Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: In a significant case regarding Right to maintenance of child born out of inter-faith marriage, the Division Bench of Dr. Kausar Edappagath and A. Muhamed Mustaque JJ., held that the child being non sui juris, the State and the Courts as Parens Patriae are bound to protect it irrespective of law being silent in this regard. The Bench expressed,

“We see no reason to deny the children born to an inter-faith couple legal right to claim maintenance from their father for the reason that there is no specific statutory provision mandating such a father to maintain his children.”

Background

The inter-faith couple, (husband being a Hindu and wife a Muslim) entered into wedlock in 1987 and a girl child-respondent 1 was born to them who was brought up as a Muslim.

The root of the instant case was originated at the Family Court, Nedumangad, where a petition was filed by the respondent 1 against the couple claiming past and future maintenance, educational and marriage expenses invoking the provisions of Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956. Evidently, the appellant-husband had alone contested the matter at the Family Court on the ground that the petition invoking provisions of Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 was not maintainable.

Findings of the Family Court

The family court, after the analyzing the evidences on record, found that the first respondent had an upbringing of that of a Hindu as her father; the appellant herein was a Hindu. Accordingly, holding that the respondent 1 was entitled to all the reliefs as claimed by her from her parents, the Family Court awarded a decree for Rs. 1,08,000 towards past maintenance, Rs. 14,66,860 towards marriage expenses and Rs. 96,000 towards educational expenses with interest.

Observations and Findings

Does father of a child born out of an inter–faith marriage have legal obligation to maintain it in the absence of a statutory stipulation?

Evidently, after 3 years of age the first respondent was brought up as Muslim by her maternal grandparents as the appellant had left their company and later on, the respondent 2 married another person. Moreover, the respondent 1 was married to a Muslim man as per Muslim rites.  Therefore, the Bench opined that the findings of the Family Court that the respondent 1 was brought up as a Hindu and, hence, the provisions of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 would apply could not be sustained. Similarly, the Muslim Personal Law also could not be applied since both parties were not Muslims. Further, the Bench expressed,

“There is no substantive law mandating a father of a child born out of an inter–religion marriage to maintain it. The Special Marriage Act, 1984 is silent on this.”

However, opining that every child born to this world is entitled to be maintained and since, father is recognized as the guardian, he is under a duty to maintain and protect the child, the Bench applied the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), to hold that every child has the right to survival, protection and education. In Mathew Varghese v. Rosamma Varghese, (2003 KHC 362), it was held that every father whatever be his religious denomination and faith has the indisputable liability to maintain his child.

Further, every child irrespective of his race, caste or religion has a remedy by way of a suit or petition under S. 9 and O. XXXII A of the CPC and Section 7(1)(e) of the Family Courts Act, 1984 to claim maintenance. A criminal liability is imposed by Section 125 of CrPC to a father irrespective of the faith or religion professed by him to maintain his children.

Therefore, opining that the caste, faith or religion cannot have any rational basis for determining the parental duty of a father and all the children have to be treated alike irrespective of the faith or religion professed by the parents, the Bench held that the children of an inter-faith couple are entitled to be maintained by their father where son’s entitlement is until he attains the age of the majority and that of daughter’s is until she gets married.

Whether Right to maintenance includes marriage expenses as well?

In Mathew Varghese’s case, while deciding the question whether a Muslim father is liable under Personal Law to meet the marriage expenses of his unmarried daughter, the Supreme Court had held that maintenance is the right of the child and such maintenance does and must include all expenses for the mental and physical well being of the child and so far as unmarried daughter is concerned, her marriage is also something essential for the mental and physical well being.

In so far as the Hindu father is concerned, Section 3(b) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 which obliges the father to maintain his unmarried daughter specifically includes the right of the claimant for marriage expenses. Therefore, the Bench concluded that an unmarried daughter born to an inter religious couple is entitled to marriage expenses from her father.

Conclusion

Emphasising that an unmarried daughter cannot ask or compel her father to conduct marriage in a lavish or luxurious manner and a father cannot be fastened with the liability to bear the amount spent by the daughter lavishly according to her whims and fancies, the Bench ruled that the Court can only award bare minimum reasonable expenses, that too only if the father has requisite means and the daughter is dependent on him.

