G.B. Pattnaik, J.
1. Petitioner is the third wife of late Nari Lena and opposite paries 1 and 2 are the sons of Nari Jena through his second wife. After the death of Nari Jena as opposite parties neglected the petitioner and her two minor daughters, they filed an application under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure claiming maintenance at the rate of Rs. 70/- per month. It was asserted in their petition that petitioner's husband Nari Jena had left some landed property which had been cultivated by the opposite parties and further opposite party No. 1 was an assistant in the office of the Inspector of Schools. The opposite parties in their objection asserted that the petitioner was not the wife of Nari Jena and further she was not unable to maintain herself. It was also averred by them that some of the lands of Nari Jena had been given to the petitioner for her maintenance and, therefore, she was not entitled to any maintenance from them. The learned Magistrate come to hold that the petitioner was the wife of Nari Jena and step-mother of the opposite parties. He further found that the petitioner was unable to maintain herself as she was not in possession of any landed property left by Nari Jena. The learned Magistrate then recorded a finding that the opposite parties have sufficient means and are neglecting the petitioner. Ultimately he directed the opposite parties to pay a monthly allowance of Rs. 70/- to the petitioner and so fat the two minor daughters are concerned, the learned Magistrate held that the daughters were not entitled to maintenance.
2. The opposite parties carried a revision before the Sessions Judge, Cuttack, in Criminal Revision No. 155 of 1981 and the learned Sessions Judge came to the conclusion that the word 'mother' occurring in clause (d) of Section 125(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure did not include a step-mother and, therefore, petitioner was not entitled to be maintained by her step sons. On this finding, he allowed the revision and set aside the order passed by the learned Magistrate.
3. Mr. Sahoo appearing for the petitioner contends that the word 'mother' occurring in Clause (d) of Section 125(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (hereinafter referred to as the 'Code') includes a 'step-mother' and keeping in view the object of the provisions of the Code, there is no reason to exclude a step-mother from her right to be maintained by her step-sons from out of the assets of her late husband. The learned counsel for the opposite parties, however, submits that in view of the language used in clause (d) of Section 125(1), namely, 'his father or mother', it obviously refers to the natural parents of the person on whom the liability to maintain is being fastened and would not include any woman whom his father had married. The rival contentions require careful examination of the provisions of Section 125(1)(d) of the Code.
4. Mr. Sahoo, the learned counsel for the petitioner relied on a decision of the Gujarat High Court in the case of Havaben Karimbhai Belim v. Razakbhai @ Bachubhai Karimbhai Belim and Ors., 19 (1978) Guj. L. R., 237, whereas the learned counsel for the opposite parties relied on a decision of the Bombay High Court in the case of Ramabhai w/o G. M. Balraj v. Dinesh s/o G. M. Balraj and Anr., 1976 Maharashtra Law Journal, 565. Sec, 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 corresponds to Section 488 of the old Code. But the old Code did not provide for maintenance to parents. The Law Commission suggested that the benefit of maintenance under the Code of Criminal Procedure should also be extended to parents since under Section 20 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act. 1956, a Hindu is bound to maintain his or her aged or infirm parents when they are unable to maintain themselves and in accordance with the said suggestion, provision was made in the new Code of Criminal Procedure enabling parents to invoke the provisions of the Code for their maintenance. Section 125 of the Code has been enacted with the object of enabling discarded wives, helpless and deserted children and destitute parents to secure the much needed relief. It is a preventive measure serving a special purpose, the idea behind being that the wife, child or parents should not be left helpless which may force them to commit some crime. The section enables a Magistrate to take summary action for prevention of destitution. It provides a speedy remedy againsts trarvation by way of summary procedure. In fact, the provision under Section 125 of the Code gives effect to the fundamental and natural duty of a man to maintain his wife, children and parents when they are unable to maintain themselves. The right to maintenace conferred by this section is a statutory right which the Legislature has created irrespective of nationality or creed of the parties and is not effected by personal law.
