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T.A. Lakshmi Narasamba Vs. T. Sundaramma and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberA.S. No. 99 of 1975
Judge
Reported inAIR1981AP88
ActsHindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 - Sections 4, 18, 19, 21, 22, 22(1), 22(2), 23 and 25; Hindu Law; Transfer of Property Act - Sections 39
AppellantT.A. Lakshmi Narasamba
RespondentT. Sundaramma and ors.
Appellant AdvocateChalla Poornaiah, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateM. Jagannadha Rao, Adv.
Excerpt:
family - subsistence allowance - sections 21 and 22 of hindu adoptions and maintenance act,1956 - petitioner's father in law disposed of property by will - husband died before father in law - father in law died and assignee of father in law alienated property - suit for recovery and possession of property for maintenance of petitioner - held, liability of father in law to maintain son's wife devolve upon person who take property from him and liability does not cease even if donee or devisee is a stranger. - - examined the entire scheme of the maintenance act with reference to the several relevant provisions and more effectively put it that the provisions in sections 21 and 22 are prospective. it is a well recognised rule that a statute should be interpreted, if possible, so as to.....madhava rao, j.1. a division bench of this court has referred the following question of law for the opinion of the full bench:-- 'whether the moral obligation of a father-in-law possessed of separate or self-acquired property, to maintain the widowed daughter-in-law ripens into a legal obligation in the hands of persons to whom he has either bequeathed his property or made & gift of his property?' 2. cases similar to the one now referred to this full bench hereafter may very rarely come for adjudication before the courts in view of the enactment of the hindu adoptions and maintenance act (lxxviii 1956) under which the rights of daughter-in-law for maintenance have been codified. section 19 provides for maintenance of widowed daughter-in-law by her father-in-law under the circumstances.....
Judgment:

Madhava Rao, J.

1. A Division Bench of this Court has referred the following question of law for the opinion of the Full Bench:--

'Whether the moral obligation of a father-in-law possessed of separate or self-acquired property, to maintain the widowed daughter-in-law ripens into a legal obligation in the hands of persons to whom he has either bequeathed his property or made & gift of his property?'

2. Cases similar to the one now referred to this Full Bench hereafter may very rarely come for adjudication before the Courts in view of the enactment of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act (LXXVIII 1956) under which the rights of daughter-in-law for maintenance have been codified. Section 19 provides for maintenance of widowed daughter-in-law by her father-in-law under the circumstances mentioned therein. Under Section 21 the widow of a pre-deceased son is a dependant. Section 22 speaks of the maintenance of dependants. Therefore, matters in respect of maintenance of widowed daughter-in-law are governed by the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, where the death of the father-in-law takes place subsequent to the coming into force of the above Act.

3. The present case is one where the father-in-law died in 1954, i.e., before the said Act came into force bequeathing his property under a will. Before his death his son died leaving his widow. Therefore, we have to examine this case mainly with reference to the law that existed prior to the Maintenance Act came into force.

4. The order of reference contains thefacts of the case. It is unnecessary forus to reiterate the same facts, exceptmaking reference to a few of them thathave direct bearing. The plaintiff is theappellant in the High Court. She is thewidow of one Satyanarayana, who diedin the year 1933. The 1st defendant,Rama Rao, is the brother of Satyanarayanaand Kamaraju is their father. Kamarajudied in 1954. The 1st defendant also diedpending the suit. The 1st defendant wasgiven in adoption to one Surya PrakashRao, brother of Kamaraju. There was apartition on 30-11-1923, between Kamaraju and his brothers. Kamaraju gotconsiderable properties to his share inthat partition. Satyanarayana and Kamaraju continued as members of the undivided family. At a later stage Satyanarayana executed a registered relinquishment deed in favour of his father on 21-9-1924, whereunder he gave up all hisrights in all moveable and immoveableproperties to which he was entitled. Asa consideration thereof Kamaraju agreedto pay a sum of Rs. 1,500/- to the plaintiff as Satyanarayana (Plaintiff's husband) had taken the jewels of that valuebelonging to his wife for his personalneeds. Kamaraju had even agreed todischarge all the debts of Satyanarayana amounting to Rupees 2,200/-.After the relinquishment deedKamaraju was enjoying the entireproperty as his separate property. Thereafter Kamaraju executed a registeredwill on 23-5-1936, whereby he gaveestate to his widow Lakshmi Narasamma in all the properties and the remainder to his natural son, the 1st defendant, who had gone in adoption. After the death of Kamaraju, Lakshmi Narasamma by a registered relinquishment deed dated 5-10-1961 relinquished her right, title and interest in the property in favour of the Ist defendant. Thus, the Ist defendant became absolutely entitled to all the properties. By a number of documents executed in 1961 the Ist defendant alienated his properties by way of sale or gift. The plaintiff filed the suit for possession and alternatively for maintenance at Rs. 100/- per month and also for a provision to be made for her residence. The suit was dismissed by the trial Court. Hence the appeal filed in this Court.

5. When the appeal came up for hearing before the Division Bench the main submission with regard to the claim for maintenance was that the father-in-law Kamaraju was only under a moral obligation to maintain the plaintiff on the footing that the properties in his hands were his separate and self-acquired properties. But upon his death, it was argued, his legatees, Lakshmi Narasamma and the Ist defendant, are legally bound to maintain the plaintiff from out of the estate of Kamaraju in their hands, The trial court dismissed the claim of the plaintiff for maintenance relying upon a decision of the Madras High Court in Sankaramurthy v. Subbamma, AIR 1938 Mad 914 wherein it was held that the principle that the moral obligation ripens into a legal obligation does not apply to the case of a legatee. The Madras High Court in this decision made a reference to Rangammal v. Echammal, (1899) ILR 22 Mad 305, wherein it was held that the party whose moral claim becomes a legal right would not be affected by testamentary dispositions in favour of volunteers made by the person morally bound to provide the maintenance. This view was held to be obiter dictum. Before the Division Bench again these two decisions were relied upon. The learned counsel for the appellant brought to the notice of the Division Bench the decisions in Gopal Chandra Pal v. Kadambini Dasi, AIR 1924 Cal 364, and Foolcomari Dasi v. Debendra Nath, AIR 1942 Cal 474, which followed the view expressed in Rangammal v. Echammal. (supra). Some more decisions following the view expressed in Sankara Murthy v. Subbamma (supra) were also cited before the Division Bench On account of the conflict the Division Bench expressed its view that the decision in Sankaramurthy v. Subbamma (supra) which is opposed to the decision in Rangammal v. Echammal, (supra) needs consideration by a Full Bench and accordingly referred the matter to this Full Bench.

6. The learned counsel for the appellant. Sri C. Poornaiah, submitted that the moral obligation of the father-in-law to maintain a widowed daughter-in-law during his lifetime becomes a legal obligation as against his heirs, who inherit his property. He also submitted that where the heirs succeed to the property under a will or gift there is a legal obligation on them to maintain the widowed daughter-in-law of the deceased. But the question is, when a stranger succeeds to the property under a gift or Will whether there is a legal obligation on him to maintain the widowed daughter-in-law. The learned counsel also contended that the provisions of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, (hereinafter referred to as 'the Maintenance Act') are applicable to the present case and therefore the daughter-in-law is liable to be maintained by the heirs including the donees and legatees.

7. The learned counsel for the contesting respondents. Sri. M. Jagannadha Rao, submitted that during the lifetime of the father-in-law there was a moral obligation to maintain the daughter-in-law. After the death of the father-in-law it becomes a legal obligation in the hands of the heirs, who inherit the property. But, if the father-in-law transfers the property by way of gift or will in favour of either the heirs or strangers there is no legal obligation on the transferees to maintain the daughter-in-law. The learned counsel also submitted that the provisions of the Maintenance Act are not attracted in this case and that if a person died prior to the coming into force of the Maintenance Act, its provisions have no application since the Act has no retrospective effect. Therefore, ho submitted, the case has to be decided under the old law as it stood.

8. We will take up first, the point urged with regard to the applicability of the Maintenance Act. Sri. Poornaiah contended that even if the husband died prior to the coming into force of the Maintenance Act. a right has accrued to his widow to be maintained under Section 22(1) of the Maintenance Act, He referred to Section 22 (1) and (2) of the Maintenance Act. which read as under:

'22 (1) Subject to the provisions of Sub-section (2) the heirs of a deceased Hindu are bound to maintain the dependents of the deceased out of the estate inherited by them from the deceased.

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

His main contention was that Section 22(1) imposes a liability on the heirs to maintain the dependants of the deceased Hindu in general terms and does not say or imply that the dependant-widow's husband should have died after the coming into force of the Maintenance Act The right to maintenance is a recurring one and the liability to maintain after the Act came into force is imposed by Section 22. Having regard to the object of the Act, namely, to amend and codify the law, there is no reason to exclude widows of persons who died before the Act from the operation of Section 22. Sub-section (2) of Section 22 is really in the nature of an exception to Section 22 and that excludes from the operation of Sub-section (1) of Section 22 a dependant who obtained a share in the estate of a Hindu dying after the commencement of the Act. In this connection, he pressed into service mainly a decision of the Division Bench of this Court consisting of K. Subba Rao C. J, (as he then was) and Mohd. Ahmed Ansari, J., in S. Kameswaramma v. Subramanyam, : AIR1959AP269 , Mr. Jagannadha Rao, on the other hand, contended that the decision in Kameswaramma v. Subramanyam, (supra) was not approved by a Full Bench of this Court in Ramamoorty v. Sitharamamma. : AIR1961AP131 . The two questions referred to the Full Bench for its opinion are, (i) Whether the provisions of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, are retrospective and (ii) whether a married woman, who left her husband and lived with another as his permanently kept mistress could be regarded as an Avaruddha Stree. Here, we are mainly concerned with the first question. Chief Justice Chandra Reddy speaking for the Full Bench referred to the view expressed in Kameswaramma v. Subramanyam. (supra) and observed in paragraph 17 as under:--

''(17) With respect, we are unable to subscribe to the proposition thus enunciated. It is to be borne in mind that Sub-section (1) imposes only a liability on the heirs of a deceased who have inherited the estate to maintain the dependants of the deceased, while it is Sub-section (2) that talks of the rights of the dependants to receive maintenance. This sub-section makes it abundantly clear that it has relation only to the estate of a deceased whose death takes place after the commencement of the Act.

