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Ambu Bai Ammal Vs. Soni Bai Ammal - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported inAIR1940Mad804; (1940)2MLJ298
AppellantAmbu Bai Ammal
RespondentSoni Bai Ammal
Cases ReferredJanki v. Nand Ram I.L.R.
Excerpt:
- - (1) the father, the mother, the guru (an elderly relation worthy of respect), a wife, an offspring, poor dependents, a guest, and a religious mendicant are declared to be the group of persons who are to be maintained -manu cited in srikrishna's commentary on dayabhaga. (3) (a widow inheriting her husband's estate) should honour with food and presents (for their benefit) the husband's paternal uncle (and the like) venerable elderly relation, daughter's son, sister's son, and maternal uncle, as well as aged and helpless persons, guests and females (of the family) -vrihaspathi cited in dayabhaga, xi, i. 194 ,but the right was clearly recognised......aiyar, j., expressed himself strongly in favour of the view that there is a legal obligation on a hindu father and his family to support his destitute widowed daughter when she has not received sufficient from her deceased husband's family for her maintenance. after expressing his dissent from the decision of the bombay high court in bai mangal v. bai rukhmini (1898) bom. 291, to which i shall presently refer, sadasiva aiyar, j., went on to say:i concur in the opinion of j.c. ghose, west and buhler, macnaghten and strange that there is a legal obligation on the father and his family to support a destitute daughter (though she had been married away) if she could not get sufficient provision from her deceased's husband's family for her maintenance. bhattacharya also says (page 400) that.....
Judgment:

Alfred Henry Lionel Leach, C.J.

1. The question which the Court is called upon to decide in this appeal is whether a Hindu widow is bound to maintain out of her husband's estate her husband's widowed daughter when the daughter is without means and her husband's family is unable to support her. The appellant is the widow of one Sadasiva Rao, who died on the 13th January, 1930. The respondent is the daughter of Sadasiva Rao by his first wife, who pre-deceased him. The respondent carried one Rama Rao, who died in the month of May, 1932. Sadasiva Rao was a man of considerable property, but Rama Rao was entirely without means and in consequence Sadasiva Rao was compelled to maintain the respondent and her husband from the time of her marriage up to the time of his death. Rama Rao never acquired property and his family had none. In 1934 the respondent filed a suit in the Court of the District Munsif of Tinnevelly for a decree for maintenance against her step-mother on whom had devolved her father's estate. The District Munsif held that the widow was bound to maintain her stepdaughter out of Sadasiva Rao's property and gave a decree for maintenance at the rate of Rs. 10 per mensem, but he directed that if the parties lived together the respondent should receive only a sum of Rs. 5 per mensem. This decree was confirmed by the District Judge on appeal. The widow has now appealed to this Court.

2. The ancient texts of Hindu law do not place upon a father a legal obligation to maintain his married daughter, but they do indicate that he is under a moral obligation to support her if she is in want. The original texts are all collected in the late Golap Chandra Sastri's work on Hindu Law (8th Edition, page 522) but it is not necessary to quote them all. The following are sufficient to show that from the earliest times Hindu La*w has recognized that there is a moral obligation on a father to support his offspring:

(1) The father, the mother, the Guru (an elderly relation worthy of respect), a wife, an offspring, poor dependents, a guest, and a religious mendicant are declared to be the group of persons who are to be maintained - Manu cited in Srikrishna's commentary on Dayabhaga.

(2) It is declared by Manu that the aged mother and father, the chaste wife, and an infant child must be maintained even by doing a hundred misdeeds - Manu cited in the Mitakshara while dealing with gifts.

(3) (A widow inheriting her husband's estate) should honour with food and presents (for their benefit) the husband's paternal uncle (and the like) venerable elderly relation, daughter's son, sister's son, and maternal uncle, as well as aged and helpless persons, guests and females (of the family) - Vrihaspathi cited in Dayabhaga, xi, i. 64.

