1. This judgment will dispose of Regular First Appeal No. 258 of 1958 and Regular Second Appeal No. 934 of 1958, both of them having arisen out of the judgment of the learned Senior Subordinate Judge, Ferozepore, dated 11th of February, 1957, which disposed of two suits together.
2. The short question, which calls for decision in the present controversy, relates to the right of widowed daughter-in-law and her minor daughter to claim maintenance from the former's father-in-law. It is common ground that Jal Kaur, plaintiff-appellant, in suit No. 356, had been married to Sadhu Singh, son of the defendant Pala Singh some time in the year 1940. Sadhu Singh died in 1949, leaving behind his widow Jal Kaur and a minor daughter Surjit Kaur. Surjit Kaur was the plaintiff in suit No. 357 and is the appellant in Regular Second Appeal No. 934 of 1958.
It is Jal Kaur's case that Pala Singh, her father-in-law, treated her very badly after the death of her husband and finally in 1954 turned her out of his house. Thereafter she has been living with her parents in the District of Bhatinda. She claimed maintenance, both, past and future, at the rate of Rs. 50/- P. M., the period for the past maintenance being from 1st of June 1954 to 30th of June, 1956.
3. Surjit Kaur, the minor daughter of Sadhu Singh deceased, has claimed maintenance at the rate of Rs. 30/- P. M., both past and future, for the like period as has been claimed by her mother, although in the Court below Jal Kaur had also claimed the return of certain articles which were lying with the defendant or in the alternative for a sum of Rs. 2080/- representing their price. In the present appeal, this matter is not being canvassed at the Ear with the result that we are not concerned with that claim.
4. The defendant resisted the claim of maintenance by both the plaintiffs, and the trial Court relying on a decision of the Bombay High Court in Kalu v. Kashibai. ILR 7 Bom 127 held that the plaintiffs in the two cases before us have legal right to compel the defendant to pay them subsistence from out of the produce of the ancestral property in his hands. The trial Court, relying on the contents of the written statements filed in Jal Kaur's suit also came to the finding that 6 Ghumaons of land in the possession of Pala Singh were admittedly ancestral.
Keeping in view the extraordinary rise in the prices of the agricultural produce, the Court below came to the further conclusion that 6 Ghumaons of land could easily fetch a net income of Rs. 300/-per annum and observing that the defendant had also lately married a second wife, the two plaintiffs-were held to be entitled to claim 2/5th share of the income, the remaining 3/5th being the share of Pala Singh and his two wives. According to this calculation, Jal Kaur was held entitled to Rs. 7/- P. M. and her infant daughter Surjit Kaur Rs. 5/-P. M. Past maintenance was also decreed at this-rate.
5. Feeling aggrieved by the judgment and decree of the first Court, Surjit Kaur, minor daughter of Sadhu Singh deceased, took an appeal to the Court of the District Judge but the learned Additional District Judge, Ferozepore, affirmed the view of the Court of first instance and dismissed her appeal. Now both Jal Kaur and Surjit Kaur have appealed to this Court, the former by means of Regular First Appeal No. 258 of 1958 and the latter by means of Regular Second Appeal No. 934 of 1958 and Mr. M. R. Chibbar has addressed us on behalf of both the appellants. We have also heard Mr, Narinder Singh on behalf of the respondent in both the appeals,
6. Before proceeding with the merits of the case, I may notice a preliminary objection raised on behalf of the respondent with respect to Surjit Kaur's appeal. It is contended that this appeal is barred by time and in support of this plea, the learned counsel submits that the judgment of the learned District Judge is dated 23rd of May, 1957, and an application for Certified copies of the judgment and decree was filed on 18th June, 1957. The copies were completed on 27th June, 1957, and were taken delivery of on 3rd of July 1957.
The Second Appeal was filed in this Court on 6th of August 1957. It is contended that the appeal was sought to be filed by Surjit Kaur in this, Court as a pauper with the result that the limitation for such appeal would be 30 days. The appeal having clearly been filed beyond the Prescribed period, the counsel contends that it must be dismissed as barred by time.
7. I do not find it possible to sustain this contention. Article 170 of the Indian Limitation Act prescribes the Period of 30 days for an application for leave to appeal as a pauper and the terminus a quo is the date of the decree appealed from. In the present case, it is conceded by Mr. Narindar Singh that on the application for leave to appeal as a pauper presented by Surjit Kaur under Order 44 Rule 1, Code of Civil Procedure, a notice was duly issued to the respondent who appeared in response' to such notice and il was in the presence of the counsel for both the parties that a Division Bench of this Court (Falhsaw and Dulat, JJ.) on 6th August, 1958 allowed the application for leave to appeal in forma pauperis. Mr. Narindar Singh, counsel for Pala Singh, who has raised the objection now, also represented Pala Singh in the appliestion filed in this Court by both Jal Kaur and Surjit Kaur minor for leave to appeal as paupers, but no objection that the applications were barred by limitation tinder Article 170 of the Indian Limitation Act was raised by him.
