MARRIED DAUGHTER: HER RIGHT OF MAINTENANCE by Somesh Vaidya @LexCliq

A Hindu father is obligated to support his unmarried daughters, and upon the father’s death, they are entitled to support from his inheritance. The married daughter’s situation is a little different. It is recognised that if the daughter is unable to receive maintenance from her husband or, after his death, from his family, her father, provided he has independent property of his own, has a moral, though not a legal, duty to support her. It was also noted that, although the father did not have a legal duty to support her, he did have a moral obligation to do so. And if the father gave property to his daughter in recognition of that moral duty, it is a well-satisfied obligation. In other words, a moral obligation, even if not legally enforceable, would be elevated to the level of a legal obligation if acknowledged, because it would be perfectly legitimate for the father to regard himself as obligated out of love and affection to support his destitute daughter, even if it meant infringing to a reasonable extent on his ancestral property. According to Hindu Law, the Karta of the family has the authority to transfer ancestral property in certain situations in order to fulfil a similar duty. It is the father’s duty to support his impoverished bereaved daughter. The Supreme Court ruled in Laxmappa and others vs. Smt. Balawa Kom Tirkappa Chavdi (1996):

The High Court reviewed the law on the issue by citing paragraph 546 of Mulla’s book on Hindu Law, 15th Edition, which states that a Hindu father is obligated to support his unmarried daughters, and they are entitled to be supported out of the father’s inheritance upon his death. The married daughter’s situation is a little different. It is recognised that if the daughter is unable to receive maintenance from her husband, or after his death, from his estate, her father, provided he has independent property of his own, is morally, if not legally, obligated to support her. The High Court determined that the father was clearly obligated to support the plaintiff-respondent. The High Court seems to have been aware of the statement made in the gift deed, in which she was characterised as impoverished and unable to support herself. In this manner, the father may not have had a legal duty to support her, but he did have a moral obligation to do so. And if the father gave property to his daughter in recognition of that moral duty, it is a well-satisfied obligation. In other words, even if a moral obligation is not legally enforceable, acknowledging it elevates it to the level of a legal obligation because it is perfectly legitimate for the father to regard himself as obligated out of love and affection to maintain his destitute daughter, even if it impinges on his ancestral propriety to a reasonable extent. It is well established in Hindu law that the Karta of the family has the authority to transfer ancestral property in certain situations in order to fulfil a similar duty. Given the status of the law in the intervening years, we would prefer to interpret the aforementioned clause more broadly in the contemporary setting. As a result, we believe the High Court was correct in concluding that the father had a responsibility to support his impoverished widowed daughter.
In Badshah vs. Urmila Badshah Godse and another: (2014) 1 SCC 188, it is stated that Section 125 of the Cr.P.C. is a benevolent provision considering the long relationship of the parties as established by the witness, which was clear before the Court to hold that the presumption of valid marriage exists and the applicant should have been held to legally wed under the evidence available.

In this instance, it was determined that the principles of Hindu Personal Law evolved in an evolutionary manner out of compassion for all people subject to it in order to provide equitable protection from poverty. The overarching goal is to accomplish the social goals of providing the basic necessities for members of relatively smaller social groupings. It has a humanistic spring as its basis. However, in its operation field, it sets down the acceptable categories under its benefaction, which are so entitled either because of the tenets backed by explicit public policy or because of the necessity to serve the society and individual morality assessed for maintenance.

It was ruled in Capt. Ramesh Chander Kaushal vs. Veena Kaushal, (1978) 4 SCC 70, that “the brooding presence of the Constitutional empathy for the weaker groups like women and children must guide interpretation if it is to have social relevance.” So considered, it is feasible to be selective in selecting one of two interpretations that promotes the cause – the cause of the derelicts.”

The right of another lady in a similar circumstance was affirmed in Rameshchandra Daga v. Rameshwari Daga, AIR 2005 SC 422. In this case, the Court recognised that notwithstanding the passage of the Hindu Marriage Act in 1955, Hindu marriages remained bigamous. The Court stated that, although such marriages are unlawful under the Act’s terms, they are not “immoral,” and therefore a financially dependent woman cannot be refused support on this basis.

Written by Somesh Vaidya

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