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Mukta Bai and ors Vs. Kamalaksha and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily;Constitution
CourtKarnataka High Court
Decided On
Case NumberAppeal (M) No. 20 of 1956
Judge
Reported inAIR1960Kant182; AIR1960Mys182; ILR1959KAR1078
ActsConstitution of India - Article 14; Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 - Sections 20, 21, 22, 22(1), 22(2) and 22(3); Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1946
AppellantMukta Bai and ors
RespondentKamalaksha and ors.
Excerpt:
.....law by which family of plaintiff putative father was governed illegitimate daughters were not entitled to maintenance - on proper interpretation of sections 20 (1) and (2) a dependent of male or female deceased hindu who has not obtained any share in estate of deceased after commencement of act is entitled to maintenance from those who took estate of person dying after commencement of act - appeal dismissed. - labour & services. dismissal from service: [subhash b. adi, j] order passed by appellate authority instead of disciplinary authority validity - held, no doubt, under the standing orders the order of dismissal has to be passed only by project engineer or an officer of equal cadre. object of holding enquiry before the punishment is imposed is that, the employee gets fair..........(3) make it very clear that the estate that is liable is the estate taken after the commencement of the act by those who inherited it.(17) any other view would lead to the incongruous result that whereas a dependant who has obtained a share in the estate of a hindu dying after the commencement of the act is not entitled to maintenance from that estate, a dependant who had obtained a share in the estate of a hindu who had died before the commencement of the act, would nevertheless be entitled to such maintenance.(18) that being the position, the contention urged by mr. karanth cannot succeed.(19) this appeal fails and should, therefore, be dismissed.(20) in the circumstances of the case, we however make no order as to costs.(21) appeal dismissed.
Judgment:

Somnath Iyer, J.

(1) The appellants before us are the three illegitimate daughters of one K. R. K. Sheti by his permanently kept mistress Sumathi Bai. They brought a suit in the Court of the Subordinate Judges of South Kanara, for the recovery of their maintenance and their marriage expenses, from the estate of their putative father, now in the hands of the defendants. The learned Subordinate Judge dismissed their suit, having come to the conclusion that under the Mitakshara School of Hindu Law, by which the family of the plaintiff's putative father was governed, illegitimate daughters were not entitled to maintenance. From that decree, the plaintiffs appeal.

(2) Mr. Karanth, their learned advocate, has not seriously canvassed the finding recorded by the learned Subordinate Judge that under the Mitakshara School of Hindu Law, an illegitimate daughter is not entitled to maintenance from the estate that an illegitimate daughter is not entitled to such maintenance. That was the view taken by the High Court of Bombay in Parvati v. Ganpatrao Balal, ILR 18 Bom 177, and Bhikya v. Babu, ILR 32 Bom 562. That was also the view taken by the High Court of Madras in Vellaiyappa Chetty v. Natarajan, ILR 50 Mad 340: (AIR 1927 Mad 386).

(3) If that was all that could be said about it, the appeal would have to be dismissed. But, Mr. Karanth has urged before us two new contentions in support of the appeal.

(4) His first contention is that since the Mitakshara School of Hindu Law discriminated in the matter of maintenance between an illegitimate son and an illegitimate daughter, that law offending as it does, according to him, the provisions of Art. 14 of the Constitution of India - Article 14, has to be regarded as void.

(5) We do not find any substance in this contention. The fact that the law makes no provision for the maintenance of an illegitimate daughter cannot be said to amount to a discrimination against illegitimate daughters, such as would amount to violation of Art. 14 of the Constitution. This contentions must, therefore, fail.

(6) The next and the more serious contention urged by Mr. Karanth is that the plaintiffs have acquired a right to claim maintenance from the estate of their putative father under the provisions of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956(Central Act LXXVIII) of 1956). His contention is that an illegitimate daughter as defined by S. 21 of that Act is a dependant and S. 22(1) of the Act entitles an illegitimate daughter to claim maintenance from the person who takes the estate of her putative father. The contention urged on behalf of the appellants is that the provisions of S. 22(1) under which the heirs of a deceased Hindu are bound to maintain the dependants of the deceased out of the estate inherited by them from the deceased, create a right in the plaintiffs to be maintained by the defendants out of the estate of their putative father.

Mr. Karanth has argued before us that that right would be available to the plaintiffs although their putative father in this case died before the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1946, came into force. The plaintiffs' putative father died in the year 1941 and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act came into force on 21-12-1956. It is urged on behalf of the plaintiffs that although the plaintiffs are entitled to claim maintenance from the estate of their putative father only from the date of the commencement of the Act, it could not be said that they were not entitled to be so maintained merely by reason of the fact that their putative father died long before that Act came into force.

(7) The question as to whether the plaintiffs are entitled to be maintained out of the estate of their deceased putative father rests on what should be regarded as the true construction of the provisions of Ss. 20, 21 and 22 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act.