3. These translations are accepted as being correct. The texts carry the moral obligation far beyond the limit which could be accepted in modern times, but it cannot with reason be said that there is no moral obligation on a father to support a daughter who has no other means of support, even when she has left his family on marriage. A mere moral obligation cannot, of course, be made the basis of a suit, but here the estate of the person on whom there was a moral obligation to support the respondent has passed to the appellant and the Court is called upon to decide whether the principle laid down in Janki v. Nand Ram I.L.R.(1888)All. 194 , extends to the case of a widowed daughter who has no means of subsistence.

4. In Janki v. Nand Ram I.L.R.(1888)All. 194 , a Full Bench of the Allahabad High Court held that a father was under a moral, though not a legal, obligation to maintain his widowed daughter-in-law during his lifetime and to make provision out of his self-acquired property for, her maintenance after his death and that the moral obligation became by reason of his self-acquired property having come by inheritance into the hands of his surviving son a legal obligation, enforceable by suit against the son and against the property which he had inherited. The basis of this decision was that the son took the estate, not for his own benefit, but for the spiritual benefit of his father. This principle developed out of the discussions which had taken place in Rujjomoney Dossee v. Shibchunder Mullick Hyde, Vol. 2 p. 103 and Khetramani Dasi v. Kashinath Das (1868) 2 B.L.R 15. The principle enunciated by the Allahabad High Court has been accepted by other High Courts of India and was regarded as settled law by the Privy Council in Rajanikanta Pal v. Sajani Sundaree Dasee (1933) 66 M.L.J. 148 : L.R. 61 IndAp 29 :I.L.R. 61 Cal. 221 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.

5. There are two cases reported in Strange (the Edition published in 1830, pages 83 and 90) and one in Macnaghten which support the respondent in her contention that she has a legal right to maintenance out of her father's estate. In the first of the two cases reported by Strange a Hindu left two widows, a widowed sister who had lived with him after the death of her husband, and his mother. The question was to whom should his estate go. The answer given was that the mother must be maintained and so must the sister, if left destitute by her husband. In the second case the answer was given by the Pundit. There the deceased left two wives, his mother and a sister. The answer of the Pundit was that the mother of the deceased, being otherwise unprovided for, sufficient allowance must be set apart from his estate for her maintenance and that if the deceased's sister derived nothing from her husband, the widows should jointly contribute towards her support. Both these cases were decided in 1803.

6. The case reported in Macnaghten, Vol. II, pages 117 and 118 was decided some fifteen years later in Bengal. The question there propounded was this:

A person died, leaving two sons by one wife (who died before him), and a widow and her two daughters, and subsequently to his death one of the sons died. There are now surviving a son of his first wife, and a widow and her two daughters; and supposing the widow to have received no portion of the property from her step-son, in this case, is she entitled to any share of the estate; and if so, what is the extent of her right?

The answer was in these terms:

The widow is only entitled to a proper maintenance from her step son; and if her two daughters have not been disposed of in marriage, they will also have some share of their father's wealth to defray their nuptial expenses. Should they, after marriage, be in want of maintenance, in consequence of their husband's inability to support them, they must be provided with food and raiment by their (sic). This is conformable to the Dayabhaga and other authorities.

7. If the sister of a deceased Hindu is entitled to maintenance out of his estate it is impossible to imagine on what principle maintenance can be denied to his daughter, and the case reported in Macnaghten directly supports the proposition that the daughter is entitled to maintenance, though married, when her husband is unable to support her.

8. In Venkatarazu v. Kotayya : (1912)23MLJ223 , Sadasiva Aiyar, J., expressed himself strongly in favour of the view that there is a legal obligation on a Hindu father and his family to support his destitute widowed daughter when she has not received sufficient from her deceased husband's family for her maintenance. After expressing his dissent from the decision of the Bombay High Court in Bai Mangal v. Bai Rukhmini (1898) Bom. 291, to which I shall presently refer, Sadasiva Aiyar, J., went on to say:

