Date of Judgement- September 15, 2020
Bench- Ashok Bhushan(J), R. Subhash Reddy (J), M.R. Shah (J)
Facts of Cases
- Mother, Who is the respondent in the case filed an application under section 125 of Cr.P.C.1973, on October 17, 2002. Against her husband and claimed maintenance of herself and her 3 children. She has 2 two sons and 1daughter. His husband was the respondent in the case, and her younger daughter (Abhilasha) was the appellant.
- On February 16, 2011, the judicial magistrate dismissed all three claims under section 125 of Cr.P.C.1973, except for the appellant (Abhilasha), and grant her maintenance till she becomes major.
- The appellant filed the application for criminal revision in the session court. Which was dismissed on February 17, 2014. In the judgment session judge said that under section 125 of Cr.P.C. 1973. Only such children can claim maintenance “who (attain majority) where such child is, by reason of physical or mental abnormality or injury unable to maintain itself.” This is not the case with the appellant. The reason why she was entitled to maintenance till she attains majority.
- The applicant filed an appeal in the High Court under section 482 of Cr.P.C.1973, and challenge the order of the session court which was again dismissed by the High Court on February 16, 2018. This time applicant filed the appeal in the Honorable Supreme Court of India.
- The question arises as to whether the appellant, despite attaining majority and being unmarried without any mental or physical disorders, is eligible to claim maintenance from her father under Section 125 of the Cr.P.C.1973
- Does the order passed by the Judicial Magistrate and the Revisional Court, restricting the appellant’s claim until she attains majority, warrant reversal, and should the respondent be directed to provide maintenance to the appellant until her marriage?
Argument from the Appellant’s
The representative for the appellant argued strongly that Section 125 of the Cr.P.C. does not apply to this case. It is clear that the daughter is not married and does not have any mental or physical impairments or life-threatening injuries. Therefore, according to Section 20 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, the daughter is unquestionably entitled to demand maintenance from her father until her marriage. The legal representative cited the case of Lnanak Chand vs. Shri Chandra Kishore Agarwala and Others, where the court emphasized that Section 488 CrPC provides a quick solution and a summary process against the starvation of the abandoned wife or child, which applies to all individuals regardless of their religion. Furthermore, the legal representative pointed out that the Family Court has complete authority to issue orders concerning the maintenance of wives, children, and elderly parents, just like a First-class Magistrate under Chapter IX of the CrPC. If a Family Court is not available, such cases are heard before the District Court or the subordinate court. The legal representative also stated that an unmarried Hindu woman can claim maintenance from her father by demonstrating her inability to support herself, which can be enforced via an application under Section 20(3) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956. It is essential to note that the daughter is eligible to demand maintenance, and this right cannot be refused.
Argument from the respondent
The Learned Counsel for the respondent contended that as per Section 125 of the CrPC, a daughter can claim maintenance after attaining the age of majority only if she is afflicted by a physical or mental infirmity or has suffered an injury that hinders her ability to sustain herself financially. The Counsel presented the findings of the Revisional Court, which did not indicate any evidence suggesting that the appellant suffered from any form of abnormality, physical or mental, or any injury that would hinder her ability to support herself financially.
Here the court’s interpretation of Section 20(3) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, is based on the principle of statutory interpretation. It recognizes the legislative intent behind the provision, which seeks to provide financial support to unmarried daughters who are unable to maintain themselves. By explicitly stating that the daughter can claim maintenance until marriage without the condition of physical or mental injury, the court gives effect to the clear language and purpose of the statute.
The court upheld principles of gender justice and equality. By allowing an unmarried daughter’s claim for maintenance, the court ensures that she is not left financially vulnerable solely due to her marital status. This interpretation eliminates discrimination based on gender and treats unmarried daughters on par with married daughters who are already entitled to maintenance.
The court highlighted that personal laws such as the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, govern matters related to maintenance within the Hindu community. While Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) is a general provision that allows for maintenance claims, the court recognized that specific personal laws can address certain matters more comprehensively. In this case, since the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act explicitly covers maintenance for unmarried daughters, it takes precedence over the general provisions of Section 125 Cr. P. C.
By directing that the application or suit for the enforcement of the daughter’s maintenance right should be under Section 20 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, rather than Section 125 of the Cr. P.C., the court prevents forum shopping. This means that the daughter cannot claim maintenance under multiple provisions, thereby ensuring a more streamlined and coherent legal process.
Defect of Law
The defect in the mentioned scenario lies in the inconsistent interpretation and application of the law by the lower courts (Judicial Magistrate, Session Court, and High Court) concerning the eligibility of the appellant (unmarried Hindu daughter) to claim maintenance under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C.) versus Section 20 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956.
Misinterpretation of Section 125 Cr. P.C. as the lower court’s interpretation of Section 125 Cr.P.C. appears to be narrow and limited. They held that only children who, due to physical or mental abnormality or injury, are unable to maintain themselves can claim maintenance under Section 125. However, this interpretation is not in line with the broader intent and scope of Section 125, which includes providing maintenance to children who are unable to maintain themselves, irrespective of whether they have any physical or mental abnormality or injury.
Failure to Consider Section 20(3) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act: The lower courts seemingly overlooked or did not adequately consider the provisions of Section 20(3) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956. This section grants an unmarried daughter the right to claim maintenance from her father until her marriage, without any specific requirement of physical or mental injury. By failing to consider this provision, the lower courts erred in restricting the appellant’s claim until she attains a majority.
Inconsistent Application of Personal Laws: The lower courts should have harmonized the provisions of Section 125 CrPC and Section 20(3) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act to ensure a consistent and coherent legal framework for maintenance claims by unmarried daughters. Instead, the lower courts’ decisions resulted in an inconsistent application of the law and confusion regarding the appellant’s entitlement to maintenance.
The appellant filed an appeal in the High Court under Section 482 of CrPC, challenging the order of the Session Court. However, since the matter pertained to maintenance claims by an unmarried daughter, the enforcement of the right should have been under Section 20 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, as per the Supreme Court’s judgment. The failure to address this forum shopping also contributed to the defect in the case.
The defect in law lies in the misinterpretation and inconsistent application of the law by the lower courts, resulting in the restriction of the appellant’s right to claim maintenance until marriage.
In reaching this conclusion, the court underscored the importance of adhering to the correct legal framework for maintenance claims, avoiding confusion between different provisions, and ensuring that the law is applied in a consistent and just manner. While recognizing the rights of unmarried daughters to claim maintenance, the court reiterated that such rights must be exercised within the parameters set forth by the relevant laws. Hence, in the absence of a valid claim under Section 125 Cr.P.C., the appeal was dismissed, leaving the appellant to seek redress under the appropriate provision of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, if applicable to her circumstances. In judgment, the court said as the appellant filed the appeal under section 125 of Cr. P.C. which was wrongly filed, as it allows maintenance to those children who are mentally, physically abnormal, or injured. Hence court dismissed the case as it is not maintainable. Rather the appellant has to appeal under section 20(3) of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956 which allows the Hindu unmarried daughter to seek maintenance from her father as she is unable to maintain herself.
Name- Laila Kazmi
College- Patna Law College, Patna University,
 Lnanak Chand vs Shri Chandra Kishore Agarwala, 1970 AIR 446, 1970 SCR (1) 565