Abhilasha v. Prakash & Ors

Case Details

Court: Honourable Supreme Court of India

Constitution Bench: Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy, M.R. Shah JJ.

Criminal Appeal: 615 of 2020

Provisions Dealt with: Section 125 Cr.P.C

Appellant: Abhilasha

Respondent: Prakash and Others

Date: 15th September 2020

Facts of the case

On October 17, 2002, the mother of the accused filed an application under Section 125 Cr.P.C.1973 against her husband and demanded maintenance for herself and her three children. He has two sons and one daughter. Her husband was the respondent and her younger daughter (Abhilasha) was the appellant. On February 16, 2011, the magistrate dismissed all the three appeals under Section 125 Cr.P.C.1973 except the appellant (Abhilasha) and awarded him maintenance till recovery major. The applicant filed a criminal complaint with the Sessions Court. Who was fired on February 17, 2014. During the trial, the judge said that based on Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. 1973. Child support can be claimed only from children “who (who become additional) if the child is unable to support himself due to physical or mental abnormality or disability”. This is not the case with the appellant. Why was he entitled to maintenance up to his age? The appellant filed an appeal before the High Court under Section 482 Cr.P.C.1973 challenging the order of the Sessions Court which was set aside by the High Court on 16. . February 2018. This time the appellant appealed to the Supreme Court of India.

Issues Raised

1. Whether the appellant who is of legal age and still unmarried has the right to claim   maintenance from his father under Cr.P.C. In proceedings under Section 125 even though he has no physical or mental disabilities?

2. Whether the orders made by the learned Revisional Court and Judicial Magistrate restricting the appellant’s ability to seek maintenance until she reaches majority on April 26, 2005, should be overturned and respondent No. 1 instructed to keep providing maintenance even after April 26, 2005, as long as the appellant is single?

Contention

Arguments from the side of the appellant:

The counsel contended that the High court has made an error in its judgment by counter the decision given by the Honourable Supreme Court in Jagdish Jugtawat vs. Manju Lata and Others, in which according to Section 20 of the Hindu Maintenance Act 1956 which states that the unmarried daughter is capable and entitled to maintenance by her father. She submits that High Court made a mistake in taking an opposite opinion to the above judgment of this Court. The counsel claims that the applicant is still unemployed, therefore he is entitled to claim maintenance from his father. The appellant’s lawyer argues that the appellant should receive alimony as long as he remains unmarried, but the claim was denied because the appellant does not have any physical or mental disabilities. The lawyer points to Section 20 of the Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 in India, which addresses the maintenance of children and elderly parents. Counsel for the appellant strongly argued that the Cr.P.C. Section 125 does not apply in this case. It is clear that the daughter is not married and has no mental or physical disability or life-threatening injuries. Therefore, under Section 20[3] of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, the daughter has an indisputable right to claim maintenance from her father till her marriage. Counsel referred to the case of Nanak Chand vs. Shri Chandra Kishore Agarwal and others where the court emphasized that Section 488 of Cr.P.C. provides speedy remedy and speedy decision against starvation of deserted wife or child which applies to all people regardless of religion. In addition, the legal representative stated that the family court has full jurisdiction to decide the maintenance of spouses, children and elderly parents and as a judge of first instance according to Chapter 9 Cr.P.C. If there is no family court, such cases are heard in the district court or lower court. The legal representative also stated that an unmarried Hindu woman can claim maintenance from her father by showing her inability to support herself, which can be enforced by an application under Section 20(3) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 of India. It is important to note that the daughter has the right to demand maintenance and this right cannot be denied.

Arguments from the side of the respondent:

The counsel for the accused objects to the contention of the appellant’s senior counsel that the courts below rightly limited the maintenance of the appellant until he attains the age of majority on 26.04.2005. It is argued that under Section 125 of the Cr.P.C, an adult daughter’s right to seek alimony is restricted if she is unable to support herself due to a physical or mental disability. The Administrative Court found that the applicant was incapacitated due to a disability, and the Supreme Court correctly rejected the petition filed under Section 482 of the Act as there was no interference by the trial judge or Learned Revision Tribunal under the Cr.P.C. based on Section 482. The Court of Appeal held that there was no evidence that the applicant was unable to support himself due to physical or mental deficiency or disability. It is submitted that the High Court has rightly rejected the contention of the appellant under Section 482 of the Act because no case was raised by the trial judge and the Revisional Court under Cr.P.C. for violation of orders passed in exercise of jurisdiction under section 482.

