HP HC | Can wife claim maintenance under S.12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 over ‘ancestral property’ of the husband? HC explains

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Jyotsna Rewal Dua J., disposed off the petition without any interference with impugned orders.

The facts of the case are such that the petitioner is the legally wedded wife of defendant having solemnized a marriage with him in the year 1994 and has a son out of the wedlock. Due to marital discord, plaintiff started residing with her father since the year 1998 along with the son.  An application for grant of maintenance under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 was filed by petitioner before the Court of learned Judicial Magistrate 1st Class, Manali. Apprehending defeat of her maintenance claim by the defendant by selling the suit land an application under Order 39, Rules 1 and 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) was filed for restraining the defendant from alienating, transferring and for creating charge over the suit land which stands dismissed by the trial Court. The order was later upheld by the Appellate Court. Aggrieved by the same, instant petition was filed under Article 227 of the Constitution of India.

Counsel for the petitioner relied on the judgment titled  V. Tulasamma v. Sesha Reddy, (1997) 3 SCC 99 and submitted that both the Courts have misdirected themselves in treating the civil suit as one filed by a coparcener i.e the wife to restrain and injunct Karta i.e. the husband from alienating the suit land, whereas the civil suit was a case instituted by the wife for creation of charge over the property of her husband in lieu of maintenance and, therefore, permanent prohibitory injunction for restraining the defendant was sought for.

Counsel for the respondent relied on a judgment titled Sunil Kumar v. Ram Prakash (1998) 2 SCC 77 and submitted that a coparcener has no right to get an injunction against Karta. He further submitted that respondent being Karta has legal right to alienate ancestral property in case of legal necessity and the petitioner has no right to pray for injunction restraining the defendant from alienating the suit land.

Courts observation on maintenance claim of wife vis-à-vis creation of charge over husband’s property

The Court relied on a judgment titled Kannan v. Maragathammal, 2012 SCC Online Mad 2285 and observed

“The Hindu Law Texts and the important commentaries impose a legal personal obligation on a husband to maintain his wife irrespective of his possession of any property, whether joint or self-acquired. They recognise the subordinate interest of the wife in her husband’s property arising out of her married status. They also prohibit the alienation of properties by the husband which has the effect of depriving her and other dependants of their maintenance…”

“…..The decisions of the various High Courts tow the same line, recognise her subordinate interest in her husband’s property and enforce his personal obligation by creating a charge on his properties either self-acquired or ancestral. A wife, therefore is entitled to be maintained out of the profits of her husband’s property and, if so, under the express terms of S.39 she can enforce her right against the properties in the hands of the alienee with notice of her claim. Though the right of the wife to separate maintenance does not form a charge upon her husband’s property, ancestral or self-acquired, yet, when it becomes necessary to enforce or preserve such a right effectively, it can be made a specific charge on a reasonable portion of the property. If the right of maintenance is imperiled or jeopardised by the conduct and dealings of the husband or father with reference to his properties, the Court can create a charge on a suitable portion thereof, securing the payment of maintenance to the wife or children. Such a charge can be created not only over the properties in the hands of the husband or father but also over properties transferred by him either gratuitously or to persons having notice of the right to maintenance.”

 In view of the observations above, the Court held that in the instant case only relief under Order 39, Rules 1 & 2, Code of Civil Procedure is sought and claim for maintenance has been submitted without presenting any Court order for the same. In light of the submission made by the petitioner herself that respondent has right to alienate property only in case of legal necessity, the Court further held that property being an ancestral property petitioner’s ‘son’ has not been made a party. In the said course of things a charge has not been created over the suit land towards maintenance of the plaintiff but the plaintiff i.e. the petitioner has right to take legal recourse in case of alienation of property.

In view of the above, the instant petition is disposed off without any interference in impugned orders.[Kubja Devi v. Chhape Ram,  2020 SCC OnLine HP 1829, decided on 05-10-2020]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

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