In my opinion, in face of the judgment of the Division Bench, dated 6th of August 1958, it is no more open to the counsel now to raise the objection that the application for leave to appeal in forma pauperis filed by Surjit Kaur minor daughter of Sadhu Singh was barred by limitation, and shoud therefore not have been allowed. The bar of res judicata is clearly attracted on these facts.
8. The counsel, however, contends that Article 170 of the Limitation Act must also be deemed to provide limitation for purposes of appeal as a pauper. Except for the bare contention of the learned counsel, no authority has been cited in its support and on principle I Cannot see how it is possible to sustain this contention. Article 170 occurs in Third Division of the First Schedule of the Indian Limitation Act and is headed as 'Applications'. It is not denied that the period of limitation for appeals to the High Court is 90 days and the terminus a quo is the date of the decree appealed from.
It is also not disputed that the appeal in this Court was filed well within 90 days from the decree of the learned District Judge. The contention that merely because the Limitation Act prescribes the period of 30 days for an application for leave to file an appeal as a pauper, therefore, the period of limitation for appeals as a pauper must also be deemed to have been reduced from 90 days to 30 days, has merely to be stated to be rejected. No provision of law nor any precedent or even principle has been brought to our notice by the learned counsel in support of what prima facie seems to be an extraordinary contention, which, being wholly without merit, must be rejected.
9. The established general rules of statutory construction have to be applied to the statutes of limitation and the determination of the question whether a particular Article of the Limitation Act is a bar to an appeal is not to be influenced by any extension of the Article but by its clear language as manifesting the legislative intent. It is true that the Law of Limitation considered as a statute of repose and affording security against stale claims may not be so construed as to evade its effect but at the same time I find it exceedingly difficult to persuade myself to deny relief to suitors by placing strained construction on it.
10. Coming to the merits of the case, the learned counsel for the appellant has placed reliance on Section 19 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act No. 78 of 1956, which is in the following terms :-
'19. Maintenance of widowed daughter-in-law.
(1) A Hindu wife, whether married before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be entitled to be maintained after the death of her husband by her father-in-law:
Provided and to the extent that she is unable to maintain herself out of her own earnings or other property or, where she has no property of her own, is unable to obtain maintenance -
(a) from the estate of her husband or her father or mother, or
(b) from her son OT daughter, if any, or his or her estate.
(2) Any obligation under Sub- section (1) shall not be enforceable if the father-in-law has not the means to do so from any coparcenary property in his possession out of which the daughter-in-law has not obtained any share, and any such obligation shall cease on the re-marriage of the daughter-in-law.'
It is contended that in the present case, Smt. Jal Kaur is entitled to be maintained by her father-in-law and this obligation is enforceable against the ancestral property in the possession of Pala Singh. The learned counsel has, in this connection, drawn our attention to the written statement filed by Pala Singh in which he has admitted, in addition to 6 ghumaons of ancestral property, to own 44 ghu-maons, which he claims to be his self-acquired property. The contention on behalf of the appellant-is that the trial Court was wrong in completely ignoring 44 ghumaons of the self-acquired land and in dividing the income from 6 ghumaons of ancestral land amongst the five members claiming to be entitled to be maintained by Pala Singh.
In my view, the contention is not without substance. The widowed daughter-in-law can only look to the ancestral property for her maintenance; but it is nowhere laid down that the income from the ancestral property must also be burdened with the maintenance of other members of the family of the father-in-law for whose maintenance self-acquired property is available. Pala Singh in the present case is free to maintain himself and his two wives out of the income from 44 ghumaons of his self-acquired property and indeed his two wives can easily and legitimately claim to be supported and maintained from his self-acquired Property as well.
The widowed daughter-in-law, whose claim-under the law is only confined to 6 ghumaons of ancestral land, should, therefore, in the circumstances of the case, be entitled to claim from the ancestral land reasonable maintenance, though such maintenance cannot exceed the income from the said ancestral property, and the quantum of her maintenance should not be suffered to be Curtailed by burdening the ancestral property with the maintenance of Pala Singh and his two wives.