Rationale

Here, the court’s interpretation of Section 20(3) of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 is based on the principle of statutory interpretation. It recognizes the legislative intent behind the provision to provide financial assistance to unmarried daughters who are unable to support themselves. The court specifically noted that a daughter can claim maintenance until marriage without physical or mental injury, following the express wording and intent of the statute. The court was based on the principles of gender justice and equality. By accepting the maintenance claim of an unmarried daughter, the court ensures that she is not left economically vulnerable simply because of her marital status. This interpretation prevents gender discrimination and treats unmarried daughters equally with married daughters who are already entitled to maintenance. The court emphasized that issues relating to maintenance of the Hindu community are governed by personal laws such as the Indian Adoption and Maintenance Act., 1956. Although section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C) is a general provision allowing recovery of alimony, the court acknowledged that certain personal laws may deal with certain matters more thoroughly. Since the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act specifically covers the maintenance of unmarried daughters, it takes precedence over the general provisions of 125 of the Cr.P.C. Guidance that an application or suit for maintenance of a daughter is in the ambit of adoption in India. The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 Section 20 and not Cr.P.C Section 125, the court bars forum shopping. This means that the daughter cannot claim support under multiple conditions, ensuring a smoother and more consistent court process.

Defects of Law

The absence of the aforementioned scenario is due to the inconsistent interpretation and application of the right of the appellant (an unmarried Hindu daughter) to claim maintenance under Section 125 of the Act by the lower courts (Judicial Magistrate, Session Court and Court of Appeal). Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C) Vs. Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, Section 20. Misconstrue of Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure as interpreted by the lower court in Cr.P.C. of Section 125 appears to be narrow and limited. They said that only children who are unable to support themselves due to physical or mental abnormality or disability can claim maintenance under Section 125. However, such an interpretation is inconsistent with the broader purpose and scope of Section 125, which includes alimony to children who are unable to support themselves, whether physically or mentally abnormal or disabled. 

Ignorance of Section 20(3) of the Indian Adoption and Maintenance Act: These seem to have been either ignored or inadequately done by the lower courts take into account the provisions of section 20(3) of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956. That section enables an unmarried daughter to claim maintenance from her father till marriage without special physical or mental injury. Ignoring this provision, the lower courts erred when they limited the claim of the appellant until he reached the age of majority.

Inconsistent application of personal law: the lower courts should have harmonized the provisions of Section 125 of the Criminal Code and Section 20 (3) of the complainant. Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act to provide a coherent and consistent legal framework for maintenance claims of unmarried daughters. Instead, the decisions of the lower courts resulted in inconsistent application of the law and confusion regarding the appellant’s right to maintenance. The appellant filed an appeal in the High Court under Section 482 CrPC challenging the order of the Sessions Court. However, since the case involved the maintenance claims of an unmarried daughter, according to the Supreme Court decision, enforcement of that right should have been made under Section 20 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956. The fact that this forum shopping was not addressed as well contributed to the failure of the case. The legal error is due to the fact that the lower courts misinterpreted and applied the law inconsistently, so the appellant’s right to demand alimony was limited by marriage.

Inference

Whether a Hindu owns property or not, he is bound by law to support his parents, wife, unmarried daughters and minor children. If a person is in good physical and mental shape, he should be able to support his wife, children and parents. The need to maintain these relationships is personal in nature and arises from the relationship between the parties. Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Act is intended to provide a speedy remedy through a narrow process, but section 20(3) (b) of the 1956 Act has wider rights to deal with. The judge’s decision to deny maintenance to the appellant under Section 20 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act was correct. Each court must resolve the matter within its own jurisdiction, so that the competences of different courts do not overlap or cause abuse of judgment. In this case, however, justice is served by allowing the appellant to file a claim for maintenance against his father under Section 20(3) of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, if he has an order to do so.

AYUSH PUROHIT (I BA LLB)

ILS LAW COLLEGE PUNE