M.L. Chaturvedi, J.
1. This is a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution praying mainly for the quashing of an order passed by the District Judge on 24th January, 1956, and for the issue of a Writ of Mandamus directing the District Judge to decide afresh the petitioner's application for grant of maintenance and expenses of the proceedings, pending before the District Judge.
2. The petitioner was married to the respondent in April 1948 and two children have been born, both of whom happen to be girls. It is a matter of controversy whether the petitioner refused to live with her husband or the husband did not permit the petitioner to live with him. The husband, namely, the first respondent made an application under Section 10 of the Hindu Marriage Act (Act No. 25 of 1955). Under Section 10 of the above Act, either party to a marriage is authorised to present a petition to the District Court praying for a decree for judicial separation on the grounds enumerated in the section.
During the pendency of this petition, the wife who is the respondent in the petition, made an application to the District Judge under Section 24 of the Act for the grant of maintenance during the pendency of the proceedings and for the expenses of the proceedings. This application has been dismissed by the District Judge by the impugned order, On the preliminary ground that it is not possible to pass an order granting maintenance pending the litigation or the expenses of the proceedings against the original petitioner who starts the proceedings under the Hindu Marriage Act. In order to appreciate the view taken by the learned District Judge it appears to be desirable to quote Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act. The section runs as follows:
'Where in any proceeding under this Act it appears to the Court that either the wife or the husband, as the case may be, has no independent income sufficient for her or his support and the necessary expenses of the proceeding, it may, on the application of the wife or the husband, order the respondent to pay to the petitioner the expenses of the proceeding, and monthly during the proceeding such sum as, having regard to the petitioner's own income and the income of the respondent, it may seem to the court to be reasonable.'
What the section says is that it is open to the Court on an application of the wife or the husband to 'order the respondent to pay to the petitioner the expenses of the proceedings'. The learned District Judge says that the petitioner here must refer to the original petitioner who started the main proceedings, whereas the contention on behalf of the wife was that the word 'petitioner' refers here to the person who made the application for the grant of maintenance pendente lite and expenses, and not to the original petitioner who started the proceedings.
I am unable to accept the view of the learned District Judge. It would be very unlikely for the legislature to have intended that in all the cases instituted under the Hindu Marriage Act, the pendente lite maintenance and expenses should be payable only to the spouse who happens to be the petitioner starting the proceedings under the Act. The interpretation put upon the word 'petitioner' wouldmean that even if the husband is in affluent circumstances and the wife is unable to meet the expenses of litigation, even then if the husband happens to come to the court first, he can successfully avoid the payment of maintenance and expenses to the wife.
Such an interpretation would mean that the Legislature put the person who came to the Court first, in a more advantageous position than the other side, by making it impossible for the respondent to get the expenses from the original petitioner I think that the Legislature in Section 24 has used the words 'application' and 'petition' as being interchangeable ones. This is further strengthened by the fact that in at least two sections of this Act, an unusual expression has been used.
In Section 10(2) and Section 26 the expression has been used 'on an application by petitioner'. I think that the contention of the learned counsel for the wife is correct and what the disputed expression in Section 24 means is that, on an application of either the wife or the husband, it is open to the Court to order that the applicant shall receive from the opposite party all such expenses as the Court may think just. The word 'respondent' refers to the opposite party in the application for maintenance and the word 'petitioner' refers to the applicant in that application, and not in the original petition by which proceedings under the Act were started.
The matter came up for consideration before two High Courts and both of them have taken the view which I have expressed above. The East Punjab High Court has held in the case of Rameshwar Nath Gupta v. Kanta Devi, AIR 1957 Punj 85, that the expressions 'petitioner' and 'respondent' appearing in Section 24 refer clearly to the petitioner and the respondent in the application under Section 24 of the Act.
The other decision is the decision of the Mysore High Court in the case of Nanjappa v. Vimala Devi, AIR 1957 Mys 44. In this case also it has been held that the word 'respondent' appearing in Section 24 indicated the party against whom the application was directed and not the party arrayed as the opponent to the main petition,
3. For the above reasons, I think that the order of the learned District Judge contains a patent error of law in it, and this patent error had had the effect of depriving the learned District Judge of the jurisdiction to pass a suitable order on the application.
4. The writ petition is accordingly allowed andthe order of the learned District Judge dated 24thof January 1956 is quashed. A direction shallissue to the District Judge to hear and decide theapplication, filed by the wife under Section 24 of theHindu Marriage Act, according to law. The petitioner will be entitled to her costs from the 1st respondent. I assess them at Rs. 100/-.