Further Sub-section (1) is subiect to the provisions of Sub-section (2) : in other words Sub-section (2) controls Sub-section (1). Sub-section (1) does not say who should be maintained by the heirs. To decide that one has to look at the terms of Sub-section (2). The combined effect of Sections 21 and 22 is that only dependants of persons mentioned in Section 21 dying after the commencement of the Act and as have not obtained any share in the estate that have a right to maintenance. It has no application to persons entitled to maintenance from the estate of a Hindu who died before the Act.'

The Full Bench was of the view that the language employed in Section 22 is restricted to the persons claiming maintenance from the estate of a Hindu dying after the commencement of the Act. The Full Bench examined the question from another angle also. In regard to a person, who died before the commencement of the Act, his estate would have vested in persons entitled to it subject the liabilities fastened thereon under the law then prevailing. If these provisions are to apply to estates of all Hindu irrespective of the time of their death, persons in enjoyment of these properties will have to meet new obligations which they were not expected to fulfil at the time they acquired the estates, since Section 21 has added to the list of 'dependants' and excluded some who were entitled to maintenance under the old law. The Full Bench further elucidated the point that in a case where a Hindu died long before the coming into force of the Act his estate might have changed several hands. It would then cause great hardship to the person who ultimately get into possession thereof if new liabilities are to be imposed thereon. Conversely the persons who have taken such estate would escape liability in regard to the maintenance of some of the dependants who are excluded from the list of 'dependants' as a result of which such of the persons who were entitled to be maintained under the General Hindu Law would be deprived of their right. Therefore, the Full Bench held:

'This, in our opinion, could not have been the intendment of these sections. In our considered opinion, these sections do not bear on the pre-existing rights of maintenance holders. The Act does not abridge those rights and leaves them untouched Consequently, a right of maintenance, which a concubine had acquired against the estate of her deceased paramour prior to the Act is not nullified by the Act since Sections 21 and 22 leave the estate of Hindus whose death occurred before the Act unaffected.'

In paragraph-21 of the judgment the principles of Hindu Law by Mulla, 12th Edition, Page 705, were also quoted with approval in support of their view, which is as under:--

'.....The law on the question is now changed and an Avarudda Stree cannot claim maintenance out of the estate of the deceased paramour where his death took place after the coming into operation of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956. She is not one of the persons within the definition of dependants given in Section 21 of the Act.'

In view of the above, the opinion of the Full Bench was recorded as under :--

'Finally, our answer to the first question is that the relevant provisions of the Act apply only to estates of Hindus whose death overtakes after the commencement of the Act.'

In other words, Sections 21 and 22 of the Maintenance Act are only prospective in their operation and not retrospective. This view of the Full Bench was confirmed by the Supreme Court, when the case went in appeal before it in Gopala Rao v. Sitharamamma : [1965]3SCR122 Bachawat, J., speaking for the Bench consisting of five Judges, K. Subbarao, Raghubar Dayal, J. R. Mudholkar, R.S. Bachawat (himself) and V. Ramaswami, JJ. examined the entire scheme of the Maintenance Act with reference to the several relevant provisions and more effectively put it that the provisions in Sections 21 and 22 are prospective. The relevant portion in paragraph 7 reads as under--

'In terms, Sections 21 and 22 are prospective. Where the Act is intended to be retrospective, it expressly says so. Thus, Section 18 provides for maintenance of a Hindu wife, whether married before or after the commencement of the Act, by her husband. Section 19 provides for the maintenance of a Hindu wife, whether married before or after the commencement of the Act, by her father-in-law, after the death of her husband and Section 25 provides for alteration of the amount of maintenance whether fixed by a decree of Court or by agreement either before or after the commencement of the Act. Now, before the Act came into force, rights of maintenance out of the estate of a Hindu dying before the commencement of the Act were acquired, and the corresponding liability to pay the maintenance was incurred under the Hindu Law in force at the time of his death. It is a well recognised rule that a statute should be interpreted, if possible, so as to respect vested rights, and such a construction should never be adopted if the words are open to another construction. See Craises on Statute Law, 6th Edn. (1963) 397. We think that Sections 21 and 22 read with Section 4 do not destroy or affect any right of maintenance out of the estate of a deceased Hindu vested on his death before the commencement of the Act under the Hindu Law in force at the time of his death.'

This pronouncement of the Supreme Court puts the matter beyond controversy that Sections 21 and 22 are prospective in their operation and the right of maintenance out of the estate of a deceased Hindu vested on his death before the commencement of the Act under the Hindu Law in force at the time of his death is not destroyed or affected in any manner whatsoever. Incidentally, Mr. Poornaiah, referred to the observations of the Supreme Court covering the observations made in Kameshwaramma v. Subramanyam : AIR1959AP269 (supra) with regard to Sections 21 and 22 of the Maintenance Act. The Supreme Court in respect of those observations held:

'No doubt, there are broad observations in that case to the effect that the right to maintenance is a recurring right and the liability to maintenanre after the Act came into force is imposed by Section 22, and there is no reason to exclude widows of persons who died before the Act from the operation of Section 22. Those observations were not necessary for the purpose of that case, because the widow in that case was clearly entitled to maintenance from the estate of her deceased husband dying in 1916 under the Hindu Law, as it stood then, independently of Sections 21 and 22 of the Act, and in spite of the compromise fixing the maintenance before the commencement of the Act, the widow could in view of Section 25 claim alteration of the amount of the maintenance. The decision cannot be regarded as an authority for the proposition that Sections 21 and 22 of the Act affect rights already vested before the commencement of the Act. We, therefore, hold that the claim of the respondents to maintenance for their lives is not affected by the Act.'

From this it is clear that the decision in Kameshwaramma v. Subramanyam (supra) is not an authority for the proposition that Sections 21 and 22 of the Maintenance Act affect the rights already vested before the commencement of that Act and the observations made therein in respect of Sections 21 and 22 no longer hold the field. In view of this decision of the Supreme Court we do not think it necessary to refer to the follow-in decisions cited on this point by the learned counsel:

(1) : AIR1968Bom314 ; (2) AIR 1960 Mys 182; (3) : AIR1967MP86 ; (4) : AIR1964Pat45 ; (5) : AIR1974Mad329 ; (6) : AIR1969AP15 and (7) : AIR1965Guj270 ;

Following the decision of the Supreme Court, we hold that Sections 21 and 22 of the Maintenance Act are prospective in their operation and not retrospective. When these provisions of the Act do not apply to the facts of the present case it is unnecessary to further delve into the matter as to whether the term 'heirs' used in Section 21 of the Maintenance Act includes legatees and donees, since the father-in-law of the plaintiff in the present case died in 1954 before the commencement of the Maintenance Act.

9. We now come to the main point. Both the learned counsel are in agreement on the point that the moral obligation to maintain the daughter-in-law ripens into a legal obligation as against his heirs who inherit his property. Thereafter there is difference in the submissions of the learned counsel.

10. Mr. C. Poornaiah, learned counsel for the appellant, submitted that even if a heir or stranger gets the property of the father-in-law under a gift or a will there is legal obligation on him to maintain the widowed daughter-in-law. But according to Mr. Jaganhadha Rao there is no such liability on the legatee heirs or donee heirs and much less on stranger-legatee or stranger-donee.

11. Mr. Jagannadharao submitted that it is necessary to find out the principle on which the moral obligation of the father-in-law ripens into a legal obligation. If we keep those principles in view, they would indicate that the moral obligation ripens into a legal obligation on heirs who inherit the property. He contended that this principle is based mainly on spirituality. According to the Hindu texts, the father-in-law is bound to maintain his widowed daughter-in-law and if he dies without adequately providing her, his heirs who inherit his property shall have to fulfil the father-in-law's obligations to give spiritual benefit to him. The Hindu texts have gone to the extent that even in the absence of inheriting any property the heirs shall discharge the moral obligation of the deceased father-in-law for his spiritual benefit. In this connection he referred to several decisions which extensively referred to various Hindu Law texts.

12. Mr. C. Poornaiah, learned counsel for the appellant, submitted that the very texts quoted in the decisions point out to the Hindu jurisprudence that the maintenance of the dependants is treated as an obligation on heirs and other persons who not only succeed to the property by inheritance but also take the property otherwise than by succession. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the persons in possession of the property to maintain the dependants of the deceased.

13. In view of these rival contentions, the point that falls for consideration is whether the donee or devisee heir and the donee or devisee stranger is liable to maintain the daughter-in-law and the dependants of the deceased.

14. Number of decisions have been cited by both the learned counsel on this question. The High Courts of Madras, Lahore, and Calcutta have consistently taken the view that even if it is a transfer in favour of heirs by way of gift or will the transferees are liable to maintain the daughter-in-law. The only decision of the Madras High Court which differed from the above view is in Sankaramurthy v. Subbamma (AIR 1938 Mad 914) and this decision was mainly based on the authorities of the High Courts of Bombay and Lahore holding that the devisee or donee heir is not liable to maintain the daughter-in-law.

