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Suja Merine Thomas vs Krishna Pillai on 19 December, 2019

IN THE HIGH COURT OF KERALA AT ERNAKULAM

PRESENT

THE HONOURABLE MR.JUSTICE C.T.RAVIKUMAR

THE HONOURABLE MR.JUSTICE N.NAGARESH

THURSDAY, THE 19TH DAY OF DECEMBER 2019 / 28TH AGRAHAYANA, 1941

Mat.Appeal.No.1115 OF 2014

AGAINST THE JUDGMENT IN OP 1671/2012 DATED 18-09-2014 OF FAMILY
COURT, NEDUMANGAD

APPELLANT:

SUJA MERINE THOMAS
(WRONGLY REFERRED TO AS ‘SUJA RAJENDRAN’ IN THE CAUSE
TITLE OF THE IMPUGNED JUDGMENT)D/O.THOMAS, AGED 47
YEARS,PADMA NIVAS, PANTHA POST,VEERANAKAVU VILLAGE
NOW R/A.JIJO NIVAS, T C 3/1126(11)SR NAGAR,
PATTOM P O, THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

BY ADV. SRI.BINDU SREEKUMAR

RESPONDENT:

KRISHNA PILLAI
AGED 65 YEARS,S/O.NARAYANA PILLAI, MANIMANDIRAM,
PANTHA P O, VAZHICHAL, THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

R1 BY ADV. SRI.T.RAJASEKHARAN NAIR

THIS MATRIMONIAL APPEAL HAVING BEEN FINALLY HEARD ON
26.09.2019, THE COURT ON 19.12.2019 DELIVERED THE FOLLOWING:
Mat. Appeal No.1115 OF 2014

