1. The appellant a Hindu unmarried girl, sued her father for past maintenance from 20-12-1948 to 20-9-1958 (sic) and future maintenance from the date of the suit. Pending the suit she got employed on 1-6-1956, became a convert to Christianity and married a Christian husband on 7-7-1957. The Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, came into force in the meantime on 21-12-1956. The trial Court granted a decree for past maintenance as prayed for but restricted future maintenance upto 23-1-1957 on the erroneous assumption that the said Act came into force on that date. The rate at which maintenance xvas decreed is not material for purposes of this second appeal.
The father having appealed against the decree, the lower appellate court allowed the appeal and dismissed the suit on the view that by reason of the first plaintiff's conversion to Christianity she could no longer claim maintenance under the said Act and the Act itself had, to the extent to which it made provision, repealed Hindu law and usage relating to maintenance. Hence the second appeal by the first plaintiff.
2. Mr. K. V. Srinivasa Iver the learned counsel for the appellant, contended that as the repeal of Hindu law and usage relating to maintenance took effect only from the date on which the Act came into force, there was nothing in the Act which pendente lite extinguished the first plaintiffs right to maintenance under Hindu law in force until the date of its repeal. On the other hand, Sri. N. S. Srinivasan, the learned counsel for the respondent, urged that the right to sue for maintenance being not a vested right, the law as it stood at the date of the decree governed the rights of the parties. According to him the only law under which the first plaintiff could sustain her claim being the Act and not Hindu law which it had repealed and as by reason of her conversion the Act no longer applied to her, the suit was rightly dismissed by the lower appellate court.
3. The relevant provisions of the Act arc these :
'4. Save as otherwise expressly provided in this Art ;
(a) any text, rule or interpretation of Hindu law or any custom or usage as part of that law in force immediately before the commencement of this Act shall cease to have effect with respect to any matter for which provision is made in this, Act:
(b) any other law in force immediately before the commencement of this Act shall cease to apply to Hindus in so far as it is inconsistent with any of the provisions contained in this Act.....
20 (1). Subject to the provisions of this section, a Hindu is bound, during his or her life time, to maintain his or her legitimate or illegitimate children and his or her aged or infirm parents.
(2) A legitimate or illegitimate child may claim maintenance from his or her father or mother so long as (the child is a minor.
(3) The obligation of a person to maintain his or her aged or infirm parent or daughter who is unmarried extends in so far as the parent or the unmarried daughter, as the case may be, is unable to maintain himself or herself out of his or her own earnings or other property.
Explanation r In this section 'parent' includes a childless step-mother.
24. No person shall be entitled to claim maintenance under this chapter if he or she has ceased to be a Hindu by conversion to another religion.' The object of the Act is not merely to amend but to codify the law relating to maintenance of Hindu dependents. Section 4 provides therefore, that Hindu law and usage to the extent to which the Act has made provision for maintenance, shall cease to have effect and that all other laws inconsistent with its provi-sions shall also cease to have effect. The Act has thus an overriding effect and prevails over all other laws relating to Hindu Maintenance for which if has made provision.
On and from the date on which the Act came into force it is the provisions of the Act and not Hindu law that regulates the liability of a Hindu to provide maintenance. Section 20 enjoins that at Hindu father is bound to maintain among others, his unmarried daughter who is unable to maintain herself from her own earnings or other property. Under Hindu law, of course, the father's liability was wider and did not depend on his unmarried daughter's liability to maintain herself. Section 24, which is important for purposes of this appeal is clear that if a person ceases to be a Hindu, he or she is disentitled to claim maintenance under the Act.
4. Obviously on account of the fact that the first plaintiff ceased to be a Hindu and became a Christian, she has lost her right to claim maintenance any longer under the Act. By reason of Section 4, Hindu Law relating to maintenance is no longer in force either from 21-12-1956. The result, therefore, is that the first plaintiff is not entitled to maintenance either under the Act or Hindu law of maintenance which has ceased to exist after that date. The question then is whether her claim for the period anterior to that date is enforceable any more.
5. It seems to me that the answer to the question will depend on the nature of the right to claim maintenance. It is well settled that the right to claim maintenance is no more than a mere personal right. It is certainly not a vested right which can be assigned. A decree for maintenance fixed at a specified rate is another matter. The personal right itself stemmed from the relationship of the parties and the provisions of Hindu law relating to maintenance. Being a personal right, it cannot naturally survive the person claiming it. I think the same result will follow upon conversion of a Hindu to another religion. After ceasing to be a Hindu she or he cannot enforce his or her right to past maintenance under Hindu law. Can a Hindu daughter after her marriage bring and sustain an action to recover past maintenance? On principle and having regard to the nature of the personal right, she cannot.
6. From what I have said above, it appears to follow that when once Hindu law of maintenance ceases to operate, the right of a Hindu to claim past maintenance also ceases automatically. In my opinion, this conclusion inevitably flows from the fact that the right to claim maintenance, past or future, is not a vested right but a personal one depending on the personal law. If the personal law ceases, the personal right to sue under that law too ceases.
In other words, the continued existence of Hindu law of maintenance is the foundation on which the right to sue for maintenance is founded.
7. In this case, therefore, Hindu law of maintenance to the extent provided by the Act having ceased to have force from 21-12-1956 and as the plaintiff due to her conversion to Christianity became disentitled to claim maintenance under the Act, the lower appellate court rightly dismissed the suit. Mr. K. V. Srinivasa Iyer contended that the Act was not retrospective in its operation. But on .the view I have expressed above, the Question does not arise for consideration.
8. The second appeal fails and is dismissed.But in the circumstances, there will be no order asto costs. Leave granted.