15. Now we have to examine as to which of these views can weigh with us. In this context various authorities cited by the learned counsel need to be examined to find out the basis on which these conflicting views were taken by the different High Courts and which of them is nearer to the principles propounded by the Hindu law givers.

16. We will now take up the authorities cited in support of the view that the devisee or donee heir is liable to maintain the widowed daughter-in-law.

17. The first derision cited before us by Mr. Jagannadha Rao is Khetramani Dasi v. Kashinath Das, ((1868) 2 Beng LR 15). In this the daughter-in-law, who was residing separately from her father-in-law, filed a suit for maintenance against her father-in-law. The trial Court decreed the suit for maintenance and on appeal to the High Court the matter was referred to a Full Bench consisting of four Judges to decide the question:

'Can the widow of a Hindu refusing to live in the house of her father-in-law maintain a suit against him for a pecuniary allowance by way of maintenance?'

Loch, J. referred to various authorities on the Hindu Law and quoted extensively from Colebrooke's Digest and Dayabhaga holding that the maintenance of the family is an indispensable obligation as Manu positively declares. The learned Judge also referred to Sir Thomas Strange's work on Hindu Law, Vrihaspati and Baboo Shama Charan Sircar's Vyavastha Darpana in which it was stated that, the son's widow is a dependant member of the family whose maintenance is a charge on the inheritance, that a widow is under the guardianship of her husband's relations, that her father-in-law or his heirs and representatives are bound to maintain her in a manner suitable to the circumstances of the family, so long as she continues to live under their protection. The learned Judge expressed the view that even if the property is self-acquired, the father-in-law is bound to maintain his widowed daughter-in-law as if he were in possession of ancestral property.

18. This view was agreed to by Kemp, J

19. Peacock, C. J. for the first time dissenting from the above view held that maintenance of the son's widow is a mere moral obligation of her father-in-law and that such a moral obligation cannot he converted into legal liabilities. The learned Chief Justice expressed the view that the heir who inherits and takes the estate not for his own benefit but for the spiritual benefit of the late father-in-law ought to perform the obligation of maintaining the widowed daughter-in-law. Ultimately, he held that the widowed daughter-in-law had no legal ground of action to be maintained by her father-in-law so long as she elects to live With her own father.

20. Macpherson. J. conferred with the view expressed by Peacock, C.J.

21. As the judges were equally divided in opinion the case was decided according to the opinion of Peacock, C. J.

22. The matter was taken in Letters Patent Appeal and was heard by a Fuller Bench consisting of seven Judges.

23. One of the points raised in the Letters Patent was that the distinction between a moral and legal obligation was never contemplated by the early Hindu sages and legislators, and proof appears in Jimutavahana's Commentary on the Dayabhaga.

24. It was next submitted that religion forms an essential ingredient in the constitution of Hindu Society; and legal and religious or moral precepts are inseparably blended, so that moral precepts are to be regarded as equivalent to legal sanctions and that the maintenance of the members of a family is inculcated throughout the shastras as 'an indispensable obligation' on the part of its head. And further, the entire property cannot be alienated by gift etc., for that would interfere with the subsistence of the family. The necessity of Supporting not only the existing, but also the unborn members of the family, is a paramount duty. A series of persons who are to be maintained is given in Colebrooke, Book V. Article 331. wherein it is also stated that by long established custom and usage fully recognised as a law, a daughter-in-law is regarded as an 'Abhashya Poshya' i.e., one who ought to be maintained. It was summed up that it appeared from the whole context of books that the Hindu legislators provided for the subsistence of the dependant members of a family, especially widowed daughters-in-law, whose condition is peculiarly helpless. It was also submitted that the right of a daughter-in-law is also founded on principles of justice and equity, that marriages are concluded between minors, and fathers took on themselves responsibility of providing support for their sons' widows. It was further submitted that the whole current of decisions of Courts are in favour of the proposition that the daughter-in-law is at least entitled to food raiment from the members of her husband's family, whether she resides in her father-in-law's house or in her parents' house.

25. On the above submissions most of the Judges expressed their views. Rut it is needless to refer to their individual opinions. There was unanimity that it was the moral obligation of the father-in-law to maintain the widowed daughter-in-law and that normally he would maintain his daughter-in-law if she were to reside in his house, but the right to maintain cannot be enforced in a Court of law. Accordingly the view of Peacock. C. J, stated earlier was accepted by this Letters Patent Bench. Thus there is a moral obligation on the father-in-law to maintain his daughter-in-law.

26. In Ammakannu v. Appu, (1888) ILR 11 Mad 01 the Madras High Court also took the view that there is no legal obligation on the father-in-law to maintain his widowed daughter-in-law out of his self-acquired property. On the question whether there is legal obligation on the son who inherited the self-acquired property of the father-in-law to maintain the widowed daughter-in-law of the deceased it was held that such an obligation is dependent upon the unequivocal intention showed through conduct or otherwise of the father-in-law that the inheritance shall be subject to the above obligation,

27. We will now refer to the Full Bench decision of the Allahabad High Court in Janki v. Nand Ram, (1889) ILR 11 All 194. In this most of the decisions of the High Courts of Madras, Bombay and Calcutta on this issue were considered. Mahmood, J. after referring to several texts on Hindu Law gave an elaborate judgment holding that the daughter-in-law was entitled to claim maintenance out of the self-acquired property of her father-in-law in the hands of his son or heir. The steps of reasoning that led him to the above conclusion are :

(1) A Hindu father is under a moral if not a legal obligation to give his daughter in marriage.

(2) By marriage a Hindu woman ceases to belong to her parental family and becomes a member of her husband's family.

(3) The head of a Hindu family is bound morally if not legally, to provide for the maintenance of all the members of the family according to the various rules applicable to the claims of each class of members.

(4) Although a father-in-law in possession only of self-acquired property is not legally compellable to maintain his son's widow, yet the Hindu Law imposes a moral obligation on him to provide for her maintenance.

(5) An essential element of the son's right of inheritance from his father is the spiritual benefit which, in the contemplation of the Hindu Law, the son confers upon the soul of his deceased father.

(6) Therefore the son inheriting the self-acquired property of his father takes that property subject to such moral obligations as are conducive to the spiritual benefit of his father and that such moral obligations become legal obligations as against the son who holds his father's property by inheritance.'

28. Points 5 and 6 enumerated above have a direct bearing on the question before us. Therefore, we will refer to the view expressed by the learned Judge on those two points ill detail. It serves as a widow on the fast development of the Hindu Law in respect of maintenance of dependants, such as daughter-in-law.

29. Dealing with the 5th point, Mahmood, J. referred to a passage of a Hindu lawyer, Mr. Sarvadhikari, in his work on Hindu inheritance (Tagore Law Lectures, 1880 P. 12) wherein it was noted that the devolution of property depends upon the competence to perform the obsequial rites of the deceased. They cannot be separated. Hindu Law has thus inseparably connected the duty of presenting the 'water' and the 'cake' with the right of inheritance. The learned Judge also held at page 212:

'The Mitakshara and the Bengal school do not differ with each other in the principle that the right of inheritance itself is based on and arises from the contemplation of the Hindu Law that the inheritor by taking the inheritance renders spiritual benefits to the soul of the deceased proprietor.'

Thus spirituality and religious precepts we the basic concepts that gave rise to point No. 5 dealing with the 6th point, the learned Judge referred to the work on Hindu Law by Mr. Mayne where it was pointed out that in the view of Hindu Lawyers, a debt is not merely an obligation but a sin, the consequences of which follow the debtor into the next world. The learned Judge further quoted the following passage at page 214 from Mayne's Hindu Law.

'The liability to pay the father's debt arises from the moral and religious obligation to rescue him from the penalties arising from the non-payment of his debts. And this obligation equally compels the son to carry out what the ancestor has promised for religious purposes. It follows, then, that when the debt creates no such moral obligation the son is not bound to repay it, even though ho possesses assets.'

The learned Judge further referred to a passage from Naradiya Dharmasastra or the Institutes of Narada (Dr. Jolly's translation) which reads:

'Of the successor to the estate, the guardian of the widow, and the son, he who takes the assets becomes liable for the debts.'

and observed that the word 'debt' was to be understood in a broad sense so as to include all classes of obligations such as moral obligations in respect of maintaining widowed daughter-in-law and expenses of the marriage of unmarried daughters. According to the learned Judge there was an unusual paucity of case law on the subject of Hindu marriage and the reason given by him for the same is:

'.........due to the devotional character of the Hindu population, and......... probably also to the fact that the law abiding tendencies of the Hindus of the better classes have precluded brothers from disputing the right of unmarried sisters to obtain their marriage expenses out of the paternal estate when in the hands of the brothers by inheritance.' Page 216. Ultimately, the learned Judge expressed his view that the above texts are quite enough for the purposes of the analogy which he has introduced between the rights of a brother's widow for maintenance and that of an unmarried sister to claim marriage expenses from her brother who is in possession of the father's estate and held: 'The whole object of the analogy of course is to furnish the necessary step of reasoning upon which my judgment proceeds, namely that under the Hindu Law purely moral obligations imposed toy religious precepts upon the father ripen into legally enforceable obligations as against the son who inherits his father's property.' 217

30. The learned Judge has accordingly reached the conclusion that the moral obligation of the father-in-law ripens into legal obligation of the son, who inherits the property, on the basis of the original texts on the Hindu Law and the other authorities.

