Whether Adult Unmarried Daughters are Entitled to Maintenance U/S. 125 CrPC.
Updated: Aug 22
[The article is authored by Amrin Aslam Khan, Advocate based out of Mumbai.]
Judiciary in India has time and again come with the Judgments which although do not literally interpret the provisions of a law but are successful in achieving the objectives of that law. One such example is the purposive interpretation of Section 125 of CrPC[i] which provides for Order for Maintenance of Wife, Children and Parents[ii]. This section primarily focuses on giving economic protection to wife, children and parents who are not capable to sustain themselves and are being neglected and refused to be given maintenance. A thorough reading of this provision clarifies that as far as children are concerned, they must be either minor; or physically or mentally incapable to maintain themselves in order to attract the benefits of this provision. Strict interpretation of this provision excludes adult unmarried daughters from the scope of this provision. However, most of the girls in India even after coming at the age of majority are not able to maintain themselves. There are a number of reasons behind this such as low literacy rate, societal stereotypes, employment inequalities and last but not the least growing rate of crimes against women. Further, there are a number of cases where daughters are being physically and mentally harassed and tortured by their own fathers. This grave situation has raised a question before the Judiciary, “whether unmarried daughters who have attained the age of majority but are not capable to maintain themselves are also entitled to get maintenance under section 125 CrPC?” This Article aims to throw some light on how Judiciary has answered this question through purposive interpretation of Section 125 CrPC.
Purpose of Section 125 CrPC:
The people given protection under this section include wife; minor children whether legitimate or illegitimate including minor married daughter in cases where husband is not economically providing for her; children who have attained the age of majority but due to mental or physical incapability or injury are unable to maintain themselves; and parents. Strict interpretation of this section excludes the children who are physically and mentally sound and who have attained the age of majority that is 18 years as per Indian Majority Act, 1875. Hence, Adult unmarried daughters will be considered to be excluded as per strict interpretation. However, excluding adult unmarried daughters from scope of this section is against the purpose of this Section.
Supreme Court has explained its scope and purpose in a number of cases. In Dwarika Prasad Satpathy v. BidyutPrava Dixit[iii], it was observed that this provision is a measure of social justice extended to protect women and children; the object is to prevent vagrancy and destitution. Similarly, in Ramesh Chandra Kaushal v. VeenaKaushal& Ors.[iv], it was held that, “Section 125 CrPC is a measure for social justice and is specially enacted to protect women and children and falls within the constitutional sweep of Article 15(3) reinforced by Article 39A of the Constitution of India. It is meant to achieve a social purpose.”
Hence, the purpose of this section is to prevent women and children from destitution and homelessness and to provide social justice to weaker sections of society. As stated before, many unmarried daughters are dependent on their fathers. Not giving legal protection to them will deprive them of food, clothes and home. Even after becoming major, they are indeed a part of the weaker section of our society who needs protection under Article 15(3) of the Constitution of India. Exclusion of them will deprive them of the benefits which the Constitution and the legislation want to provide them.
Whether adult unmarried daughters of Muslim Parents are entitled to maintenance under section 125 CrPC?
This question was answered in affirmative by the Supreme Court in Noor Saba Khatoon v. Mohammed Quasim[v]. Supreme Court observed that both statutory provisions as well as Personal Law allow Muslim daughters to get maintenance till they get married even after attaining majority.
Hon’ble Court took aid of Muslim Personal Law. It is laid down in Muslim Personal Law that daughters are entitled to maintenance from their father till they get married and if they are divorced or widow then till they get remarried. Hon’ble Court quoted excerpt from Prof. TahirMahmood’s book "Statute-Law relating to Muslims in India"[vi]. It reads, “By Muslim law maintenance (nafaqa) is a birth right of children and an absolute liability of the father. Daughters are entitled to maintenance till they get married if they are bakira (maiden), or till they get remarried if they are thaviba (divorce/widow). Sons are entitled to till they attain bulugh if they are normal; and as long as necessary if they are handicapped or indigent. Providing maintenance to daughters is a great religious virtue.” Although Section 125 CrPC literally excludes the daughters who have attained majority from getting maintenance, Court held that Muslim daughters are entitled to maintenance till they get married.
In this case, Judiciary instead of strictly interpreting section 125 CrPC word by word, tried to interpret it with the help of Muslim Personal Law. The intention was indeed to achieve the purpose of the said section.
Whether adult unmarried daughters of Hindu Parents are entitled to maintenance under section 125 CrPC?
In cases of Hindu Unmarried Daughters, Judiciary has interpreted section 125 CrPC in the light of The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956. Section 20 (3)[vii] of this Act provides that it is the moral and legal duty of a father to maintain his daughter till she gets married. Therefore, irrespective of the fact that Section 125 CrPC only provides protection to minor children or children who are physically or mentally incapable, Hindu unmarried daughters who have attained majority shall still get maintenance as per section 20(3) of The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956. Even when application is only filed under section 125CrPC and not under Section 20(3) of The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, then also Judiciary has allowed maintenance in order to avoid multiplicity of judicial proceedings.
