. Her younger daughter is the appellant in this case. On February 16, 2011, the Judicial Magistrate of First Class dismissed her claim for whole maintenance but granted maintenance to the appealing party until she reached the age of majority.
Following that, all four of them filed an application for criminal revision before the Sessions Judge Court in Rewari, but their application was similarly dismissed by the Additional Sessions Judge in a verdict handed on February 17, 2014. The respected judge ruled that under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the appellant is only entitled to maintenance until she reaches the age of majority, and not after that, because Section 125 of the CrPC only allows maintenance for minors who are unable to support themselves due to physical or mental illness or injury. Because the appellant was not in such a condition, she was given maintenance until April 26, 2005 till she achieves the period of majority and not after that.
- Is the appellant, who has reached the age of majority and is unmarried, entitled to maintenance from the respondent under Section 125 of the CrPC notwithstanding the fact that she is not suffering from any physical or mental illness or injury?
- Whether the orders of the Judicial Magistrate and the Additional Sessions Court Judge, which limited the appellant’s right to claim maintenance until she reached the age of majority, i.e., until April 26, 2005, can be set aside, making the respondent liable to pay maintenance to his daughter even after she reached the age of majority, i.e., after April 26, 2005, and is unmarried, can be set aside?
- 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?
APPELLANT’S SIDE –
The appellant asserted in the Supreme Court that, despite having reached majority on April 26, 2005, she is entitled to maintenance from her father because she is unmarried. Learned senior counsel contends that the high court erred in dismissing the appellant’s application under section 482 of the Cr.P.C. on the incorrect premise that because the appellant had reached majority and was not suffering from any physical or mental abnormality, she was not entitled to maintenance. The learned senior counsel relied on section 20 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, and contends that the obligation of a person to keep his unmarried daughter extends till she marries. In support of her contention, learned senior counsel cites this Court’s decision in Jagdish Jugtawat vs. Manju Lata and Ors. She claims that the High Court erred by taking a position adverse to the above-mentioned decision of this Court. Ms. Learned senior counsel contends that because appellant is still unemployed, she is entitled to maintenance from her father.
RESPONDENT’S SIDE –
The respondent’s counsel agrees with the learned senior counsel for the appellant’s contention that the Courts correctly limited the appellant’s claim for support until she reaches majority on April 26, 2005. According to Section 125 Cr.P.C., the right to claim maintenance by a daughter who has reached the age of majority is limited to cases where the person is unable to support herself due to a physical or mental abnormality or damage. The Revisional Court determined that there is no evidence that appellant is unable to support herself due to any physical or mental defect or injury. It is argued that the High Court correctly dismissed the appellant’s plea under Section 482 Cr.P.C. since no case was brought forth to interfere with orders made by the Judicial Magistrate and the Revisional Court in exercise of jurisdiction under Section 482 Cr.P.C.
According to Section 125(1)(C) of the CrPC, a legitimate or illegitimate child who is unmarried but has reached the age of majority and is unable to support herself due to mental or physical abnormalities/injury can seek maintenance from her father who has neglected/refused to support her. According to Section 20 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, an unmarried daughter who has reached the age of majority can claim maintenance from her father if she is unable to support herself and is reliant on others. The Magistrate dismissed the application, but the Supreme Court noted that the magistrate court granted interim maintenance in accordance with Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The application is allowed. Unmarried daughter claiming maintenance from her father, who is unable to maintain herself is also a right granted by personal law, which can be enforced.
DEFECTS IN LAW
The Supreme Court examined the distinction between Section 125 Cr.P.C. and Section 20 Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 (HAMA), because maintenance under HAMA, 1956 is a broader notion than maintenance under Section 125 Cr.P.C., which is limited to affording prompt relief in a summary action. A cursory reading of Section 125(1) Cr.P.C. and Section 20 of the Act of 1956 reveals that, whilst Section 125 Cr.P.C. bars a child’s claim to support until he or she reaches the age of majority. Section 125(1)(c) provides that an unmarried daughter, even if she has reached the age of majority, is entitled to maintenance if she is unable to support herself due to a physical or mental abnormality or injury. Thus, the Scheme considers that a claim for maintenance by a daughter who has reached the age of majority is valid only if she is unable to support herself due to any physical or mental abnormality or harm. Thus, this contravenes the law under section 20 of HAMA which states that “the obligation of a person to maintain his or her daughter who is unmarried extends in so far as the case may be, is unable to maintain himself or herself out of his or her own earnings or other property.”
Whether he owns property or not, a Hindu is legally obligated to support his parents, wife, unmarried daughters, and small child. If a person is in good physical and mental condition, he must be able to support his wife, children, and parents. The need to preserve these relationships is personal in nature and stems from the very existence of the parties’ relationship. The goal of Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure Code is to give prompt remedy through summary processes, but Section 20 read with Section 3(b) of the Act of 1956 has broader rights that must be adjudicated. The decision of a first-class court magistrate to deny appellant maintenance under Section 20 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act was correct. Every Court must resolve the case within their field of authority so that the powers of separate Courts do not overlap and cause a miscarriage of justice. However, in this case, justice is served by allowing the appellant to initiate a maintenance suit against her father under Section 20(3) of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, if she is advised to do so.
ST. XAVIER’S UNIVERSITY, KOLKATA
 2002 5 SCC 422.
 Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956.
 Code of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.