31. The learned Judge further observed that because the case is not altogether free from difficulty and also because the judgment would go very near the boundary of what is sometimes called 'judicial legislation' he was anxious before concluding his judgment to refer to some considerations of good policy from which the learned Judge's mind has not been altogether free in determining the question raised in that case. The phrase 'good policy' was being used in the sense in which such a phrase should be understood in judicial exposition of law, that is in the sense of those broad principles which ordain the basis of the rule of justice equity and good conscience upon which the Judges of Courts, which exercise the combined jurisdiction of a court of law and a court of equity must act in cases where there is no specific legislative provision in the statute law, or the original texts of an ancient system of jurisprudence which the Judges are bound to administer, do not furnish an express authority in specific terms. In this connection, the learned Judge also referred to the decision in Khetramani Dasi v. Kashinath Das, (1868) 2 Beng LR 15 where Peacock, C. J., indicated that in considering such questions considerations of natural law, equity and good conscience were not to be lost sight of. Mahmood, J. further held that Judges are bound to administer the law as they find it, but where the statute law is silent and the common law not free from doubt, they do not, especially in disputes arising out of the law of marriage, ignore the conditions, sentiments or prejudices, religious or social, which are held sacred by the population to which the law is administered. It is in view of these legal principles of adjudication, the learned Judges referred to a passage from an eminent Hindu Lawyer, Krishna Kamal Bhatta-charya (Tagore Law Lectures, 1885 F. 323) who after referring to some rulings goes on to say:

'To a Hindu mind not penetrated with European notions and still retaining the spirit of ancient Hindu Law as propounded by Rishis and their earlier commentators, this exposition of the law relating to a widow's maintenance would appear harsh and unsympathetic. The life of a Hindu female is one of seclusion; outside the Zanana, her knowledge is as limited as that of a tender child, culture, training or education she has absolutely none. If her rights are invaded by the male members of the family; she is utterly helpless; and she falls under the influence of persons whose motives for lending her a help are the farthest from those of philanthropy or disinterested good will. Females belonging to the respectable classes are incapable of earning their own livelihood, if the family property is transferred by the male relations, what can these females do to keep their rights of maintenance secure?'

This passage throws some light as to the origin of the right of maintenance as visualised by the ancient Hindu Lawgivers.

32. Thereafter, Mahmood, J. posed certain questions keeping in view the conditions of society as to the facts and circumstances the Court has to take into consideration for deciding such cases. It will be pertinent to extract the questions in the words of the learned Judge:

'I asked Mr. Madho Prasad, in the course of the argument, to suggest what answer his client Nand Ram would give to these questions. Would he propose that the girl widow Janaki should marry a second husband, thus incapacitating herself for conferring any those spiritual benefits upon his brother and her deceased husband, which the ecclesiastical ceremonials of the Hindu Law and religion inculcate and ordain? Would he propose that this widowed girl should claim maintenance from her parental family of which she, by reason of her marriage with the deceased Ghasi, has ceased to be a member, and as such entitled to no such legal right? Would he propose that his widowed girl should enter into some profession to earn a livelihood? Would he propose that if she is unfit by reason of her sex and the condition of Hindu society, to adopt any respectable profession, that she would go begging in the streets for her bare necessaries of life, thus exposing herself in her early month to all those temptations of immorality which the authorities prescribed by the Hindu Law for the widow, are intended to obviate and preclude, (p. 221)'.

Even though the lawyer suggested that the learned Judge should ignore all considerations of compassion and dispose of the case entirely upon the technicalities of the law and the rights of the parties, the learned Judge proceeded to hold:

'I am aware that such is my duty, but as I have shown, the conclusions at which I have arrived are well supported by the entire spirits of the texts of the Hindu Law itself and the principles of that system of jurisprudence. And if I have referred to the condition of the Hindu society in connection with such questions, it is only because I hold it to be a true proposition of law and judicial method, that in deciding such cases of contested interpretation sought to be placed upon ancient texts of a very ancient system of law, Judges of the present day in enforcing that system should not be oblivious of the requirements of the age and the exigencies, social, moral and religious of the population under their jurisdiction.' (p. 222)

In the result, the learned Judge held that since the inheritance itself in the contemplation of the Hindu Law arises for the spiritual benefits of the deceased owner, the son inheriting the property is legally bound to discharge those obligations which so long as the original acquirer of the property was alive, were only moral obligations. In this the property was self-acquired property of the father-in-law and the daughter-in-law was living with her parents' family. The learned Judge also held that the plaintiff's maintenance is a legal charge upon the property of Khjali (father-in-law) in the hands of Nand Ram, the heir.

33. We have dealt with these two cases, namely Khetramani Dasi v. Kashinath Das, (1868) 2 Beng LR 15 and Janki v. Nand Ram, (1889) ILR 11 All 194 in great detail because the principles enunciated in respect of maintenance of the widowed daughter-in-law in these decisions, have been reiterated in several authorities of various High Courts.

34. We will now take up the cases decided by the Madras High Court on this aspect. In Rangammal v. Echammal, ((1899) ILR 22 Mad 305) the daughter-in-law whose husband died during the lifetime of her father-in-law claimed maintenance after her father-in-law's death against her mother-in-law, who inherited some of the items of the father-in-law's property under a will and the rest by succession. The suit was decreed, but on appeal, the District Judge dismissed the suit. In the Second Appeal Subramanya Aiyar, J, speaking for the Bench held that the moral obligation of the father-in-law ripens into a legal obligation in the hands of the heirs and accordingly allowed the appeal. The learned Judge relied upon the decision in Janki v. Nand Ram (1889) ILR 11 All 194 but he was not inclined to prefer the decision in Ammakkannu v. Appu, (18881 ILR 11 Mad 91 and he further observed,:

'The better conclusion is, perhaps, that the party whose moral claim becomes a legal right would not be affected by testamentary dispositions in favour of volunteers made by the person morally hound to provide the maintenance. No doubt, if the title of the female claiming the maintenance were dependant on the volition of such a testator he could, by his will have directed that she should get no maintenance out of his estate. But in cases like this, her claim to maintenance, originating from the status acquired by her marriage, becomes a legal right independently of his volition and comes into existence at the same moment as the dispositions in favour of the volunteer becomes operative. It is consequently difficult to see how the latter could affect the former.'

As the question of maintenance of indigent widows and daughters-in-law was involved, the learned Judge apart from referring to the authority in Janki v. Nand Ram, (1889) ILR 11 All 194 wherein several original texts were considered, referred to Dr. Jolly's History of the Hindu Law (Pages 134 and 135) wherein there is a reference to a passage from the writings of Kamalakara to show that it is incumbent upon sons and grandsons to maintain indigent widows and daughters-in-law, though no wealth of the father may be in existence. The learned Judge further pointed out that in the Saraswati Vilasa, Section 522, the duty of a father to provide for his son's widow is stated unconditionally. So far, the decisions laid down that the moral obligation ripens into a legal obligation as against the heirs. But the decision in Rangammal v. Echammal, (1899) ILR 22 Mad 305 went a little further that even if it is a testamentary succession the legal obligation subsists.

35. The same view was not doubted in Meenakshi Ammal v. P. Rama Aiyar (ILR 37 Mad 396 : (AIR 1914 Mad 587).

36. Again a Full Bench of the Madras High Court had to consider a similar question in Ambu Bai v. Soni Bai (AIR 1940 Mad 804). The question involved there was whether the step-mother m possession of the property of her husband is bound to provide maintenance to the widowed daughter of her late husband by the first wife when her husband's family was not able to support her. This decision clinches the issue whether the moral obligation ripens into a legal obligation when the heir succeeds to the property. The Full Bench observed:

'The doctrine that a moral obligation becomes a legal obligation when the estate of a person on whom the moral obligation lay comes into the possession of his heirs may be open to criticism but it is too late in the day to indulge in it and the Court must confine itself to the question whether the principle should extend beyond the case of a widowed daughter-in-law.'

37. Again a Division Bench of the Madras High Court consisting of Gentle, C.J. and Rajamannar, J. (as he then was) had to consider a similar question in Appavu Udayan v. Nallammal (AIR 1949 Mad 24). Two separate judgments were delivered. It will suffice to note that the decisions m Janki v. Nand Ram, (1889) ILR 11 All 194: Rajnikanta Pal v. Sajnisundaree Dasee, AIR 1934 PC 29 and Ambu Bai v. Soni Bai, AIR 1940 Msd 804 (FB) were considered by the Bench. Rajamannar, J. (as he then was) referred to several ancient Hindu Law texts which have bearing on the principle of maintenance and quoted the sayings of Manu thus:

The support of the group of persons who should be maintained ej.ka iks'; oxZL; is the approved means of attaining haven but hell is man's portion if they suffer, therefore, he should carefully maintain them'.

38. Manu goes on to describe the group of persons so to be maintained:

'The father, the mother, the Guru, a wife, an offspring, poor dependants fnuk% lekfJrk% a guest and a religious mendicant are declared to be the group of persons who are to be maintained (Cited in Sri Krishna's commentary on Dayabhaga).'

The learned Judge referred to the remarks of West and Buhler in their Digest of Hindu Law (3rd Edition) on the question whether the right of maintenance can he asserted by a. widow of a separated member. In this digest the learned authors referred to a passage from Narada that:

'When the husband is dead his kin are the guardians of his childless widow, in disposing of her, in protecting and maintaining her they have full power.'

According to Kamalakara in Vivadatandava

'It is incumbent on the sons and grandsons to maintain indigent widows and daughters-in-law though no wealth of the father may be in existence,

XXX XXX XXX

In reality the claim of the female family members to maintenance does not become extinct either through the absence of assets, or in the somewhat anatagous case of a separation of the coparceners having taken place.'