2

JUDGMENT

~~~~~~~~~

Dated this the 19th day of December, 2019

Nagaresh, J.

The appellant, who is widow of late Rajendran, has

filed this appeal aggrieved by the judgment in O.P.

No.1671/2012 of the Family Court, Nedumangad.

2. The appellant was wife of late Rajendran and the

respondent is her father-in-law. The respondent filed O.P.

No.1671/2012 in the Family Court seeking interim

maintenance. The respondent contended that he is 65 years

old and his son died. The son owned 1 Acre of rubber

plantation and 47 cents out of the said land was given by the

respondent to the son. The appellant is not paying any

amount to him towards maintenance. Apart from ₹8,000/- as
Mat. Appeal No.1115 OF 2014

3

monthly income from the plantation, his son was receiving

₹10,000/- per month from a building owned by the son at

Thiruvananthapuram. The appellant has sufficient income to

maintain him.

3. The appellant opposed the petition contending that

her husband was born to the first wife of the respondent and

the respondent was residing with his second wife and their

son, even when appellant’s husband was alive. The

respondent is a headload worker, having monthly income of

₹10,000/-. The appellant has no job or income and hence, she

is not liable to maintain the respondent. The appellant also

challenged the maintainability of the O.P.

4. The respondent filed chief affidavit. The respondent

did not adduce any oral evidence. The respondent produced

Ext.A1 Death Certificate, Exts.A2 and A3 Sale Deeds in

respect of property owned by his deceased son and Ext.A4,

copies of respondent’s treatment records.

5. On the question of maintainability of O.P., the

Family Court found that parties are admittedly Hindus and are
Mat. Appeal No.1115 OF 2014

4

governed by Hindu Adoptions and SectionMaintenance Act, 1956.

Hence, in view of Section 20 of the Act, the O.P. is

maintainable. On liability of the appellant, the Family Court

found that the appellant possesses sufficient property which

was inherited from respondent’s son. The Family Court held

that the respondent is entitled to get monthly maintenance.

The Family Court allowed the O.P. in part allowing the

respondent to recover monthly maintenance of ₹3,000/- from

04.08.2012 onwards, from the assets inherited by the

appellant.

6. The learned counsel for the appellant contends that

the Family Court failed to advert to the specific pleadings in

the case, as to maintainability of the O.P. as well as

entitlement of the respondent. The respondent has not

established that he is unable to maintain himself, so as to

claim maintenance from the appellant. The Family Court

erroneously relied on Explanation to Section 20(3) of the

Hindu Adoptions and SectionMaintenance Act, 1956 (hereinafter

referred to as ‘the Act, 1956’) to hold that the O.P. is
Mat. Appeal No.1115 OF 2014

5

maintainable. The Family Court disposed of the Original

Petition itself after hearing the arguments on maintainability,

which has resulted in grave prejudice to her, contended the

appellant’s counsel.

7. The learned counsel for the appellant further

contended that it is the appellant, being the widowed daughter-

in-law, who should be paid maintenance by her father-in-law.

In view of Section 20 of the Act, 1956, the appellant is bound

to maintain her aged parents, but not her in-laws. Section 22

of the Act, 1956 mandates the heirs of a deceased Hindu to

maintain the dependents of a deceased Hindu out of the

estate inherited from the deceased. But, Section 21 defines

‘dependent’ to mean ‘his or her father’ or ‘his or her mother’

and the provision will not take in the in-laws. Hence, the

appellant is not legally liable to maintain the respondent, who

is her father-in-law.

8. We have heard learned counsel appearing for the

appellant and the learned counsel for the respondent.

9. Going through the pleadings and the materials
Mat. Appeal No.1115 OF 2014

6

available on record, we find that those are not sufficient to

make an adjudication on merits, of the issues involved in the

case. For the respondent – father-in-law, to sustain a claim of

maintenance, it is necessary that he should establish that the

appellant was a dependent of the deceased son. The

respondent in his Original Petition averred that he has no

means of income. To the said contention, the appellant in her

objection stated that she is afflicted with blindness, but the

respondent is very healthy and is still working as a headload

worker. The respondent has not specifically denied the said

statement in his testimony.

10. The respondent has produced photocopies of

medical reports which would go to show that he is ailing from

cardiac problems. But, the respondent has no case that he is

not in receipt of any terminal/pensionary benefits from

Headload Workers Welfare Board. The consistent stand of the

appellant is that the respondent was living with his second wife

and son born in that wedlock and hence, was dependent, if at

all, on them and not on her husband. The respondent has not
Mat. Appeal No.1115 OF 2014

7

totally denied this statement. Therefore, the materials on

record are not sufficient to prove that the respondent was a

dependent on the deceased husband of the appellant.

11. As regards the argument of the appellant that in the

light of Sections 20 and Section21 of the Act, 1956, she is liable to

maintain her dependent parents alone, the said argument

cannot stand the test of law. Section 20(1) states that the

heirs of a deceased Hindu are bound to maintain ‘the

dependents of the deceased’ out of the estate inherited by

them from the deceased. Section 21 defines ‘dependents’ and

states that ‘dependents’ mean the following ‘relatives of the

deceased’:-

“(i) his or her father;

(ii) his or her mother;

(iii) his widow, so long as she does not re-marry;

(iv) his or her son or the son of his predeceased
son or the son of a predeceased son of his
predeceased son, so long as he is a minor:

PROVIDED and to the extent that he is unable to
obtain maintenance, in the case of a grandson from his
father’s or mother’s estate, and in the case of a great
Mat. Appeal No.1115 OF 2014

8

grand-son, from the estate of his father or mother or
father’s father or father’s mother;

(v) his or her unmarried daughter, or the
unmarried daughter of his predeceased son or the
unmarried daughter of a predeceased son of his
predeceased son, so long as she remains unmarried:

PROVIDED and to the extent that she is unable
to obtain maintenance, in the case of a grand-daughter
from her father’s or mother’s estate and in the case of a
great-grand-daughter from the estate of her father or
mother or father’s father or father’s mother;

(vi) his widowed daughter:

PROVIDED and to the extent that she is unable
to obtain maintenance-

(a) from the estate of her husband, or

(b) from her son or daughter if any, or his or her
estate; or

(c) from her father-in-law or his father or the
estate of either of them;

(vii) any widow of his son or of a son of his
predeceased son, so long as she does not remarry :

PROVIDED and to the extent that she is unable
to obtain maintenance from her husband’s estate, or
from her son or daughter, if any, or his or her estate; or
in the case of a grandson’s widow, also from her father-
in-law’s estate;

Mat. Appeal No.1115 OF 2014

9

(viii) his or her minor illegitimate son, so long as
he remains a minor;

(ix) his or her illegitimate daughter, so long as
she remains unmarried.”

Therefore, the argument of the appellant that she is liable to

maintain her parents only and not her in-laws, cannot be

accepted. A widow governed by the Act, 1956 is liable to

maintain her father-in-law and mother-in-law if the latter were

dependent on the deceased son, from out of the estate

inherited by her from the deceased husband. In the case on

hand, the appellant has admittedly inherited properties of her

deceased husband.

12. In view of the facts emerging from the records of the

case, we are of the opinion that the evidence on record is not

sufficient to sustain the judgment of the Family Court

impugned in this appeal. Taking into account the age of the

respondent, we are of the view that the claim of the

respondent has to be adjudicated on merits, permitting the

parties to establish their respective cases by adducing
Mat. Appeal No.1115 OF 2014

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sufficient evidence.

We, therefore, set aside the judgment dated

18.09.2014 in O.P. No.1671/2012 of the Family Court,

Nedumangad and remit the Original Petition back to the

Family Court for fresh consideration. The petitioner and

respondent in the O.P. will be at liberty to adduce additional

evidence, in support of all such contentions raised by them in

their O.P. and objection respectively, before the Family Court.

The parties shall appear before the Family Court,

Nedumangad, on 13.01.2020.

Sd/-

C.T. RAVIKUMAR, JUDGE

Sd/-

N. NAGARESH, JUDGE

aks/09.10.2019

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