Charles Sargent, Kt., C.J.
1. The District Judge has found that there was no ancestral property in the family of the respondent's deceased husband, and that the property which his father Kalu now possesses is exclusively his own self-acquired property. The question for our consideration is Whether, under these circumstances, the widow and her infant sons, who are admittedly in indigent circumstances, have any legal claim to be supported by the appellant.
2. The legal obligation of a father-in-law to support the widow of his deceased son came before a Divisional Bench of this High Court, consisting of Mr. Justice West and Mr. Justice Nanabhai, in Udaram Sitaram v. Sonkabai 10 Bom. H.C. Hep. 483. The facts of the case are unfortunately not stated by the Reporter as fully as might be wished, nor do the judgments delivered by the Court enable us to ascertain them with certainty. Mr. Justice West having stated the question to be whether there was a legal obligation on the part of the father-in-law to support his indigent daughter-in-law, and referred to the Cases, says: 'The result is that the Hindu law, which still, notwithstanding separation, leaves to the other members of the family, an interest in the property of the separated member to be realized on his widow's death, conversely gives to him and to his widow a claim to maintenance if, through destitution, they should come to need it.' These remarks seem to assume that there had been joint family property. Mr. Justice Nanabhai, however, deals with the question on broader grounds; he says: 'According to Hindu law among the duties of the head of a family that of maintenance by him of all the dependent members of that family is considered a primary duty. There can be no question but that the widow of a son is a dependent member of her father-in-law's family. She is, therefore, entitled to maintenance from the head of the family, her father-in-law.' Further on he says: 'And this right of hers would seem to be quite independent of any property acquired by her father-in-law from his deceased son, as well as of any ancestral property in which such son had a joint interest with him.'
3. The question as to the right to maintenance by a widow from her husband's relations generally came before a Full Bench in Savitribai v. Lakshmibai I.L.R. 2 Bom. 574 where the claim was sought to be enforced by a widow against her deceased husband's grandmother and uncle. The Court rejected the claim on two grounds--1st, that the defendant, the uncle, was separated in estate from the plaintiff's husband at the time of his death; 2nd, that at the institution of the suit the defendant had not in his hands any ancestral estate or any estate which had belonged to the plaintiff's husband. The judgment of the Court shows that the above grounds of its decision were based on the conclusion, arrived at after an examination of the Hindu text-books, that when the Hindu jurists speak of the right of the females of the family (other than a wife or mother) to maintenance without reference to the existence of family property 'their tone is only perceptive, and the injunctions they contain are rather of ethical than of legal obligation'. No text has been cited to us bearing on the obligation of a father-in-law in particular which militates against the above conclusion; and that the Full Bench itself regarded it as applicable to the case of a father-in-law, is shown by its expression of opinion that the decision in Udaram v. Sonkabai could only be supported on the supposition of there having been ancestral property, and that the father 'and son were undivided in estate. The principle of the decision of the High Court of the North-Western Provinces in Gangaram v. Sitaram I.L.R. 1 All. 170 is a distinct decision against the liability of the father-in-law; and in the important Full Bench Calcutta case of Khettur Moni Dosi v. Kashinath Dos 10 W.R.F.B. 89 we find Peacock, C.J., Macpherson, J., and Norman, J., expressing a strong opinion in accordance with the view of the Full Bench of this Court.
4. In this state of the authorities we must hold that Kashibai has no legal claim to maintenance against the defendant. It remains to consider the right of the infant grandsons to be supported by their grandfather. In support of this claim reliance was placed on the text of Manu, cited 3 Dig., Bk. v. chap. vi Section 2 and of Article 1: 'A mother and a father in their old age, a virtuous wife, and an infant son, must be maintained, even although doing a hundred times that which ought not to be done.' This text was treated by the Full Bench in its judgment in Savitribai v. Lakshmibai as mandatory in its tone and creating a legal obligation. It was urged that the word 'son' is not to be construed literally, but in the larger sense in which it is frequently used in the Mitakshara as meaning descendants. However, in the passage of the Mitakshara on sabhaction of gifts, cited Strange's Manual, Section 209, it is said: 'Where there may be no property, but what has been self-acquired, the only persons whose maintenance out of such property is imperative are aged parents, wife, and minor children.' It is true that in the passage in the Digest, where the text of Manu is cited, Jaganath would appear to regard the text as capable of being construed so as to comprise the son's family generally, whilst admitting that others might insist on the strict construction. It is to be remarked, however, that a man's aged parents, his wife, and his infant children appeal to his protection in a special manner in which no other relations do, and the strength of the expression used in the injunction as to their protection points to children only being intended. To extend the legal obligation to, descendants would impose in many cases a heavy burden. On the whole we think that, whatever the extent of the moral obligation may be amongst Hindus, the legal obligation should not be carried beyond what the language of the text, creates according to its plain and obvious sense. The decree of the Court below must be reversed. Parties to pay their own costs throughout.