11. On behalf of the respondent, various technical objections were raised in resisting the plain-tiff's claim, but only one of them relating to limitation with respect to Surjit Kaur's appeal was seriously pressed before us, and this has already been disposed of by me.
12. On the merits it has been contended that under proviso (a) to Section 19 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, the daughter-in-law can claim maintenance from her father-in-law only if she is unable to obtain maintenance from her father or mother. It is argued that Smt. Jal Kaur is actually being maintained by her Parents and this prima facie means that she is obtaining maintenance from them. Except for the language of this section, the counsel has not been able to citeany precedent or principle in support of his contention.
Though on surface this argument may appear to be plausible, on deeper Probe I think the Parliament could not have intended that merely because the parents of a widowed daughter are some-how managing to keep her with them in their own house she should on this ground alone be disentitled from claiming maintenance from her father-in-law under Section 19. According to proviso (a)to Section 19, she can be disentitled to claim maintenance from her father-in-law only if she is able to obtain maintenance either from the estate of her husband or her father, or mother.
Mr. Narindar Singh has contended that construing Clause (a) of the proviso according to the strict rules of grammar, the expression 'from the estate' refers only to the words 'her husband' and not to 'her father or mother'. On this basis, it is argued that the proviso postulates a situation when a widowed daughter obtains maintenance fom her parents during their lifetime.
13. The word 'estate' has in law undoubtedlya variety of meaning; it may mean the property of a living man, as also of a deceased person which passes to his administrators or heirs. But in Section 19(1)(a) proviso the expression 'estate of her husband' clearly denotes the estate of a deceased person. The question, therefore, arises whether the proviso also postulates the ability of the widowed daughter-in-law to obtain maintenance from the estate of her father or mother in the same sense asit does from the estate of her deceased husband.
It is in this context that Shri Narinder Singh has argued that the word 'estate' refers only to the husband of the widowed daughter-in-law and not to her father or mother. I am not quite sure if the learned counsel is right in his submission, but evenif his contention were well-founded, 'statutes', asobserved by a Bench of this Court in Kara Singhv. State, AIR 1960 Punj 538,
'are not mere exercises in literary composition,but being instruments of Government, while construing them the general purpose underlying theenactment is of more important aid to their meaning than any rule which grammar or formal logic may suggest. More so, because the purpose is generally embedded in words which are not always pedantically expressed. In this sense statutory meaning is more to be felt than to be demonstrated.'
14. In order therefore to understand and appreciate the true meaning and scope of Section 19 ofthe Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, the section must, in my opinion, be construed and interpreted in the background and light of the legislative scheme or pattern which is discernible and which emerges from a reading together of the re-cent progressive legislative measures on similar or cognate subjects e. g. statutes like The Hindu Succession Act No. XXX of 1956.
The Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act No. LXXVIII of 1956 and the Hindu Woman's Rights to Property Act No. XVIII of 1937, as amended later, and other enactments which have conferred on Hindu women rights with respect to Property which they were considered not to possessunder the original texts of Hindu Law. All these recent enactments which have, as their fundamental purpose, the removal of Hindu Women's disabilities and conferment on them of better rights for maintenance and property may, in my opinion, be legitimately and with advantage referred to and harmoniously construed for the purpose of ascertaining the real manifest intention and the underlying cardinal purpose of the Parliament in enacting the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, in response to the needs and demands of a progressive society.
15. These legislative measures appear to me dearly to reflect the modern liberal tendency of the Hindu Society to confer on Hindu women much larger rights than they had heretofore been enjoying. The medieval conservative theory of treating women as inferior beings has, in my opinion, been finally discarded by the Parliament in the clearest possible terms. In view of these objectives, I would be inclined to place a liberal interpretation favouring Hindu women on the provisions of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act.
16. Examining Section 19 in the background and light of the foregoing observations in my opinion, in order to disentitle a Hindu widow of her right to claim maintenance from her father-in-law as provided in Section 19(1) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, it must be establishedd affirmatively that she is able as of right to obtain maintenance, either from the estate of her husband of from her father of mother. Under Section 21, widowed daughter is dependant only when, and to the extent that, she is unable to obtain maintenance from the estate of her husband or from her son ot daughter if any, or his or her estate; or from hen father-in-law or his father, or the estate of either of them.
If the widowed daughter can obtain maintenance from the sources mentioned above, she would not be considered to be a dependant of her father within the contemplation of Section 21. It is true that a Hindu is bound during his or her lifetime to maintain his or her legitimate or illegitimate children, but it is also clear that on the marriage of a Hindu daughter, she becomes member of hen husband's family and acquires a right to be maintained by her husband during her lifetime.