39. Gengle, C.J., in his separate judgment held that the obligations are general and are not confined to the instance where the widowed daughter-in-law is penniless and that the moral obligation to maintain his widowed daughter-in-law arises out of the affinity between them and it is not dependant upon and irrespective of the family status which existed between her husband and her father-in-law. Henoe the moral obligation of the father-in-law to maintain his widowed daughter-in-law out of his self-acquired property and upon his death the ripening of that obligation into a legal liabiltiy of his heirs arises even where there is a disruption by partition in the family of which the father-in-law and the deceased husband of the widowed daughter-in-law were members.

40. Thus from these decisions of the Madras High Court it becomes evident that there is always an obligation on the members of the family to maintain the widowed daughter-in-law whether they succeed to the property by inheritance or under a will or gift Rangammal v. Echammal, (1899) ILR 22 Mad 305 is a case where some property was given under a will to the wife. The High Court took the view that even that property was not exempt from a charge being created for maintenance in the hands of the widow of the father-in-law. The principle laid down was that when a girl is married, she becomes a member of her husband's family and that under all circumstances she has to be maintained when she is not otherwise provided for. Therefore, it is evident that the property should not be dealt with in such a manner in the normal course which deprives the dependants of their maintenance out of the property and that in whatever manner the heirs get property, they are bound to maintain the dependants such as daughter-in-law.

41. Now we will refer to some of the decisions of the Calcutta High Court which dealt with the basic principles involved in providing maintenance to the daughters-in-law or the dependants. In Kamini Dasee v. Chandrapoda Mondle, (1889-90) ILR 17 Cal 373 and Devi Persad v. Ganwani Koer, (1895) ILR 22 Cal 410 the view taken was that the moral obligation to support the daughter-in-law ripens into a legal obligation against the assets of the father-in-law in the hands of heirs. We have already referred to the decision in Khetramani Dasi v. Kashinath Das, (1868) 2 Beng LR 15.

42. Two important decisions which attracted our attention are Gopal Chandrapal v. Kadimbini Das (AIR 1924 Cal 364) and Foolcomari Dasi v. Debendra Nath (AIR 1942 Cal 474). The point involved in the former case was whether the daughter-in-law is entitled to maintenance out of the property in the hands of the donee or devisee. The Calcutta High Court preferred to follow the decision of the Madras High Court in Rangammal v. Echammal, (1899) ILR 22 Mad 305. Rejecting the contention that the daughter-in-law is not entitled to maintenance from out of the property in the hands of the donee or devisee the Bench observed:

'If the contention of the appellant were to prevail, it would be possible for the father-in-law to evade his moral obligation and to protect his estate after his death from the claim of the daughter-in-law which according to well established rules, at this stage ripens into a legal claim. It is on this principle that a contrary view has been maintained in the cases of Yamuna Bai v. Menu Bai, (1899) ILR 23 Bom 608 and Rangammal v. Echammal, (1899) ILR 22 Mad 305. These decisions were mentioned with approval in the cases of In the Goods of Gobinda Chundra, ((1913) 23 Ind Cas 539) (Cal) and Indubala Dasee v. Panchumani Dasee, (28 Ind Cas 578): (AIR 1915 Cal 417).'

The Bench further held:

'.........that the plaintiff is not entitled to evade liability merely because he received the estate of his father not by inheritance but by way of gift during his lifetime. That this view is well-founded on principle is clear from the long line of cases which establish the right of the widow to maintenance out of the estate of her husband when it has passed into the hands of his heirs.'

43. The above principle applicable to the widow of the deceased was extended even to the widowed daughter-in-law. It is suffice to conclude that this decision lays down that there is a legal obligation on the part of the donee and devisee to provide maintenance to the daughter-in-law.

44. There is a classical judgment of a learned single Judge (Ameer Ali, J.) in Foolcomari Dasi v. Debendra Nath Seal (AIR 1942 Cal 474) on the present issue. In fact, this would obviate the necessity of referring to the other earlier decisions to which we made a reference. Ameer Ali, J. considered the conflicting views that were in existence till then. It is also a case where the father-in-law executed a will of his self-acquired property making a provision for his wife. But no provision was made for his son's wife. The question there was whether a devisee-heir was liable to pay maintenance to the widowed daughter-in-law as is the one in the instant case. There the conflicting authorities were given in a tabular form by the learned Judge. The learned Judge made it clear that the decision in Gopal Chandrapal v. Kadimbini Das (AIR 1924 Cal 364) was sufficient to dispose of the case before him, but for the attempt made to bring in a distinction on the ground that the earlier one was a case of gift while the later was one of testamentary disposition. But the learned Judge treated both will and gift on the same footing, one being transfer during lifetime and the other being a transfer taking place at the time of death. The learned Judge observed that the decision of Sir Ashutosh Mookherjee was unqualified and there was nothing to indicate any distinction as to the liability between a donee-heir and a devisee-heir. The learned Judge referred to three positions which are very pertinent to be noted. They are:

(1) Heirship, intestate succession (no doubt as to the law)

(2) donee or devisee heirs

(3) donee or devisee.

The argument addressed before Ameer Ali, J. then was that the liability was something peculiar to heirs, that it depends upon a certain ingredient in intestate succession and the ingredient of 'spiritual benefit' or pinda. It was further argued that this element where there exists absolute freedom to dispose of property, is eliminated by gift or will. This argument was developed on the basis of the provisions of Section 39 of the Transfer of Property Act. Sir Hari Singh Gour in his notes to Section 39 of the Transfer of Property Act expressed the view:

'Property acquired by a valid testamentary disposition is not governed by the rules of the Hindu Law of inheritance and when the power of making such disposition is unrestricted, it is difficult to conceive any consistent grounds on which the devisee could be held bound by an obligation from which the testator had power to relieve him.'

The learned Judge did not admit the view expressed by King and Stodart, JJ. in Sankaramurthy v. Subbamma, (AIR 1938 Mad 914) that the daughter-in-law acquires a legal right for maintenance against the donee or devisee of self acquired property or against the ancestral property descended by inheritance as 'startling'. That Bench of the Madras High Court was of the view that the donee or devisee is not liable to maintain the widowed daughter-in-law. But Ameer Ali, J. was not inclined to agree with that view. Therefore, he wanted to examine the origin and nature of the liability of the heirs and observed as under:

'I concede that the matter, for a non-Hindu is difficult. I do not admit that it is 'startling'.........It is said in the cases that there is a moral liability on (F) and that this moral liability 'ripens' or 'matures' into a legal liability of S when he succeeds as heir. First of all I take it that 'moral liability' means merely a liability recognised and enforced by religion or society, but not enforcible by the Courts.'

45. Then the learned Judge proceeded to find out as to how the moral obligation ripens into a legal obligation of the heirs. The learned Judge observed that it is the duty of the Hindu heirs to provide for the bodily, and mental or spiritual needs of their immediate and nearer ancestors; to relieve them from bodily and mental discomfort, to protect their souls from the consequences of sin e.g., the leaving of outstanding debts, and the leaving of dependants unprovided for, to protect them from the importunities of those who have been injured by neglect. The further question was why the moral duty on the farther-in-law should turn into a legal duty on the son. The learned Judge put his views in his own inimitable style as under:

'......there should be no rigid distinction between moral duty and legal duty, as there is in modern society. Bearing this in mind, the explanation that occurs to me is as follows: The father (F) can perform the duty. As long as he lives there is the expectation that he will. He can perform it to the very moment of his death It is assumed that he will. If he dies without performing it, he has committed a sin; he has left something undone which he should have done. Once he dies, the thing has happened it cannot be remedied by him.'

It is only for the reason that it cannot be remedied, according to Ameer Ali, J. the Court is ready to compel his heirs to relieve the father from the consequences of the sin. The above extract indicates that the learned Judge by his own reasoning reached the same conclusion as was arrived at in Rangammal v. Echammal, (1899) ILR 22 Mad 305. With regard to the question of gift or devise to strangers, the learned Judge expressed the view that it is much more difficult. If the strangers are to be affected the liability must be visualised as something which attaches to the property rather than to the person or capacity of the devisee or donee-something in the nature of charge or implied trust affecting transferees. The analogy of a Hindu widow at once occurs to one, and the question arises whether the moral right of the Hindu daughter-in-law should upon the death of the father-in-law be deemed to be of the same or of analogous quality to that of a Hindu widow at the same moment. In such a case, the learned Judge observed, the principle if not the actual provisions of Section 39 of the Transfer of Property Act. would apply. The learned Judge felt that some such view was entertained by Sir Ashutosh Mookherjee. The learned Judge also noted that Sir Dinshaw Mulla treats these obligations for maintenance as 'liabilities' dependent upon possession of property. Therefore, it did not seem to him so startling' or so 'preposterous' to conceive of a state of law as was expressed by the Bench in Sankaramurthy v. Subbamma, (AIR 1938 Mad 914) whereby volunteers or persons taking with notice should be affected by the claim to maintenance. However, Ameer Ali, J., was not called upon to express any final view on this aspect. Anyway the learned Judge observed that it is a matter which would receive the attention of those who were in the process of codifying this branch of the Hindu Law. Thus, the learned Judge held that the legal liability upon a Hindu heir to provide maintenance to the daughter-in-law exists whether the heir takes upon the property by intestacy or under a gift or will.

46. Now we will refer to the view of the Bombay High Court. The cases cited before us are:

Adhibai v. Cursandas Nathu, (1887) ILR 11 Bom 199; Yamunabai v. Manubai, (1889) ILR 23 Bom 608; Bai Parvati v. Tarwadi Dolat Ram, (1901) ILR 25 Bom 263 and Bhagirathibai v. Dwarakabai, (AIR 1933 Bom 135).

