A Bombay High Court Bench comprising of Justice A.P. Bhangale and Justice A.S. Oka has upheld the constitutional validity of subsection 3 of section 20 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956.
It is also held that the applicability of Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 does not depend upon the nationality of the child or domicile of the child. If both the parents of the child are either Hindu or Buddhist or Jain or Sikh by religion, the said Act becomes applicable to such children.
The Petitioner, Mr. Ramesh Gajanan Rege had challenged constitutional validity of subsection 3 of section 20 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956.
The respondent daughter had filed a petition under Section 20 of the Act before the Family Court at Pune in 2005. She was 16 years old then. The petition had prayed for grant of maintenance at the rate of Rs.50, 000/per month and for issuing a direction to provide a residence to her.
The petitioner father had contended that the daughter is a British citizen and she is not domiciled in India. Apart from granting injunction against the petitioner, the Judge of the Family Court directed the petitioner to pay interim alimony of Rs.10, 000 to the daughter.
The Petitioner had then challenged the validity of Section 20 (3) of the Act, contending that it is violative of the fundamental rights of the petitioner guaranteed under Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India.
This was because sub section 3 places an obligation over a person to maintain his daughter who is unmarried when she is unable to maintain herself. He thereby submitted that there is no reason to discriminate between a son and a daughter. He urged that if a father is under no obligation to maintain unmarried son after he attains majority, there is no reason to grant such a benefit to the unmarried daughter. His submission was that there is no justifiable reason to protect only a daughter. He, therefore, urged that the provision of subsection (3) is arbitrary and is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
He urged that the said provision is also violative of Article 15 which prohibits discrimination on the ground of sex. He urged that it is unjust to put responsibility on the parents to maintain an unmarried daughter even after she attains majority as the daughter may choose to remain unmarried forever.
He also submitted that his daughter is not domiciled in India and is not a citizen of India. Therefore, the Act won’t be applicable to her. Rejecting this contention, the Court observed, “The question of applicability of the said Act is different from the territorial jurisdiction of the Court to entertain the proceedings under the said Act.”
Dismissing the contention as to violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, the Court observed, “Sub-section (3) operates independently of subsection (2). It seeks to protect an unmarried daughter even after she attains majority. A person is under an obligation to maintain his or her daughter who is unmarried and who is unable to maintain herself. The class of unmarried sons who have attained majority is completely different from the class of unmarried daughters who have attained majority. The reason being the peculiar position of a daughter and especially an unmarried daughter in Hindu society. Therefore, the argument that two equals are being treated as unequals is not at all acceptable and therefore, Article 14 will have no application.”
The Court also rejected the contention of violation of Article 15 of the Constitution of India, in view of clause (3) of Article 15.
Read the Judgment here.