Regarding the facts, the respondent 1 had claimed Rs. 25,00,000 towards marriage expenses and the Family Court had granted Rs. 14,66,860 for the same, the Bench observed that all the bills except three of marriage expenses were for the purchase of gold ornaments and the total of actual expense incurred for marriage would come to Rs. 1,73,150. Therefore, the Bench concluded that a sum of Rs. 3,00,000 would be just and reasonable towards the marriage expenses since there is no concept of dowry in a Muslim Marriage and no obligation for the father to pay any money, gold or sthreedhanam to his daughter.

Accordingly, the amount granted by the Family Court towards the marriage expenses was modified and the impugned judgment was partly upheld to the extent it provided maintenance of Rs. 5,000 and education expenses of Rs. 96,000 (the amount actually spent on the education of respondent 1). [J.W Aragadhan v. Hashmi N.S, Mat. Appeal No. 65 of 2015, Decided on 03-12-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Appearance by:

For the Appellant: Advocate Nirmal S.

For the Respondents: Advocate G.  Ranju Mohan, Advocate K.V Samudra and Advocate M. Samthi

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: While stating that, Marriage is not made of only happy memories and good times, and two people in a marriage have to face challenges and weather the storm together, the Division Bench of Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh, JJ., expressed that,

It is not easy to live with a partner who has mental health issues, and such ailments come with their own challenges for the person facing the problem, and even more so for the spouse. There needs to be an understanding of the problems in a marriage, and communication between the partners– especially when one of the two partners in a marriage is facing challenges of their own.

 Instant appeal was filed under Section 28 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1995 read with Section 19 of the Family Courts Act, 1984 on behalf of the appellant (husband) against the impugned judgment and order of the Family Court wherein the petition under Section 12 of the Hindu Marriage Act filed by the appellant was dismissed.

Factual Matrix

As per the appellant, the marriage between the appellant and the respondent was the outcome of a calculated fraud that was perpetrated by the respondent and her family members as they chose not to disclose a vital and crucial fact regarding the respondent’s mental health.

Further, the appellant submitted that the respondent was before the marriage and during the days that she stayed with the appellant was suffering from Acute Schizophrenia.

Appellant took her to several doctors but there was no improvement in her mental health condition. The appellant thereafter questioned the respondent’s parents and narrated the mental condition of the respondent.

Later, the father of the respondent took the respondent with him to her parental home (after 9 weeks of marriage) and since then the respondent was living with her parents in their house. The Appellant also averred that the marriage between the appellant and the respondent was not consummated.

On the other hand the respondent averred that the appellant, his family members, friends and relatives had met the respondent prior to marriage many a times, and there were numerous telephonic calls. Therefore, there was no question of respondent suffering from any mental ailment, much less, Schizophrenia either prior to the marriage or during the subsistence of the marriage.

Respondent had also filed a petition under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act seeking Restitution of Conjugal Rights against the appellant.

Analysis, Law and Decision

High Court expressed that,

Judges are not medical professional or experts, and acquire limited knowledge based on the arguments of the parties, and the medical literature produced before them; the testimonies of expert witnesses produced in Court, and the submissions advanced before the Court. The Courts, to be able to decide such issues, needs expert opinion from credible persons in the field.

Further, the Court stated that the outright refusal of the respondent to undergo any medical examination, prevents the Court from arriving at the truth.

It has been held by the Supreme Court in Kollam Chandra Sekhar v, Kollam Padma Latha, (2014) 1 SCC 225, by relying on the testimony of a doctor that Schizophrenia “is a treatable, manageable disease, which can be put on a par with hypertension and diabetes.”

In Sharda v. Dharampal, (2003) 4 SCC 493, the Court observed that “…..but it is another thing to say that a party may be asked to submit himself to a psychiatrist or a psychoanalyst so as to enable the Court to arrive at a just conclusion. Whether the party to the marriage requires a treatment or not can be found out only in the event, he is examined by a properly qualified Psychiatrist.”

Hence, in such circumstances determination of truth was an important step for the Court to enable the making of a fair decision.

The Court elaborated expressing that treatment of any mental ailment required acceptance of the same, not only by the family members but, most importantly, by the person suffering therefrom.

