Hindu father has legal and personal obligation to pay for daughter’s Marriage Expenses: Kerala High Court

Published on 11 Jan 2018 by Team

Image courtesy- Barandbench

In a recent judgement, the Kerala High Court has held that a Hindu father has a legal and personal obligation to pay towards the marriage expenses of his daughter, regardless of whether she is his legitimate or illegitimate child.

A Division Bench comprising Justices PN Ravindran and R Narayana Pisharadi held the same in an appeal filed against a Family Court verdict.

A woman had filed a petition in the Palakkad Family Court, claiming Rs. 5 lakh from a man who she claimed is her father, to meet her marriage expenses. In his counter claims, the respondent had denied paternity and also submitted that he did not have any marital relationship with the petitioner’s mother. He had, therefore, contended that he was not liable to pay for the petitioner’s marriage.

The Family Court, however, did not delve in detail into these rival contentions, after it was found that the petitioner was otherwise financially capable to meet her marriage expenses. The Court found that the petitioner had leased out two properties and was earning a rent of roughly Rs. 12,000 from the same. The petition was, thus, dismissed.

On appeal before the High Court, the petitioner contended that the lower court was wrong in concluding that she was earning money and further that she is not entitled to claim marriage expenses from the respondent.

The Court partly allowed the appeal, in view of the legal and personal obligation of a father, under the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 (Act) to provide reasonable marriage expenses for his daughter.

The Court noted that Section 20(1) of the Act broadly provides that a Hindu is bound to maintain legitimate and illegitimate children during her or his lifetime.

In this context, it was noted that the respondent’s denial of having a marital relationship with the petitioner’s mother was immaterial, given that Section 20 talks of an obligation to maintain his daughter, whether legitimate or illegitimate. The respondent was found to be the father of the petitioner by his own eventual admission as well as a DNA test.

Reference was also made to Section 20(3) of the Act, which lays down that the obligation to maintain one’s unmarried daughter extends so long as the daughter is unable to maintain herself out of her own earnings or property.

Here, maintenance of an unmarried daughter includes the reasonable expenses of and incidental to her marriage, as per Section 3(b)(ii). Therefore, it was noted,

There is a duty cast on the father to maintain the minor daughter till her marriage and to meet her marriage expenses.

With respect to the earnings of the petitioner, the High Court held that there was no reliable evidence to prove that the petitioner was earning the amount quoted by the lower court.

However, the Court went on to hold that, even assuming that the petitioner was earning Rs 12,000 as rent, it was not a sufficient ground to deny the petitioner’s claim in toto. The Court observed,

“…a person does not live by bread alone. There are other basic necessities in life. One can just imagine what amount the petitioner or her mother could have saved after meeting the day to day expenses.

The respondent has got no case that the petitioner or her mother is employed or that they have got any other source of income. In these circumstances, we have no hesitation to find that the order of the lower court rejecting the claim of the petitioner in toto is erroneous.”

Relying on Smt. Sneh Prabha v Ravinder Kumar, the Court held that daughters are entitled to get financial assistance from their father at the time of their marriage as well as for educational expenses, even if they grow up with and are maintained by their mothers.

While the petitioner’s marriage had already taken place during the pendency of Court proceedings, the Bench concurred with the Karnataka High Court’s decision in Roopa v Jallur Musturappa, in holding that,

The fact that she got married after filing the petition does not create any bar in claiming the expenses of the marriage from her father.”

Ultimately, after considering the amount spent by the petitioner/daughter as well as the financial situation of her father/respondent, the Court directed the respondent to pay a total of Rs. 2 lakh towards the marriage expenses of his daughter.

Source- Barandbench

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