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Widowed Daughter-In-Law Can Claim Maintenance From Father-In-Law If She Is Unable To Obtain Maintenance From Her Husband’s Estates: Chhattisgarh High Court

The Chhattisgarh High Court has upheld that a widowed daughter-in-law can claim maintenance from her father-in-law if she is unable to obtain maintenance from her husband’s estate through a Division Bench of Justices Goutam Bhaduri and Deepak Kumar Tiwari  in the case of Nand Kishore Lal v. Shrimati Chanchala Lal (FAM No. 200 of 2015)

FACTS OF THE CASE:

On 11-7-2008, the respondent married the appellant’s son. The respondent’s husband died on June 21, 2012. According to the respondent’s side, after her husband died, there was a significant change in the behavior of her in-laws toward her, and she was nearly abandoned in the family. She was then escorted to her parents’ house. The respondent further claimed that her husband’s bank passbook and ATM card were kept by her in-laws. The respondent also claimed that the appellant owned 11.78 acres of ancestral property and 3.97 acres of agricultural land. In addition, three shops and a house in various locations where her late husband’s right is also vested. According to the respondent, she had no source of income to support herself, hence a monthly maintenance allowance of Rs. 7,000/- was claimed.

After reviewing the evidence, the family Court directed the appellant to pay Rs. 2,500/- per month for the respondent’s maintenance in the order under appeal. The appellant filed an appeal against the said order because he was dissatisfied with it.

JUDGEMENT:

The prosecution claimed that the document filed before the High Court under Order 41 Rule 27 of the CPC shows that the lands have already been recorded in the respondent’s name. As a result, it was suggested that she could earn a living from such properties, and thus the father-in-law could not be forced to pay the maintenance.

The respondent claimed that she is unable to support herself and that the property held by the appellant as a manager is a coparcenary property in which the respondent’s late husband’s right was vested. He further claimed that because the sum of maintenance was not paid from her husband’s inheritance, she was entitled to maintenance from her father-in-law.

It was held that as per  Section 19 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, a widowed daughter-in-law can claim maintenance only if she is unable to support herself from her earnings, the estate of her husband, her father or mother, or her son or daughter, if any, or his or her estate. The right to maintenance by a widowed daughter-in-law is conditional. The Court also clarified that the father-in-law, who owns coparcenary property in which the widowed daughter-in-law has no share, has the right to maintenance from him. That would, however, be limited to the father-in-law’s share of coparcenary property in his hand, in which the widowed daughter-in-law has not taken any share.

The Court determined that the widowed daughter-in-law has a preferential right under Section 19 sub-section (1)(a) to claim maintenance first from her husband’s estate and then from her father or mother. Though the word ‘or’ is used in Section, which gives a widow the right to claim from either of the people listed in Section, the Section is divided into parts (a) and (b) (b). As a result, there are preferential precedents that give widows an option. As a result,  the estate of the husband comes first in claiming maintenance from the widow.

Thus, the Court was of the view that the estate of the husband can be preferred to claim over the father or mother of the daughter-in-law. Consequently, it was held that the daughter-in-law would be entitled to claim maintenance from the father-in-law.

In light of the foregoing, the appeal was dismissed.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY REETI SHETTY

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