Chhattisgarh High Court: A Division Bench of Goutam Bhaduri and Deepak Kumar Tiwari JJ. entitled father-in-law to pay maintenance to widowed daughter-in-law from the estate of the deceased husband which is held under the hands of father-in-law. The maintenance was increased from Rs 2500 to Rs 4000.

The respondent- daughter in law (‘DIL’) was married to the son of the appellant-father-in-law (‘FIL’). After the death of the husband , she was almost deserted in the family and the bank passbook and ATM card, which belong to her husband were kept by the in-laws. It was further pleaded that at village Haretikala, Tahsil Jaijaipur ancestral property of 11.78 acres and at village Jaijaipur 3.97 acres of agricultural land are held by the appellant. In addition, three shops and houses situated in different places of Korba wherein the right of late husband of the respondent is also vested.

According to the respondent, she has no source of income to maintain herself, as such, an amount of Rs.7,000/- per month was claimed towards maintenance which was opposed by FIL contending that in order to treat the ailment of his son , a considerable amount was spent, as such, the appellant does not have any source of income and, therefore, he is unable to pay the maintenance. Thus, the Family Court, after evaluating the evidence by the order impugned, directed the appellant to pay an amount of Rs.2,500/- per month towards maintenance of the respondent. Assailing this, a present appeal was filed.

The Court noted that in order to ensure the maintenance to the daughter-in-law, Section 19 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 is to be perused.

Placing reliance on Dayali Sukhlal Sahu v. Anju Bai Santosh Sahu, 2010 (3) CGLJ 459 and Parwati v. Danpatra Singh, 2021 (1) CGLJ 328 wherein it was held that the daughter-in-law is required to specifically plead and prove by leading cogent, reliable and clinching evidence that all other sources of income as stated in sub-section (1) of Section 19 Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 are not available to her, then only the subsequent provisions of subsection (2) of Section 19 Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 can be pressed into.

The Court observed that as per the provisions enumerated under Section 19 of the Act, 1956, the right to claim maintenance by widowed daughter-in-law is conditional. The father-in-law having in possession of coparcenary property out of which widowed daughter-in-law has not obtained any share, therefore, the right to receive maintenance from the father-in-law would be limited to the share of coparcenary property held by the father-in-law in his hand in which the widowed daughter-in-law has not taken any share.

The preferential right when is considered under Section 19 (1) (a) would show that the widowed daughter-in-law would be entitled to claim maintenance firstly from the estate of her husband and thereafter, claim can be made from her father or mother. Though the word in Section ‘or‘ is used, which gives the right to a widow to claim from either of the people enumerated in Section, yet the Section is sub divided into part (a) & (b). So, the preferential precedents exist giving an option to widow. Thus, it is crystal clear that the estate of husband comes first to claim maintenance by widow. It is the well settled proposition of law that the manager of a joint Mitakshara family is under a legal obligation to maintain all male members of the family, their wives and their children, and on the death of one of the male members he is bound to maintain his widow and his children.

The Court in view of the facts and circumstances pointed out that when the estate of the husband is held in the hands of the father-in-law; the daughter-in-law cannot be forced to leave the estate of her husband and to follow the estate of her father or mother. Thus, the estate of husband can be preferred to claim over the father or mother of the daughter-in-law.

The Court enhanced the maintenance amount from Rs.2,500/- to Rs.4,000/- per month taking into the consolidated share in the property and estimated proposed income.

[Nand Kishore Lal v. Shrimati Chanchala Lal, 2022 SCC OnLine Chh 1280, decided on 04-07-2022]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Sanjay Patel, Advocate, for the Appellant;

Mr. Sourabh Sahu, Advocate, for the Respondent.

*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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