In the decision reported in 1975 Maharashtra Law Journal, 565, relied on by the learned counsel for the opposite parties, the learned Judge adhered to the principle of construction of statutes to the effect that words not defined but of everyday use must be construed in popular senses as understood in common parlance. According to the learned Judge, the word 'mother' has not been defined in the Code of Criminal Procedure and in the common parlance it will not include a 'step-mother' and, therefore, in the opinion of the learned Judge, a step-mother will not be included within the ambit of Section 125(1)(d) of the Code. In paragraph 10 of the Judgment, the learned Judge observed thus :
'...In my opinion the word 'his' which is prefixed to the word 'mother' is very important. The obligation created by Section 125 is a personal obligation. A person having sufficient means is made liable to pay maintenance if he neglects or refuses to maintain his father or his mother unable to maintain themselves. Therefore, it is quite obvious that the obligation, though statutory, is based on moral and social principles. A person having sufficient means is expected to maintain his father or his mother who are unable to maintain themselves. Therefore the word 'his' assumes importance. The mother who is entitled to get maintenance, should be 'his mother'. If the said word is read in its context, it is obvious that the mother contemplated by the section is a natural mother. A step-mother is not 'his mother' as contemplated by the said section...'
The learned Judge then observed :
'...Therefore, in my opinion, having regard to the object and intention of the legislation, the term 'mother' will hare to be given its natural meaning and so construed it will obviously not include a step-mother. The term 'mother', as commonly understood clearly means the natural mother who has given birth to the person concerned.'
This decision was considered by the learned Judge of the Gujarat High Court in Havebeen Karimbhai Bellim's case ,19 (1978) Guj. L. R. 237), referred to earlier, but the learned Judge of the Gujarat High Court differed from the view taken by the Bombay High Court. The learned Judge observed :
'In interpreting the provisions ofSection 125 of the Code, we must, in the first place, bear in mind that the main object of this provision was to prevent vagrancy, Secondly, the provision has a special purpose to fulfil irrespective of the personal law of the parties. Keeping these two considerations in mind, it is obvious that no interpretation should be adopted which will aim at defeating the main object of the legislation. It is not uncommon to find that a man having begotten children marries again after death of his first wife, the children get up and become major. Still, the father, the sons and daughters and a step-mother-all live in the same family under the same roof as a unit. This state of affairs even continues after the father's death so that the step-mother and her children continue to remain under the same roof. These are common place occurrences of human existence so far as this country is concerned. The affinity brough about by the father's marriage between the step-mother and the step-children is not sapped by father's death. If, in a given case, therefore, difference is developed between the step-mother and the step-sons, with the result that the step-mother is uncared for, would a strict interpretation of such a beneficial provision of law be justified Such a strict interpretation would rather encourage vagrancy and thus defeat the main purpose of the provision. In fact, the provision makes erring husband and erring children fulfil its social purpose where such husband and children neglect or refuse to maintain the wife or parents respectively. All these considerations would, therefore, inevitably call for a purposeful interpretation, of the language of Section 125. Any interpretation, which would defent, even, to an extent, the main object of the provision, should be avoided by a Court of Law. '
The Learned Judge ultimately concluded ;
' In view of the reasons given above, the conclusion is that the word 'mother' occurring in clause (d) of Section 125(1) includes a woman who has the status of a 'step-mother' by reason of her lawful marriage with the father of the person sought to be made liable for maintenance under Section 125.'
The Supreme Court in the case of Mat. Jagir Kaur and Anr. v. Jaswant Singh, A. I. R. 1963 S. C. 1521, white dealing with an interpretation of Section 488 of the old Code of Criminal Procedure, has observed that the words will have to be liberally construed without doing any violence to the language, of course within permissible limits.
5. In my view, the provision being a beneficial one intended to curb some social evil should be construed liberally and no word should be used in any restrictive sense unless and until the intention of the legislation appears to be so. I do not find anything in the Code which even given an idea that the Legislature intended to interpret the word 'mother' in Section 125(1)(d) in a restrictive sense to apply only to a natural mother. I am, therefore, entirely in agreement with the view expressed by the Gujarat High Court and in respectful disagreement with the view given by the Bombay High Court. Accordingly in my opinion, a step-mother is included within the ambit of Section 125(1)(d) of the Code and therefore, the petitioner is entitled to be maintained under the said provision. In this view of the matter, the order of the learned Sessions Judge is set aside and the order of the learned Magistrate is affirmed.
The Criminal Revision is accordingly allowed.