1. The assessee appeals. The assessment year is 1979-80. The accounting year is 31-3-1979. The question is whether a sum of Rs. 1,000 per month (Rs. 12,000 in the aggregate) paid by her sons in the discharge of their assumed obligations to maintain their mother is income assessable to tax.
2. Her husband died on 16-12-1977. He had two sons and four married daughters. He had ancestral and self-acquired properties. He bequeathed all those to his two sons. The will recited that his wife owns considerable properties and has been well provided. There was no provision in the will to make any payments to his wife in case he predeceased her. Section 22(1) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1955, provided 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. It is perhaps because of this provision that the sons decided to pay a sum of Rs. 1,000 per month to their mother.
The lady died on 14-10-1979. The question is whether this receipt by the lady is taxable. The ITO stated that the income is only from the income earned from the estate of her husband and is only revenue in nature. The AAC held that it is 'income' because it is a periodical monetary return coming in with some sort of regularity or expected regularity from definite sources.
3. Among the various grounds raised before the AAC and before us, what appeared to us as most material and decisive are the following: 1. The maintenance allowance was only an allocation of the income of the estate of late Lakshmanan Chettiar. (before the AAC) 2. The AAC having concluded that your petitioner is entitled to maintenance from the sons of the deceased to whom properties have been bequeathed, should have deleted the receipt of Rs. 12,000 treating the sum as maintenance received from the family (before the Tribunal).
4. It is stated in N.R. Raghavachariar's Hindu Law, Principles and Precedents, Seventh edition. Vol. II, 1216 that Section 22(1) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act embodies the principle of pre-existing law that the moral obligation of the deceased to maintain certain relations becomes a legal obligation in the hands of the heirs who succeed to his estate. So the character of the receipt now and before in the hands of the lady widow of Lakshmanan Chettiar is the same. It has not undergone any change. The only change is about the person who pays the amount. What is received by the recipient assessee is maintenance, whether it was received before the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act or subsequent to that enactment.
5. In Chaturvedi and Pithisaria's Income-tax Law, Third edition, Vol.
I, 413 and 414 there is a discussion about these types of receipts. If those passages are taken into consideration along with the Privy Council decision in CIT v. Musammat Bhagwati  15 ITR 409, which also is commented upon in that text, it becomes clear that such receipts received by the lady before the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act is not taxable. In the Privy Council decision it is stated that in order to earn the exemption in respect of the receipts for maintenance amount, all that the assessee need to prove was that she was getting the same in her capacity as the widow of a deceased coparcener. The position has not in any way got altered by the Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act, 1937, or the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, or the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act or by any of the provisions of the Income-tax Act, 1961. So we hold that such receipts received by the lady is not taxable income.