47. In Adhibai v. Cursandas Nathu (1887) ILR 11 Bom 199 a widow filed a suit for maintenance against her brother-in-law. The defence set up the brother-in-law was that the property inherited by him was his father's self-acquired property. But the Court found that the property devolved upon his sons as ancestral property for the benefit of the undivided family, of which the father, who died intestate, was the head. The property thus devolved subject to the incidents to which ancestral property was liable. The learned Judge expressed the view:

'If one of such sons had been disqualified from inheriting by reason of idiocy he though a member of the undivided family would only be entitled to maintenance. The plaintiff by reason of her sex was disqualified from inheriting in competition with males, but nonetheless she is entitled to maintenance out of the ancestral estate, which was devolved upon the males, with whom she constitutes an undivided family'.

The above decision does not throw much light on the point now before us.

48. In Yamunabai v. Manubai, (1899) ILR 23 Bom 608, it was held that the widow of a pre-deceased son has legal right to maintenance from her mother-in-law out of the self-acquired property of the father-in-law to which his widow succeeded as heir. In that judgment Ranade, J., passingly observed that if the heir had been a testamentary devisee, the incidents of self-acquisition would protect such property even in his hands and he referred to the observations of Farran, J., in Adhibai v. Cursandas Nathu. ( (1887) ILR 11 Bom 199) and observed that they were in the nature of obiter dicta.

49. In Bai Parvati v. Tarwadi Dolatram, (1901) ILR 25 Bom 263 Batty, J., speaking for the Bench observed that the dictum in Yamunabai v. Manubai, (1889) ILR 23 Bom 608, if intended as more than a statement of recognised spiritual obligation would be distinctly in conflict with the law as laid down in the Full Bfnnh decision in Savitri Bai v. Lakshmi Bai, (1878) ILR 2 Bom 573, wherein it was held that the widow is not entitled to maintenance from her husband's relatives, whether they were separated or not from him at the time of his death, If they have not any ancestral estate or estate belonging to him in their hands. With reference to the decision in Savitribai v. Lakshmibai, (1878) ILR 2 Bom 573 it was held:

'But property acquired by valid testamentary disposition is not governed by the rules of the Hindu Law of inheritance, and when the power of making such disposition is unrestricted it is difficult to conceive any consistent ground on which the devisee could be held bound by an obligation from which the testator had power to relieve him and by the bequest had actually relieved him.'

50. With reference to Rangammal v. Echammal, (1899) ILR 22 Mad 305 it was observed that the remarks made therein and relied upon before him appear to be mere obiter dicta. Ultimately, it was held that the devisee is not liable to pay maintenance to the widowed daughter-in-law.

51. Even in Bhagirathi Bai v. Dwarakabai (AIR 1933 Bom 135) it was held:

'a daughter-in-law is entitled to maintenance out of the ancestral property and also the self-acquired property of her father-in-law inherited by his heirs, but not out of the self-acquired property of the father-in-law disposed of by him by way of gift. And it is immaterial if the donee under the gift is the next heir.'

52. The same view was followed in Bhagwanti v. Thakur Mal (AIR 1926 Lah 198). The Bench felt that when a man has absolute right under the Hindu Law to dispose of his self-acquired property in anyway he chooses, the widow has no sort of right or control over his alienations during his lifetime and she cannot possibly be allowed to realise her maintenance from the property which he has seen fit to sell or gift. It was observed by the Bench:

'This doubtless has the effect in this case of depriving the widow of her legal rights of maintenance before they are fully born; for during the father-in-law's lifetime her rights are merely in embryo, being nobulous moral rights which she cannot enforce. This Is inevitable, as any other decision would be irreconcilable with the all important proposition that a man may do what he wills with his own self-acquired property.'

53. We have dealt with various decisions of the other High Courts placed before us except the decision in Sankaramurthy v. Subbamma, (AIR 1938 Mad 814). In that case the view adopted by the Bombay High Court in Bai Parvati v. Tarwadi Dolatram, (1901) ILR 25 Bom 263; Yamunabai v. Manubai. (1899) ILR 23 Bom 608; Bhagirathibai v. Dwarakabai, (AIR 1933 Bom 135) and by the High Court of Lahore in Bhagwanti v. Thakur Mal, (AIR 1926 Lah 198) was followed, With referenece to Chandrapal v. Kadimbini Das, (AIR 1924 Cal 364) and Jeot Ram v. Mut Lauji, (AIR 1929 Ail 751) the Bench merely stated that the rulings in the above two cases accept and follow the decision in Rangammal v. Echammal, (1899) ILR 22 Mad 305 without attempting any analysis or examination and cannot advance the case of the daughter-in-law any further.

54. As there is a conflict of views between the decisions in Rangammal v. Echammal, (1899) ILR 22 Mad 305 and Sankaramurthy v. Subbamma, AIR 1938 Mad 914 we may briefly refer to the decision in Sankaramurthy v. Subbamma. In that case the Bench consisting of King and Stodart, JJ. held that the widowed daughter-in-law does not acquire legal right to maintenance out of the self-acquired property of her father-in-law which had been bequeathed by will. The reasoning given by the Bench is that Subramania Aiyar, J. was dealing with the very question which was then before them viz. whether a widow acquires a legal right to maintenance out of the self-acquired property of her father-in-law which had been bequeathed by will. The Bench extracted the relevant passage from that authority which has been extracted in the earlier pages of this judgment while dealing with the said authority. With reference to that passage the Bench observed:

'It will at once be clear from this quotation that what Mr. Subrsmania Aiyar, J. says, though deserving of the very greatest respect, does not lay down the law in the full sense of that term. It is expressly made obiter dictum and is prefaced by the word 'perhaps' which can hardly suggest that the learned Judge had finally made up his mind. We ourselves are again with great respect unable to follow him. He does not cite any text or any authority in support of his statement of the law. He does not say why the right to maintenance is independent of the volition of the testator. His argument really in our opinion amounts to this, that the right to maintenance is charged upon the testator's self-acquired property, and that he cannot get rid of the charge. But if the widow has no legal claim against him during his lifetime, it cannot be charged on his property. We return to what we said when considering the distinction between inheritance and the passing of property by will or gift, and repeat, that we can see no valid reason why the right of a Hindu to dispose of his self-acquired estate should be in any manner restricted.'

55. The Bench turning to the question 'why should an estate which is unburdened in the hands of the owner become burdened in the hands of a second owner who acquires it from him?' Extracted the answer as given in Janki v. Nandram, (1889) ILR 11 All 194 in these words:

'An essential element of the son's right of inheritance from his father is the spiritual benefit which in the contemplation of the Hindu Law the son confers upon the soul of the deceased father. Therefore, the son inheriting the self-acquired property of his father takes that property subject to such moral obligation as are conducive to the spiritual benefit of his father, and that such moral obligations become legal obligations as against the son who holds his father's property by inheritance.'

The Bench then proceeded to examine whether this answer could be pressed into service in the case of a will or gift. The learned Judge observed:

'It is impossible to argue that there is anything in the nature of the transference of property by will or by gift which requires that the legatee or donee should take any thought for the spiritual welfare of the testator or donor. The legatee or donee may be a stranger, may be a Mahomedan, may be a Christian, may be anybody, and as has happened in this case, the donor may expressly say that his widowed daughter-in-law is not to be maintained. The essence of the idea of a will or a gift is that the testator or donor is disposing personally and at his own will and pleasure of the property which he possesses.'

The Bench took the view that when the transfer of property is by way of will or gift it is not necessary that the legatee or donee should think of the spiriual welfare of the testator or donor. The reasoning adopted by the Bench was that the donee may be a stranger, may be a Mahomedan, may be a Christian, may be anybody. In these circumstances it cannot be said that they will do any act for the spiritual welfare of the testator or donor. The essence of the idea of a will or a gift is that the testator or donor is disposing personally and at his own will and pleasure of the property which he possesses. To put it in other words if it is only an intestate succession, the heirs are liable to maintain the daughter-in-law but not otherwise. Thus, the view taken by the Madras High Court in Rangammal v. Echammal, (1889) ILR 22 Mad 335 was held to be only obiter dicta.

56. Now we have to consider whether the view taken in Rangammal v. Eehammal or in Sankararaurthy v. Subbamma (AIR 1938 Mad 914) is acceptable.