I concur in the opinion of J.C. Ghose, West and Buhler, Macnaghten and Strange that there is a legal obligation on the father and his family to support a destitute daughter (though she had been married away) if she could not get sufficient provision from her deceased's husband's family for her maintenance. Bhattacharya also says (page 400) that under the Hindu Law texts, widowed daughters are entitled to maintenance and 'justice requires that their right should be recognized.' The argument that by marriage she becomes a member of another family and becomes so to say, 'dead' to her own family is merely carrying legal fictions to absurd lengths. A wife is half her husband's body but you cannot on that account give double rations to the husband for his meals and give none to his wife : nor does the daughter lose her consanguineness, blood relationship to her father and her right of inheritance to him and other similar rights, simply because she becomes attached by Pinda, Gotra and Sootaka to her husband's family by marriage.

9. I am not prepared to go to the extent of concurring in the opinion here expressed that there is under Hindu Law a legal obligation on a father to support a daughter who has left his family and gone into another by reason of marriage, but I see no difficulty in extending the principle embodied in Janki v. Nand Ram I.L.R.(1888)All. 194 , to such a case, when she is in want.

10. It will be convenient here to consider the decision of the Bombay High Court in Bai Mangal v. Bai Rukhmini I.L.R.(1898)Bom. 291. There a Bench of the Bombay High Court, consisting of Parsons and Ranade, JJ., held that under Hindu Law only the unmarried daughter had a legal claim for maintenance out of her father's estate and that the married daughter must look to her husband's family for maintenance. If the husband's family is not able to maintain the widowed daughter and she returns to live with her father or brother, there is, it was said, a moral and social obligation on her father or brother, but not a legally enforce able right by which her maintenance can be claimed as a charge on her father's estate in the hands of his heir. The judgment of the Court was delivered by Ranade, J., who did not consider the principle laid down in Janki v. Nand Ram I.L.R. (1888)All. 194 . This principle was accepted by Ranade, J., sitting with Parsons, J., in Yamunabai v. Manubai I.L.R.(1899)Bom. 608, which is reported in the samf volume of the Indian Law Reports as Bai Mahgal v. Bai Rukhmini I.L.R.(1898) Bom. 291. The principle in Janki v. Nand Ram I.L.R.(1888)All. 194 , has certainly an important bearing on the question.

11. There are two Calcutta cases lo which reference should be made. In Kamini Dassee v. Chandra Pode Mondle I.L.R. (1889) Cal. 373, Banerjee, J., having accepted the principle in Janki v. Nand Ram I.L.R. (1888) All. 194 , went on to observe:

Each particular case, no doubt, has to be determined upon its own merits; in each case it will have to be determined whether having regard to the relationship, the means and various other circumstances of the party claiming maintenance, the late proprietor was, according to the principles of the Hindu law and to the usages and practice of the Hindu people, morally bound to maintain that party. It is not necessary for me to lay down any general rule on the point in this case. All that I am called upon to decide is whether the plaintiff in this case is a person whom, having regard to the circumstances of this case, her late father-in-law was morally bound to maintain.

12. In Mokhoda Dossee v. Nundo Lall Haldar I.L.R. (1900)Cal. 555, Amir Ali, J., held that a sonless widowed daughter in indigent circumstances is not entitled to separate maintenance out of the estate of her father in the hands of his heirs, but he added:

There may be cases, however, where a father maintains the daughter and the daughter's husband in his own house, and does so up to the end of his life. Under those circumstances the fact of his marrying her to a person not possessed of means to maintain his wife would cast upon him the moral obligation of maintaining both her and her husband, and in the case of a widowed daughter of maintaining her and her children. If that moral obligation rested upon him in his life time, upon his death the moral obligation would, in my opinion, become a legal obligation on the part of those taking his property.

13. This case certainly falls within the exception which Amir Ali, J., had in mind. His decision was approved of on appeal - Mokhoda Dassee v. Nundo Lall Haldar I.L.R.(1901) Cal. 278 , but his reservation was not discussed.

