‘Unmarried daughter, even if earning, can’t be assumed to have sufficient resources to meet matrimonial expenses’: Del HC orders father to pay marriage expenses of daughters

Delhi High Court: The Division Bench of Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh, JJ., expressed that,

Kanya Daan is a solemn and pious obligation of a Hindu Father, from which he cannot renege.

An unmarried daughter, even if employed and earning, cannot be assumed to have sufficient resources to meet her matrimonial expenses.

Instant appeal had been filed under Section 28(2) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 read with Section 19(2) of the Family Courts Act, 1984 against the decision of Poonam Sethi v. Sanjay Sethi, HMA No. 39 of 2017.

In the above-said impugned judgment, the Family Court had allowed the petition filed by the appellant wife under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for dissolution of marriage by a decree of divorce on the ground of cruelty and had dissolved the marriage between the parties.

Appellant was aggrieved by the non-grant of maintenance allowance for herself and two major daughters of the parties.

Appellant’s Counsel argued that the appellant-wife had been supporting all three children for more than a decade, taking care of all their expenses and needs, further he submitted that under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 it is the obligation of the husband to maintain his wife and unmarried daughters. Since the appellant-wife had been maintaining the daughters, she was entitled to claim maintenance for herself and her unmarried daughters.

Question for Consideration:

Whether unmarried daughters who have attained majority and are earning their own income are entitled for maintenance and expenses towards their marriage?

Analysis, Law and Decision

High Court noted that under Section 20 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, maintenance will only be paid to children or infirm parents if they are unable to maintain themselves.

There is no section which states that the inability to maintain themselves (both with regard to children and parents) is equivalent to not earning an income.

Court added that an individual could be earning an income, but still not necessarily be able to maintain herself/himself.

As per catena of decisions, Bench observed that be it under Section 24 of the HMA Act, 1955 or Section 20(3) of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, a father cannot abdicate his responsibility of looking after his unmarried daughters.

A father has a duty and an obligation to maintain his daughters and to take care of their expenses, including towards their education and marriage.

 The above-said is a legal obligation and absolute in character and arises from the very existence of the relationship between the parties.

Family Court without adverting to the evidence and documents on record, in a cryptic manner held that Section 20 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 cannot be used to expand the provisions of Section 26 and hence major daughters of the parties were not entitled to maintenance. Regarding maintenance to son, Family Court had granted maintenance at the rate of Rs 25,000 per month from 19.03.2015 till 11.07.2015, i.e., the date of attaining majority by the son.

The purpose of Section 24 and 26 is not to equalize the incomes of the parties.

Family Court observed that the petitioner herself was not entitled to any maintenance allowance or permanent alimony, as she was doing well professionally and earning substantial sums of money. As far as the finding vis-à-vis the appellant wife was concerned, Bench upheld the decision of Family Court and was of the view that there was sufficient material on record as well as income affidavit of the appellant which showed her to be engaged in the profession of tarot reading.

In Court’s opinion, the Family Court’s observation that as the daughters were majors on the date of filing the application, they were not entitled to any maintenance. High Court held that the daughters may be of majority age today, however, the respondent was still their father. It was added that he cannot simply resile from that relationship and the accompanying legal and moral obligation, and state that he will not take care of them.

Father’s duty to maintain his unmarried daughters, including his duty to provide for their marriage is clearly recognized by the law.

To analyse the provisions of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, Court relied on the Bombay High Court decision on Kusum v. Krishnaji, 2008 SCC OnLine Bom 28 and Jasmeet Kaur Talwar v. Gurjit Singh Talwar, 2014 SCC OnLine Del 6576.

In light of the above decisions, Court noted that the two daughters – who have attained majority, are also entitled to maintenance amount for their wedding expenditures.

Quantum of Maintenance

The simple fact that the respondent could travel, drive expensive cars, place expensive advertisements to promote his business, amongst others, and make no expenditure on his 3 children who were being raised solely by the Appellant-wife, shows his poor conduct and role as a father.

Simply stating that the daughters are major and earning an income, without adducing how, and how much, is a non sequitur.

High Court elaborated stating that for the last 11 odd years, the Appellant-wife had been providing for the children. Simply because she has done so and is presently also presumably doing so, cannot relieve the Respondent- husband from his obligations as a father.

Therefore, Bench directed that an amount of Rs 35 lakhs be paid towards marriage expenses of the elder daughter, 50 lakhs for the marriage of younger daughter as she was not earning any income and was dependent on her parents for the expenses of her marriage, that was already scheduled.

Court’s interaction with the Respondent in Chamber:

Bench observed that he carried within himself some amount of hurt and anger in relation to his daughters. During our interaction, he also claimed that he did not receive the respect that he was entitled to as a father. We could observe that his reluctance to provide for his unmarried daughters stemmed from his anger and ego, more than anything else.

High Court sincerely hoped that the Respondent and his daughters would make the required effort to restore their relationship, even if their parents have fallen apart.

We are hopeful that the appellant would also play a positive role in bridging the gap between the Respondent and his daughters – who are now grown-up, and there is no reason for her to come in the way of the relationship of his daughters and their father. We, therefore, expect that as and when the daughters of the parties get married, the Respondent would happily participate in the functions, and the appellant, the children and other family members would respectfully and gracefully, with love & affection, welcome him to the functions and facilitate his participation in the functions wholeheartedly.

[Poonam Sethi v. Sanjay Sethi, 2022 SCC OnLine Del 69, decided on 7-1-2022]


Advocates before the Court:

For the appellant: Bhuvan Mishra, Advocate with Appellant-in-person

For the respondent: Anshul Narayan and Sourabh Pahwa, Advocates with respondent-in-person

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