57. We have referred to the leading judgments on the point to have an idea as to the basis on which maintenance is provided to the dependants in Hindu society. So long, as the law was not codified, the society was guided by the principles laid down by the text books on Hindu Law which were given by the 'Rishis' and law-givers. The basic concept that the Hindu family is a homogeneous family consisting of ail the members cannot be ignored in this context. It was observed in Sankaramurthy v. Subbamma, (AIR 1938 Mad 914) that Subramania Aiyar, J. expressed the view that when persons are morally bound to provide maintenance testamentary dispositions cannot affect the legal right that accrued for maintenance. To put it in other words, when there is a moral claim, which matures into a legal right after the death of the father-in-law, it cannot be defeated by testamentary disposition or by gift. This is the substance of the view expressed by the learned Judge. The reasoning given in support of this proposition is that the claim to maintenance originates from the status acquired by marriage and when once that status is acquired, it cannot be defeated by any dispositions of the property. Whenever the moral obligation comes to an end, the legal right starts and the liability gets fastened. No doubt in Rangammal v. Echammal, (1899) ILR 22 Mad 305 without attempting any analysis or examination, conclusion was arrived at by Subramania Ayyar, J. But Subramania Ayyar, J. referred to in Janki v. Nandram, (1899) ILR 11 All 194 to a Full Bench judgment in which law on the subject was exhaustively dealt with and we have already made a reference to that decision. In that (case) Mohmood, J., delivered a separate judgment and dealt with the origin of the right of maintenance under the Hindu Law exhaustively. He referred to various text books on Hindu Law. The learned Judge referred to the earlier judgment in Adhibai v. Cursandas Nathu, (1887) ILR 11 Bom 199 and also to Tagore Law Lectures, 1879 to find out as to why maintenance is granted. It is not necessary to repeat the entire precepts and principles under which the maintenance was provided for. It was noted by Mohmood, J., that there was scarcity of case law on the subject due to the devotional character of the Hindu population and probably also to the fact that the law abiding tendencies of the Hindus of the better classes have precluded brothers from disputing the right of unmarried sisters to obtain their marriage expenses out of the paternal estate in the hands of the brothers by inheritance. In fact, there was no distinction between moral obligation and legal obligation under the then prevailing Hindu Law. That is why, the learned Judge noted that when a girl comes into a family by marriage she becomes a member of her husband's family and is maintained by the Head of the family. As there is no codified law keeping the spirit of the Hindu Law-givers, the Courts laid down that the spirit of the law givers has to be carried out and that the dependants cannot be deprived of their maintenance by any devise adopted by the persons. Therefore, so far as the father-in-law is concerned he being an elder member and head of the family it was thought inconceivable that he would not maintain his widowed daughter-in-law. The Courts have held that it ripens into legal obligation in the hands of the heirs. Various reasons have been given for conversion into a legal obligation as against the sons, one such being that it is for the spiritual benefit of the father. The moral obligation on the part of the father-in-law to maintain the widowed daughter-in-law is treated as debt, which if not discharged by providing maintenance to the daughter-in-law the same has to be discharged by the heirs. All these aspects, in our view were before the learned Judge while deciding the case in Rangammal v. Echammal, (1899) ILR 22 Mad 305.

58. We have already referred to the decision in Janki v. Nandram, (1889) ILR 11 All 194 and we do not think it necessary to repeat the reasoning given therein. We are in full agreement with the principles enunciated therein on the basis of which it was held that the widowed daughter-in-law has a claim to be maintained by the heirs.

59. The further question that remains to be on this aspect considered is, when the property is disposed of by will or gift whether the dependents, like daughter-in-law, are liable to be maintained. The reasoning given in Rangammal v. Echammal, (1899) ILR 22 Mad 305 is based on the ground that a dependant member of the family cannot be left unprovided for. The texts have gone to the extent of holding that even if there is no property left by the father, leave apart the self-acquired property, the heirs are liable to discharge the obligation of maintaining the dependants. In this context we may refer to some of the portions from various texts, that have bearing on this matter.

59-A. Colebrooke's digest held: 'The maintenance of the family is an indispensable obligation as Manu positively declares.'

60. Jeemutavahana's commentary shows that the distinction between a moral and legal obligation was never contemplated by the early Hindu sages and legislators. Religion forms an essential ingredient in the constitution of Hindu society, and legal religious or moral precepts are inseparably blended so that moral precepts are to be regarded as equivalent to legal sanctions. The maintenancy of the members of family is inculcated throughout the shastras as 'an indispensable obligation' on the part of its head. A daughter-in-law is regarded as an 'Abhashya Poshya' i.e., one who ought to be maintained.

61. In Naradiya Dharmasatra it was held:

'Of the successor to the estate, the guardian of the widow, and the son, he who takes the assets becomes liable for the debts.'

It was also observed that the word 'debt' was to be understood in a broad sense so as to include all classes of obligations such as moral obligations in respect of maintaining widowed daughter-in-law.

62. An eminent Hindu Lawyer, Krishna Kamal Bhattacharya after a survey of the law on the subject observed in Tagore Law Lectures, 1885, at p. 323 that females belonging to the respectable classes are incapable of earning their own livelihood, and if the family property is transferred by the male relations, what can these females do to keep their rights of maintenance secure? Even Manu with regard to the obligation on the part of the father-in-law to maintain a widowed daughter-in-law stated :

'The support of the group of persons who should be maintained ej.ka iks'; oxZL; is the approved means of attaining heaven, but hell is the men's portion if they suffer; therefore, he should carefully maintain them.'

He goes on to describe the group of persons so as to be maintained as the father, the mother, Guru, a wife, an offspring, poor dependents, etc.

63. According to Vivadatandava written by Kamalakara it is incumbent on the sons and grandsons to maintain indigent widows and daughter-in-law, though no wealth of the father may be in existence.

64. All the above texts of Hindu Law point out that there is a moral obligation on the father-in-law to maintain the daughter-in-law and that the heirs who inherit the property are liable to maintain the dependants. It is the duty of the Hindu heirs to provide for the bodily and mental or spiritual needs of their immediate and nearer ancestors to relieve them from bodily and mental discomfort and to protect their souls from the consequences of sin. They should maintain the dependants of the persons of property they succeeded. Merely because the property is transferred by gift or by will in favour of the heirs the obligation is not extinct. When there is property in the hands of the heirs belonging to the deceased who had a moral duty to provide maintenance, it becomes a legal duty on the heirs. In our view it makes no difference whether the property is received either by way of succession or by way of gift or will, the principle being common in either case. The reasoning adopted by Ameer Ali, J. in Foolcomari Dashi v. Debendra Nath (AIR 1942 Cal 474) as to how the moral obligation ripens into legal obligation is very logical. We are in agreement with the process of reasoning of Ameer Ali, J. in arriving at the conclusion that the legal liability upon a Hindu heir to provide maintenance to the daughter-in-law exists whether he takes upon the property by intestacy or by will or gift.

65. We are unable to agree with the reasoning of the Bombay High Court. The Bombay High Court mainly proceeded on the ground that the father-in-law has absolute power over his self-acquired property to deal with the same. He has a power to execute will or gift and deprive the daughter-in-law of her maintenance. When the absolute owner has exercised that power and transferred the property under gift or will, the question of enforcing her right against the transferees would not arise at all. The Bombay High Court put it on the ground that the property acquired by valid testamentary disposition is not governed by the rules of the Hindu Law of inheritance and when the power of making such disposition is unrestricted, it is difficult to conceive any consistent ground on which the devisee could be held bound by an obligation from which the testator had power to relieve him and by the bequest had actually relieved him. With great respect, we are not able to agree with this view. The learned Judges there have not taken into consideration the duty of the Hindu heirs to provide for the bodily, and mental or spiritual needs of their immediate and nearer ancestors, and also the fact that there was no rigid distinction between the moral duty and legal duty as there is in the modern society. They have also not considered the concept of 'duty' to be performed by the head of the family and that if he died without performing that duty he had committed sin and that the sons have to discharge that obligation to relieve him from that sin. The Madras High Court in Sankaramurthy v. Subbamma (AIR 1938 Mad 914) followed the view of the Bombay High Court expressed in Yamunabai v. Manubai, (1899) ILR 23 Bom 608; Bhagirathibai v. Dwarakabai (AIR 1933 Bom 135) and of the Lahore High Court in Bhagwanti v. Thakur Mal (AIR 1926 Lah 198). but with great respect we are not in agreement with that view.

66. In the result, we are in agreement with the view expressed in Rangammal v. Echammal, (1899) ILR 22 Mad 305; Gopal Chandrapal v. Kadimbini Das (AIR 1924 Cal 364) and Fooloomari Das v. Debendra Nath, (AIR 1942 Cal 474) wherein it was held that the legal liability upon a Hindu heir to provide maintenance to daughter-in-law exists irrespective of the fact whether the heir takes the property by intestacy or under a will or gift.

67. The other question that remains to be answered is when the donee or devisee is a stranger whether he is liable to maintain the daughter-in-law. Reference made to be only speaks :

'Whether the moral obligation of a father-in-law possessed of separate or self-acquired property to maintain the widowed daughter-in-law ripens into a legal obligation in the hand of persons to whom he has either bequeathed his property or made a gift of his property?' Here the words used are 'in the hands of persons to whom he has either bequeathed his property or made a gift of his property.'

Therefore, the word 'persons' includes either heirs or strangers. We have already expressed our view in respect of donee-heirs and devisee-heirs. Now remains the question about the donee-strangers and devisee-strangers.

68. In this context we may at the outset refer to the view expressed by Ameer Ali, J., in Foolcomari Dasi v. Debendra Nath (AIR 1942 Cal 474). With regard to the gift or devise to strangers the learned Judge observed :

'The matter of strangers is, however, much more difficult. This is what impressed the learned Judges in deciding the last Madras case. I also do concede that if strangers are to be affected the liability must be visualised as something which attaches to the property rather than to the person or capacity of the devisee or donee -- something in the nature of charge or implied trust affecting transferee. The analogy of a Hindu widow at once occurs to one, and the question arises whether the moral right of the Hindu daughter-in-law should upon the death of the father be deemed to be of the same or of analogous quality to that of a Hindu widow at the same moment. In such case the principle, if not the actual provisions of Section 39, T.P. Act would apply. It does seem to me that some such view was in the mind of Sir Ashutosh Mookerjee when deciding the case in AIR 1924 Cal 364. It is further to be noted that Sir Dinshaw Mulla treats these obligations for maintenance as 'liabilities' dependent upon possession of property. It does not therefore seem to me so 'startling', or, I forget the actual word used by Mr. Ghouse, so preposterous to conceive of a state of law whereby volunteers or persons taking with notice should be affected by the claim to maintenance of a Hindu daughter-in-law. On this question, I am not called upon to express any final view. It is a matter which no doubt will receive the attention of those who are now in the process of codifying this branch of the Hindu Law'.

