Step-parent not liable to maintain the minor child

Gujarat High Court– Deciding on an important issue as to whether minor stepdaughter is entitled to claim maintenance under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Code) from her stepmother on the demise of the natural father of the stepdaughter, the bench of J.B Pardiwala, J, held that the language used in Section 125 of the Code is plain and unambiguous and the words “legitimate or illegitimate” as used in Section 125 must, therefore, be presumed to carry its plain literal meaning in the absence of any evidence that it was intended to mean something else or include a stepchild also. The Court reasoned relying on CST, Uttar Pradesh v. Parson Tools and Plants, Kanpur (1975) 4 SCC 22, observed that it is not open to this Court to supply omission by extending the meaning of the words “legitimate or illegitimate child” in the guise of interpretation by implication only because this Court feels that it will be in conformity with the principles of social justice and equity.

In the instant case, the son of the respondent retained the custody of his minor daughter after divorcing his wife from first marriage. Later, son of the respondent married the petitioner. He, unfortunately passed away leaving the custody of the minor child with the petitioner. However, respondent 2 applied for the custody of the minor child which was accordingly granted to him by the learned Additional District Judge, Bhavnagar. Respondent 2 received a huge amount from L.I.C. on the demise of the father of minor child. The said application has been filed by respondent 2 on behalf of the minor child to seek maintenance from her step mother.

The Court while reasoning also stated that the petitioner should not be saddled with the responsibility of maintaining her step daughter, especially when her natural mother is alive and is ready and willing to take care of the minor child. The Court discussed in detail the meaning of expressions ‘mother’ and ‘step mother’ taking help of catena of cases. The Court hence quashed the order of the Principal Judge, Family Court and also highlighted that the Code is secular in nature and is applicable to all persons belonging to all religions and has no relationship with the personal law of the parties.[ Manjulaben Prakshbhai Sarvaiya v. State of Gujarat, 2015 SCC OnLine Guj 1147, decided on 8.10.2015]

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