Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of A.S. Chandurkar and N.B. Suryawanshi, JJ., reiterated that father-in-law has a moral responsibility to maintain the widowed daughter-in-law.
The appeal has been filed under Sections 19 and 22 of the Family Courts Act, 1984 challenging the Family Court by which the petition filed by appellants against respondent for maintenance was dismissed.
Appellant 1—daughter in law and appellant 2 and 4 – grandchildren of the respondent. Appellants claimed maintenance from the respondent contending that the marriage of the first appellant with respondent’s son was solemnized under the Special Marriage Act, 1954.
Since the marriage was against the wishes of both the first appellant and her husband’s family members wishes, cases and counter cases were filed by the first appellant and respondent. Parag expired on 19-01-2000 and after his death, nobody took care of the appellants.
After the husband’s death, first appellant tried to reconcile with respondent but he refused to accept her as a daughter-in-law and appellant’s 2 to 4 as his grandchildren.
Respondent refused to maintain the appellant, hence the appellants were compelled to go to the widowed mother of the first appellant. She maintained the appellant till she expired in 2007 and after which the appellant had no source of income and they were unable to maintain themselves.
It was stated that due to paucity of funds, the second appellant could not pursue her studies after 12th standard. Even the other two minor children could not appear for exams.
Appellants were on the verge of being thrown out of their house due to non-availability of money for rent, whereas respondent was living a lavish lifestyle.
It has also been added that the late husband of the first appellant had his share in a property as the same was coparcenary property, hence appellants had their share in the said property.
Analysis, Law and Decision
Bench observed the facts and circumstances of the case and noted that the appellant’s counsel strenuously submitted that it was the moral duty of the father-in-law to maintain his widowed daughter-in-law and grandchildren and he cannot run away from his duty.
Points for consideration:
(i) Whether the appellants are entitled to maintenance from the respondent?
(ii) Whether the Family Court was justified in dismissing the claim of maintenance of the appellants? (iii) What order?
Court observed that there was no evidence on record that the first appellant was able to work and her deceased parents had left some property for her. Hence it was proved that the appellants were unable to maintain themselves.
In view of the evidence and material on record, it was found that there was a property which was the ancestral property in possession of the respondent that Parag during his lifetime or first appellant at any point of time were given share.
Since the first appellant was not remarried and the respondent had been getting pension, in Court’s opinion appellants were entitled to claim maintenance from the respondent.
In T. A. Laxhmi Narasamba v. Sundaramma, AIR 1981 Andhra Pradesh 88 the Full Bench of Andhra Pradesh High Court held thus ;
“The moral obligation of a father-in-law possessed of separate or self-acquired property to maintain the widowed daughter-in-law ripens into a legal obligation in the hands of persons to whom he has either bequeathed or made a gift of his property.”
Division Bench of this Court in Madhukar v. Shalu, 2013 (6) MhL.J. Page 391, held that to maintain the widowed daughter in law is the legal responsibility of father-in-law.
Sections 19 and 22 of the Act create first obligation to maintain a widowed daughter-in- law on the father-in-law. The obligation only shifts on the father of the widow, if the father-in-law prove his inability to maintain her.
Hence, in view of the above decisions and facts and circumstances of the case, Bench held that the family court misread and misconstrued the provisions of Sections 19 and 22 of the Family Courts Act and since it was proved that the respondent held estate/coparcenary property of the deceased, the respondent was under obligation to provide maintenance to the appellants.
[Laxmi v. Santosh, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 359, decided on 23-02-2021]
Advocates who appeared for the matter:
S.P. Kshirsagar, Advocate for appellants