14. The Lahore High Court has held that a sister is bound to be maintained out of her deceased brother's estate in the hands of his heirs; Musammat Bholi Bai v. Dwarka Das I.L.R. (1924) Lah. 375. The Court accepted a statement in Mulla which I shall quote in a moment as correctly representing the law.

15. The text books on Hindu Law with two exceptions support the respondent. In addition to quoting the two cases in the second volume of his work Strange expressly states that widowed sisters, not otherwise provided for, are entitled to be maintained. (Sir T. Strange's Hindu Law, Vol. I, p. 173.) Macnaghten's view is to be gathered from the case which I have already quoted. Mulla says:

An heir is legally bound to provide, out of the estate which descends to him, maintenance for those persons whom the late proprietor was legally or morally bound to maintain. The reason is that the estate is inherited subject to the obligation to provide for such maintenance. (Mulla's Principles of Hindu Law, 9th Edition, p. 582).

16. Mulla also says:

A father is bound to maintain his unmarried daughters. On the death of the father they are entitled to be maintained out of his estate. A daughter on marriage ceases to be a member of her father's family, and becomes a member of her husband's family.... If she is unable to obtain maintenance from her husband, or after his death from his family, her father, if he has got separate proper y of his own, is under a moral, though not a legal obligation to maintain her. (Mulla's Principles of Hindu Law, 9th Edition, p. 584).

Ghose states that a female is entitled to be maintained by her father's family, if her husband's family is extinct, or incapable on account of extreme poverty, to support her. (Ghose's Principles of Hindu Law,. 10th Edition, p. 305.) He also points out that the sonless widowed daughter and grand daughter and sister come back to the family of the father according to Medhatithi. (Ghose's Principles of Hindu Law, 10th Edition, p. 310.) As Mayne observes Medhatithi's work is the earliest commentary extant on Manu and is frequently referred to as of high authority and mentioned in the Mitakshara and Smritichandrika. (Mayne on Hindu Law and Usage, 10th Edition,, p. 43.) Sircar expresses the opinion that a married daughter is ordinarily to be maintained in her husband's family, but if they are unable to maintain her, she is entitled to be maintained in her father's family. (Sircar's Hindu Law, 8th Edition, p. 534). West and Buhler quote with approval the decisions in the two cases reported by Strange. (West and Buhler's Hindu Law, 4th Edition, p. 241). Before the decision in Bai Mangal v. Bai Rukhmini I.L.R. (1898) Bom. 291, Mayne was of the same opinion but the learned author of the next edition accepted that decision as being correct and altered his opinion accordingly, This view has been maintained in the latest edition. (Mayne's Hindu Law and Usage, 10th Edition, p. 825.) Gour's Hindu Code also accepts the Bombay case as deciding the point (4th edition, page 322).

17. The decision in Janki v. Nand Ram I.L.R(1888) All. 194 must now be accepted as embodying a rule of Hindu Law and as there is a moral obligation on a father to support his daughter, whether married or unmarried, I can see no valid reason for refusing to apply the rule to a widowed daughter who is penniless. The only distinction between a widowed daughter-in-law and a widowed daughter is that on her marriage the daughter passes into another family, but the moral obligation of the father to support her when in want still remains and the same reasoning which led to the rule in Janki v. Nand Ram I.L.R. (1888) All. 194 , being laid down applies. The decisions reported in Strange and Macnaghten provide additional reasons for applying it and most of the learned authors of works on Hindu Law have accepted it. The right to maintenance which was claimed in the cases reported in Strange and Macnaghten was not based on the reasoning to be found in Janki v. Nand Ram I.L.R. (1888) All. 194 , but the right was clearly recognised. It is not necessary to consider how far the rule extends, but obviously it could not be extended to the Guru, guest, religious mendicant, or an aged and helpless person who is in no sense a member of the family and could only be the object of charity. There is, however, ample authority for applying the rule in this case Consequently I hold that a widowed daughter in the position of the respondent in this case is entitled to maintenance out of her father's estate in the hands of his widow and I would dismiss the appeal with costs.

Krishnaswami Aiyangar, J.

18. I agree.

Somayya, J.

19. I agree.


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