Under Section 8 of the Hindu Succession Act, a daughter is an heir to her father with the result that on her father's death she would be entitled to succeed to his estate in accordance with the Provisions of the said Act. She is also apparently entitled to succeed to her mother's Stridhan, Keeping these provisions of law in view, it may be open to contend with some justification that proviso (a) to Section 19(1) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act contemplates and envisages the ability on the part of a Hindu widow to obtain maintenance from the estate of her father or mother.
The word 'estate' has undoubtedly, as already observed earlier, in law a diversity of meaning and a variety of signification. It may mean the property of a living man or that of a deceased Person which passes to his administrator. Generally speaking, this word may mean the property of every character but ordinarily it is applied to theproperty of a deceased person or a ward or a lunatic or a bankrupt etc. according to which meaning it conveys an idea of Property which is administered by administrators or executors or in Courts. Construing the word 'estate' in this sense, I am inclined, as at pesent advised, to consider it to be more in consonance with the legislative intent as manifested in the cognate legislative measures, to hold that inability on the part of the Hindu wife to obtain maintenance from the estate of her father or mother, as Contemplated in Proviso (a) to Section 19(1) has a reference to the estate of deceased persons and not to their estate during their lifetime.
17. But this apart, the word 'obtain' as used in the Proviso is also, in my opinion, significant. It does not merely mean that the widow is some how managing to live with or is being maintained by her father or mother or that her father or mother are somehow managing to save their widowed daughter from starvation, for if this were to be the meaning placed on the word 'obtain', then, apparently, the basic and main purpose and object of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act would be thwarted rather than advanced.
There must therefore, in my view, be a legal right in the widowed daughter to demand maintenance from her father or mother or from their estate, as the case may be, and she must in assertion of that right be able to so obtain maintenance. It is only when she can obtain maintenance in pursuance of lawful right that the operation o the proviso can be said to be attracted. This dearly is not the case before us.
18. In view of the above discussion, in my Opinion, the Court below was dearly in error in granting to Smt. Jal Kaur a maintenance at the rate of Rs. 7/- P. M. on the ground that Pala Singh had to support two o his wives as well, and in imposing the burden of their maintenance also on the 6 ghumaons of land which are admittedly ancestral. The contention on behalf of the appellant that the income from 44 ghumaons of self-acquired land should also be taken into account for the purposes of determining the amount ot maintenance, appears to me, however, to be misconceived because under Sub- section (2) of Section 19, the obligation under Sub- section (1) can be enforced only if the father-in-law Possesses the means to do so from coparcenary Property in his possession out of which the daughter-in-law has not obtained any share. This provision would obviously permit or entitle the father-in-law to exclude his self-acquired property but the appellant is certainly entitled to have a reasonable rate of maintenance out of 6 ghumaons of ancestral land.
19. I may at this stage note that arguments at the Bar proceeded on the assumption that 6 ghumaons of ancestral land constituted coparcenary property within the ambit and contemplation of Section 19(2); we have thus adjudicated upon the rights of the parties before us on this assumption.
20. In so far as Surjit Kaur is concerned, the learned counsel for the respondent did not address any arguments in justification of the grant of Rs. 5/-P. M. only, by way of maintenance, on any ground other than the one found in the judgment of theCourt below. Having held that the burden of maintenance of Pala Singh and his two wives could not be placed on the 6 ghumaons of ancestral land would also demolish the basis of the decision of the lower Court with respect to Surjit Kaur's case.
But this apart, the liability to support a son's daughter would, in my opinion, exist independently of the existence of any ancestral Property, and indeed nothing was urged against this position on behalf of the respondent. In view of the foregoing discussion in my opinion, the entire income of the 6 ghumaons of land is liable to be utilized for the maintenance of Smt. Jal Kaur and Surjit Kaur; the 44 ghumaons of self-acquired land being there for the maintenance of Pala Singh and his two wives.
21. For the reasons given above, I modify the decree of the Court below and instead of a decree for Rs. 7/- P. M. and Rs. 5/- P. M. in favour of Smt. Jal Kaur and Surjit Kaur, respectively, I would grant a decree for Rs. 15/- P. M. in favour of Jal Kaur and Rs. 10/- P. M. in favour of Surjit Kaur. The decrees for past maintenance are also propor tionately enhanced, the decree in favour of Smt. Jal Kaur being now for a sum of Rs. 375/- and in favour of Surjit Kaur for a sum of Rs. 250/-. The appellants are entitled to the costs of these appeals as also to proportionate costs of the Court below. The respondent will however pay the whole of the court-fee chargeable.
22. I agree.