An unmarried daughter of a Hindu is entitled to receive maintenance from her estranged father, even if she is not an Indian citizen and is residing in a foreign country, the Bombay high court held recently.
A division bench of justice Abhay Oka and justice Ashok Bhangale has held that the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 applies to any child, legitimate or illegitimate, both of whose parents are Hindu, Buddhists, Jain or Sikhs by religion.
“The applicability of the said Act does not depend upon the nationality or domicile of the child,” the bench observed, while rejecting a petition filed by a Pune resident, challenging a family court order directing him to pay a monthly sum of Rs 10,000 to his estranged daughter towards maintenance.
The petitioner father had challenged the family court order on the ground that his estranged daughter had attained majority, apart from the fact that she was a British national and residing in UK. The high court rejected the contention, observing that the law imposes responsibility on the person who is Hindu by religion, and the applicability of the enactment did not depend on the nationality or domicile of the child seeking maintenance.
The court also rejected the petitioner father’s challenge to the constitutional validity of Section 2 of the Act, which imposes an obligation on a Hindu father to maintain his sons till they attain majority, and daughters till the time they are married – even after attaining majority – if they are not able to maintain themselves out of their own earnings.
He had contended that the provision violated the constitutional principle of equality and amounted to discrimination between sons and daughters. He argued that if a father is under no obligation to maintain his major son, there is no reason why he should be compelled to maintain his unmarried daughter, even after she attains majority.
The court rejected the contention that two equals were being treated unequally, and therefore it amounted to discrimination. The bench observed that unmarried sons and unmarried daughters form two completely different classes, in view of the peculiar position of the daughter, particularly unmarried daughter, in Hindu society.