69. The above observation of the learned Judge indicates that even if a donee or devisee is a stranger, the liability to maintain does not cease. No doubt, the learned Judge expressed the view that the matter is a little difficult. We will now analyse the circumstances that require consideration in deciding the question.

70. We have to go to the basic concepts of the Hindu Law again with regard to the maintenance of dependants, daughter-in-law being one of them. Any view that is taken, should be in conformity with the principles and the injunctions given by the ancient law-givers and legislators. While deciding the question we have to refer to some of the extracts from the texts, which serve as a basis to examine the point. At the risk of repetition we have to again point out that the dependents are to be maintained by the head of the family. This established custom and usage was fully recognised. We have already referred to several authorities based on such usage and custom. Whether it is a usage or custom, which has been recognised as law, several High Courts have taken the view that the moral obligation ripens into a legal obligation when the property is bequeathed or made a gift to the heirs. It was treated as legal liability in the hands of donee or devisee-heirs. If we take into consideration the principle that the father-in-law has to maintain the daughter-in-law and provide her maintenance during his lifetime, it is a moral obligation and is treated as a 'duty' upon him to maintain her. It is further treated as sin if she is not provided for. In such circumstances, could it be said that such a man could dispose of his property in favour of strangers in such a mariner as to deprive the daughter-in-law of her maintenance. In our view the answer should be 'no'. The entire background of the Hindu jurisprudence clearly indicates that such an arrangement could never be made by a person who has a moral obligation to maintain his dependents, because the moral obligation was treated as nothing short of legal obligation to maintain the dependents.

71. It is further interesting to note that even though we have examined the development of law for the last hundred years, we have not come across even a single case where the property was bequeathed or made over by gift to strangers. In all the cases we find the gift or will was generally made in favour of immediate or next heirs, but not in favour of total strangers. Even in the present case, by no stretch of imagination could it be said that the transferee is a total stranger to the family. In fact, he is no other than the natural son that was given in adoption of the deceased. It may not be out of place to mention here that the natural son who was given in adoption and grandson in whose favour the property was bequeathed would be equally Interested, according to the ancient concept, in relieving his ancestors from bodily and mental discomfort and in protecting their souls from the consequences of sin, by providing maintenance to the dependents such as daughter-in-law. Even if we treat him as a stranger, still the principle has to be logically pursued. When the entire property is bequeathed or made over by gift to a stranger, the donor or testator would naturally expect that the obligations he has to fulfil during his lifetime would be fulfilled by the donee/devisee-stranger. Therefore, we have to presume that the donee or devisee stranger would fulfil all the moral obligations of the testator or donor. We often come across cases where the self-acquired property of a person is sought to be protected from going into the hands of a spendthrift-son by bequeathing the same to his grandsons or to another son so that the dependents are properly maintained. When that is so. can it be said that the moral obligation does not ripen into a legal obligation when the property is in the hands of the donee or devisee stranger. This is one aspect of the matter.

72. This can be looked from another angle also over which some thought was given in Gopal Chandrapal v. Kadimbini Das (AIR 1924 Cal 364) where Sir Ashutosh Mukerjee observed that there was no difference in principle between a widow and a widowed daughter-in-law in so far as the maintenance is concerned. The difference is that the widow is likely to succeed to the property on the death of her husband whereas the daughter-in-law has no such claim. That should not make a difference for invoking the principle enunciated in Section 39 of the Transfer of Property Act which reads as under:

'Where a third person has a right to receive maintenance, or a provision for advancement or marriage, from the profits of immoveable property, and such property is transferred the right may be enforced against the transferee if he has notice thereof or if the transfer is gratuitous; but not against a transferee for consideration and without notice of the right, nor against such property in his hands.'

The above provision speaks of enforcement of the right of a third person to receive maintenance from transferees of the property. In the present case the right to receive maintenance is not in question, but is only a moral obligation as against the transferor. Sir Ashutosh Mookerjee, as already noted, took the view that there was no difference between a moral obligation and a legal obligation as per the Hindu system of jurisprudence. In our view, the status of a widowed daughter-in-law is equivalent to that of a widow, who has indisputably; a right of maintenance out of the property transferred as gratuitous, and the right of maintenance of the daughter-in-law should be treated as equal to the right of a widow on the principle enunciated in Section 39 of the Transfer of Property Act. To put it in other words the status of a widowed daughter-in-law is equal to that of a widow for the purpose of receiving maintenance and her moral right to receive maintenance alters into a legal right on the demise of her father-in-law. Ameer Ali, J. for that reason observed that it did seem to him that some such view was in the mind of Sir Ashutosh Mookerjee when deciding the case Gopal Chandrapal v. Kadimbini Das (AIR 1924 Cal 364). It will be relevant here to refer again to the eminent Hindu lawyer Krishna Kamal Bhattacharya, who after surveying the Hindu Society in the Tagore Law Lectures expressed the view that, the family property ought not to be disposed by male-members without providing for maintenance of the dependants, such as daughters-in-law. Keeping the background of the society and its customs and moral obligations and also the view taken by Mahmood, J. we are inclined to hold that the claim to maintenance originating from the status acquired by marriage becomes a legal right independently of the father-in-law's volition and comes into existence at the same moment as the dispositions in favour of the volunteer becomes operative. This view also receives fortification from the sound principle of Hindu Law.

73. There is yet another aspect that needs to be considered. The head of the family in Hindu society whether he possessed of ancestral property or self-acquired property treats himself as the head of the family and provides maintenance to all the dependants. He voluntarily treats himself as the trustee of the property and fulfils his moral obligation to provide maintenance to the dependants. Even in the absence of any property it was considered that there is a moral obligation on him to maintain the dependants out of his own earnings. Even it is so when the property is in the hands of the heirs of the deceased father-in-law. As a natural corollary, when the property is bequeathed by a will or made over by a gift, the person who takes the property would himself step into the shoes of the deceased and shall discharge the obligations attached to the property during the lifetime of the 'karta'. This no doubt appears to be peculiar to the Hindu system. That is the reason why in Foolcomari Das v. Debendra Nath (AIR 1942 Cal 474) even Ameer Ali, J. expressed the view that:

'If strangers are to be affected the liability must be visualised as something which attaches to the property rather than to the person or capacity of the devisee or donee -- something in the nature of charge or implied trust affecting transferees.'

Keeping in view the background of the Hindu Society as it existed and also having regard to the fact that there is no difference between a moral obligation and legal obligation in so far as the head of the family is concerned, the only inference that could be drawn is that the property, even if self-acquired, was treated as trust property for maintenance of the family members including the dependants. To put it in other words, the head of the family visualised that there is a charge attached to the property to maintain the family members. If that is so, the transferees are affected by such charge and they would also constitute as trustees to maintain the dependants when the property is in their hands.

74. We have already expressed our view that ignoring the maintenance claim of the dependants, no head of the family is supposed to transfer the property by way of gift or will to such a stranger, who will have no respect for the wishes of the transferor. This can be the only logical conclusion that could be arrived at keeping in view the background of the Hindu jurisprudence.

75. Keeping in view the above discussion, we do not find any distinction in so far as the attitude of the donor or testator in transferring the property between the donee or devisee stranger and donee or devisee heir. Accordingly we hold that the donee or devisee strangers are liable for maintenance of the widow ed daughter-in-law.

76. Learned counsel for the appellant referred to the provisions of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act 1956 and drew our attention to Section 22 of the Act and pointed out that Sub-section (1) of Section 22 speaks that 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. The word 'heirs' used in Sub-section (1) of Section 22 includes donees and devisees, and that is the view taken by several High Courts. We have proceeded to deal with this point on a different aspect. A Division Bench of the Punjab High Court in Gulzara Singh v. Tejkaur had an occasion to consider the scope and ambit of the word 'heir' used in Sec. 22 of the Act. Speaking for the Bench, Dua, J., (as he then was) observed that the word 'heir' must be construed in a broad and general sense so as to include all these on whom the estate of the deceased devolves whether on intestacy or by means of a testamentary instrument like a will. This interpretation, according to the learned Judge, is fully supportable by a reference to all the sections of Chapter III of the Act read together is also calculated to promote and effectuate the cardinal legislative idea or purpose to end or at least to remedy the evil of neglect of Hindu women by their husbands and after their husbands' death by those who may succeed to or inherit their husbands' estate. The learned Judge further held:

'whereas by adopting the rival interpretation suggested on behalf of the appellant it would not only result in defeating the above purpose but would also come into conflict with the rule that all the provisions of an Act should be read and construed as a whole on that all the cognate provisions are harmonised and as a matter of fact the rival interpretation would also tend to give rise to certain anomalies which, in my opinion, cannot easily be attributed to the Parliament.

77. The learned Judge from the provisions of Sections 22 and 23 of the Act gets the dominant idea that whatsoever gets the estate of the deceased or a part of it must in proportion get, along with it, a corresponding obligation or the burden of maintaining the dependants of the deceased. The view of the learned Judge supports the view we have taken on the basis of the texts On Hindu Law.

78. Mr. M. Jagannadha Rao, learned counsel for the respondent, with reference to the decision in Adiraju Venkata Lakshmamma v. Suryanarayanamurthy (1979) 2 APLJ (HC) 104, wherein a similar view as in , was taken submitted that the interpretation put by the learned Judge requires further consideration. As the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act is not applicable to the present case, we are not inclined to go into that question any further. It is suffice for our purpose to note that according to the law then existed the donee or devisee stranger's liability is on par with the liability of a donee or devisee heir.

79. In the result, our answer to the reference is that the Moral obligation of a father-in-law possessed of separate or self-acquired property to maintain the widowed daughter-in-law ripens into a legal obligation in the hands of persons to whom he has either bequeathed or made a gift of his property.


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