Pertinently, the respondent herself admitted that even in her college days she used to have headache and the said headaches were of such severity, that they interfered with her education, as a result of which, the respondent could not complete her college.

In view of the above Bench added that,

A combined reading of the evidence as well as the admission of the respondent, even though, may not conclusively prove that the respondent was suffering from Schizophrenia/Hebephrenia- F-20 prior to her marriage, at the time of her marriage, and; subsequent to her marriage, but definitely raises a serious doubt about the mental health of the respondent, and points to the possibility of the appellant’s allegations in regard being true.

The Supreme Court decision of Sharda v. Dharampal, (2003) 4 SCC 493, was a clincher in regard to the present matter.

In Court’s view, the Family Court erred in rejecting the appellant’s application and further the approach of the Family Court – that the appellant had to fend for himself, and he could not seek a direction from the Court for medical examination of the respondent was erroneous.

Adding to the above, Bench stated that the evidence with regard to the respondent’s medical condition – which related to the mental health, could possibly not have been garnered by the appellant without co-operation of the respondent. Only upon medical examination of the respondent, it could be established, with definiteness whether, or not, she was suffering from Schizophrenia, even though, there were pointers in that direction.

The fact that she sought Restitution of Conjugal Rights itself shows that so far as she was concerned, she had no serious complaints with the appellant, or the relationship.

Hence, High Court opined that the Family Court was duty-bound to direct the medical examination of the respondent and appellant could not have been left to gather evidence of the respondent’s mental condition on his own.

The above stated led to an irrefutable assumption that all was not well with the respondent and she had been suffering from some disorder which she did not want to come out.

Concluding the matter, High Court held that examination by a medical specialist(s), if undertaken, would have been unfavourable to the respondent.

The refusal by the respondent to undergo medical examination by the Medical Board of experts leads to the inference that she was not prepared to face the Medical Board as that could have exposed the condition of her mental well being, and would have established the allegation made by the appellant that she was suffering from Schizophrenia. Why else, such a spouse–who claims to be not suffering from any mental ailment who has preferred a petition to seek restitution of conjugal rights, and expresses her desire to live with the appellant husband, not undergo such medical examination?

 “….The outright refusal by learned counsel of the Respondent to subject the Respondent to such medical examination, leaves the situation at a stalemate and prevents us from arriving at the definite truth.” 

In the present matter, another point to be noted was that the appellant had significantly discharged the onus by leading cogent evidence, and raised a preponderance of probability, that the Respondent was suffering from Schizophrenia.

Therefore, the respondent was suffering from Schizophrenia.

Section 12 of the Hindu Marriage Act deals with voidable marriages. A Hindu marriage shall be voidable and may be annulled by a decree of nullity, inter alia, on the ground that the marriage is in contravention of the condition specified in Clause (ii) of Section 5.

The Bench stated that, the failure on the part of the respondent to disclose her mental disorder before her marriage with the appellant – as alleged by him, constituted a fraud perpetrated upon the appellant.

High Court annulled the marriage between the appellant and respondent on the ground contained in Section 12(1)(b) of the Hindu Marriage Act.

“…learned counsel for the respondent is the father of the respondent, and it appears that his objectivity in dealing with the matter has been overshadowed by his love for his daughter, i.e. the respondent, which is only natural and to be expected. However, in the process, unfortunately, the life of the appellant has been ruined and he has remained stuck in this relationship for 16 years without any resolution. In the most important years of his life, when the appellant would have, otherwise, enjoyed marital and conjugal bliss and satisfaction, he has had to suffer due to the obstinacy displayed by not only the respondent, but even her father, who appears to have been calling the shots in relation to the matrimonial dispute raised by the appellant.

In view of the above circumstances, Court granted token costs to the appellant of Rs 10,000. [Sandeep Aggarwal v. Priyanka Aggarwal, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 5521, decided on 24-12-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner: Asutosh Lohia, Advocate

For the Respondent: Mohan Lal, Advocate

Case BriefsHigh CourtsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

It’s the last day of 2020, and here we are with the 20 most-read Case Briefs of the SCC Online Blog in the Year 2020.

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