In T. Vimala v. S. Ramakrishnan[viii] it was observed that, “No doubt, Section 125 Cr.P.C. is not happily worded, since it has prescribed certain riders for a daughter or son who has attained majority to claim maintenance from their father. They must establish that they are under physical disability or they are suffering out of injury. There may be cases, where a daughter or a son, even after having attained majority, may not have sufficient financial capacity to maintain themselves and they continue to need the support of their father. This is a reality of the situation. But, the Court cannot simply put the blame on the draftsman. Court must interpret the law. It should advance the cause of justice. That will be March of law.” Hence, the Hon’ble Court in said Judgment took aid of Section 20(3) of The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 and Supreme Court’s decision in JagdishJugtawat v. ManjuLata[ix] and held that daughters are entitled to maintenance even after attaining age of majority. Similar decision was made by Bombay High Court in Agnes Lily Irudaya v. IrudayaKaniArasan[x].
Not Allowing Maintenance is also a Mental Injury:
As per Section 125(1)(c) of CrPC, adult Children with any physical or mental abnormality or injury shall be given maintenance. Madras High Court in R. KirubaKanmani v. L. Rajan[xi]while interpreting the word mental injuryobserved that not allowing maintenance to adult unmarried daughter also amounts to mental injury. It held that, “mental injury is nothing but malice in law which can be gathered on the basis of violation of a legal right to claim maintenance vested under any law for the time being in force including Section 125 of CrPC. If the right to claim maintenance of the daughter is infringed, definitely it can be called as a injury which can very well be fit into the definition of mental injury.”
To conclude we can say that purposive interpretation of section 125 CrPC is helping to provide social justice to unmarried daughters who would have been neglected and lost in its literal and strict interpretation. It is indeed due to the march of Judiciary and its pro-active role that adult unmarried daughters are held to be entitled to get maintenance. Certainly, it should not be ignored that unmarried daughters are one of the weakest parts of our society. They are facing harassment and they are forced to remain silent due to their economic, social and emotional dependency. Strict interpretations of laws and unfriendly legal procedure will further discourage them from asking for any legal remedy. They need legal protection on time. Justice delayed can turn the entire course of their lives. Hence, provision for maintenance which was included in Criminal Law for providing quick remedy should be applied in a manner that the victim get quick remedy and this provision should be interpreted in a manner that it progresses with the needs of society. Certainly, “All law must progress or it must perish in the esteem of man.”
[i]Code of Criminal Procedure
[ii] Code of Criminal Procedure. 125(1) Section 125 (1) of Code of Criminal Procedure reads as follows: 125. Order for maintenance of wives, children and parents: (1) If any person having sufficient means neglects or refuses to maintain- (a) his wife, unable to maintain herself, or (b) his legitimate or illegitimate minor child, whether married or not, unable to maintain itself, or (c) his legitimate or illegitimate child (not being a married daughter) who has attained majority, where such child is, by reason of any physical or mental abnormality or injury unable to maintain itself, or (d) his father or mother, unable to maintain himself or herself, a Magistrate of the first class may, upon proof of such neglect or refusal, order such person to make a monthly allowance for the maintenance of his wife or such child, father or mother, at such monthly rate not exceeding five hundred rupees in the whole, as such Magistrate thinks fit, and to pay the same to such person as the Magistrate may from time to time direct: Provided that the Magistrate may order the father of a minor female child referred to in clause (b) to make such allowance, until she attains her majority, if the Magistrate is satisfied that the husband of such minor female child, if married, is not possessed of sufficient means. [iii] Dwarika Prasad Satpathy v. BidyutPrava Dixit  AIR (SC), p.3348. [iv] Ramesh Chandra Kaushal v. Veena Kaushal & Ors.  AIR (SC), p.1807. [v] Noor Saba Khatoon vs. Mohammed Quasim  SCC 6 p.323. [vi]Mahmood, T., 1995, Statute-Law relating to Muslims in India. [vii]The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956. 20. “20. Maintenance of children and aged parents.— (1) Subject to the provisions of this section a Hindu is bound, during his or her lifetime, to maintain his or her legitimate or illegitimate children and his or her aged or infirm parents. (2) A legitimate or illegitimate child may claim maintenance from his or her father or mother so long as the child is a minor. (3) The obligation of a person to maintain his or her aged or infirm parent or a daughter who is unmarried extends in so far as the parent or the unmarried daughter, as the case may be, is unable to maintain himself or herself out of his or her own earnings or other property. Explanation.—In this section “parent” includes a childless step-mother.” [viii] T. Vimala v. S. Ramakrishnan  SCC Online Mad., p.12324 [ix] Jagdish Jugtawat v. Manju Lata  SCC 5, p.422. [x] Agnes Lily Irudaya v. Irudaya Kani Arasan  SCC Online Bom., p.617. [xi]R. KirubaKanmani v. L. Rajan (Cri.O.P.No.15336 of 2019, Madras High Court)
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