(8) Section 20 of the Act provides that subject to the other provisions of that section, a Hindu is bound, during his or her lifetime, to maintain his or her legitimate or illegitimate children and his or her infirm parents. It is, therefore, clear that the provisions of that section constitute a departure from the provisions of the Hindu Law as it was in force before the enactment of the Hindu Law as it was in force before the enactment if the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, inasmuch as an illegitimate daughter is also entitled to be maintained by her parents, as enjoined by the section.

(9) But, it cannot be disputed that that right to be so maintained was only prospective. That right was created for the first time by the Act, and it is clear that S. 20 of the Act is neither expressly nor by necessary implication retrospective. No illegitimate child could therefore found a claim under the provisions of that section to any past maintenance. Further, as the language of that section indicates,,it is the living parent who has to maintain his or her legitimate or illegitimate children under the provisions of that section, and that section makes no reference whatsoever to the right of an illegitimate child to be maintained out of the estate of a dead person.

(10) Section 21 next defines 'dependants' and under clause (ix) of that section, an illegitimate daughter is also a dependant so long as the remains unmarried.

(11) Section 22 provides for the maintenance of the dependants enumerated in S. 21. That section reads:

'Maintenance of dependents.

22. (1) Subject to the provisions of sub-s. (2), the heirs of a deceased Hindu are bound to maintain the dependants of the deceased out of the estate inherited by them from the deceased.

(2) Where a dependent has not obtained, by testamentary or intestate succession, any share in the estate of a Hindu, dying after the commencement of this Act, the dependent shall be entitled, subject to the provisions of this Act, to maintenance from those who take the estate.

(3) The liability of each of the persons who takes the estate shall be in proportion to the value of the share or part of the estate taken by him or her.

(4) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-s. (2) of sub-s. (3), no person who is himself or herself a dependant shall be liable to contribute to the maintenance of others, if he or she has obtained a share or part the value of which is, or would, if the liability to contribute were enforced, before less than what would be awarded to him or her by way of maintenance under this Act.'

It will thus be seen that in certain respects, this section embodies the extension of the rule contained in S. 20.

(12) It seems to us that on a proper interpretation of the provisions of sub-ss. (1) and (2) which, in our opinion, have to be read together, the rule that emerges out of those two sub-sections is that a dependant of a male or a female deceased Hindu who has not obtained any share in the estate of the deceased, dying after the commencement of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, is entitled to maintenance from those who took the estate of the person dying after the commencement of the Act. In other words, the estate out of which the dependant has to be maintained and to which S. 22 refers is the estate of a person who dies after the commencement of the Act.

(13) We are unable to find in this section any right created in a dependant to be maintained out of the estate of a person who had died before the commencement of the Act.

(14) Mr. Karanth, however, has suggested to us that sub-s. (1) of S. 22 creates a right in a dependant not only to be maintained out of the estate of a person who dies after the commencement of the Act but also out of the estate of one who had died before the commencement of the Act. He contends that sub-s. (2) which makes reference to the estate of a Hindu dying after the commencement of the Act is an independent provision which is in the nature of a proviso to sub-s. (1). In other words, his contention is that whereas every dependant is entitled to be maintained out of the estate of a deceased Hindu whether he died before the commencement of the Act or thereafter, such right is not available to a dependant who obtained either by testamentary or intestate succession any share in the estate of a Hindu dying after the commencement of the Act.

(15) We think, we should not accede to this contention which is opposed to the plain language of the provisions of sub-ss. (1) and (2) of S. 22. The right created in a dependant under sub-s. (1) is subject to the provisions of sub-s. (2), as sub-s. (1) itself expressly states. That being so if sub-s. (2) refers only to the estate of a Hindu dying after the commencement of the Act, it appears to us that it would be incorrect to regard the estate referred to in sub-s. (1) as including the estate of a person who had died before the Act came into force. The clear meaning of sub-ss. (1) and (2) of S. 22, in our opinion, is that the estate of a Hindu which is liable for the payment of the maintenance of a dependant is the estate of a Hindu who dies after the commencement of the Act and not that of one who was by then dead.

(16) That this is the correct construction of the provisions of S. 22 is clear from the language of sub-s. (3) which defines the liability of the person inheriting the estate of the deceased. The words 'who takes the estate' occurring in sub-s. (3) make it very clear that the estate that is liable is the estate taken after the commencement of the Act by those who inherited it.

(17) Any other view would lead to the incongruous result that whereas a dependant who has obtained a share in the estate of a Hindu dying after the commencement of the Act is not entitled to maintenance from that estate, a dependant who had obtained a share in the estate of a Hindu who had died before the commencement of the Act, would nevertheless be entitled to such maintenance.

(18) That being the position, the contention urged by Mr. Karanth cannot succeed.

(19) This appeal fails and should, therefore, be dismissed.

(20) In the circumstances of the case, we however make no order as to costs.

(21) Appeal dismissed.


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