The Kerala High Court has held that an unmarried Hindu daughter has the legal right to claim from her father reasonable expenses for marriage. This is based on Section 20(3) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, as per which a father has the legal obligation to maintain his unmarried daughter, whether legitimate or illegitimate. ‘Maintenance’, as defined in Section 3(b)(ii) of the Act, includes reasonable expense of and incidental to marriage. Hence, the legal obligation of father extends to meeting reasonable marriage expenses.
A division bench comprising Justice PN Ravindran and Justice Narayana Pisaharadi was dealing with an appeal filed by the daughter, against the order of the family court which rejected her claim for marriage expenses. The family court rejected the claim on the ground that the daughter had independent income sufficient to meet the expenses of marriage. The family court had found that the daughter was receiving rental income of Rs.12,000/- per month, and was able to maintain herself. However, the high court disagreed with this view, and observed that ‘a person does not live by bread alone’. It was observed as follows:
One can just imagine what amount the petitioner or her mother could have saved after meeting the day to day expenses. The respondent has got no case that the petitioner or her mother is employed or that they have got any other source of income. In these circumstances, we have no hesitation to find that the order of the lower court rejecting the claim of the petitioner in toto is erroneous.
The court noted that the Supreme Court, in Sneh Prabha v Ravinder Kumar (AIR 1995 SC 2170), had held that even in case of daughters who are grown up and living with mother and maintained by mother who is employed and earning salary, they are entitled to get financial assistance from their father at the time of their marriage. It was, therefore, observed that “merely because the mother is looking after the affairs of the unmarried daughter including performance of marriage, it will not exonerate the father from his legal and personal obligation to contribute his share for that purpose”.
The court also took into account the fact that the daughter had got married during the pendency of proceedings before the family court. However, it was held that the father will, nevertheless, have the obligation to meet marriage expenses, although the daughter got married subsequent to the institution of proceedings. Reference was made to the decision of the High Court of Karnataka in Roopa v Jallur Musturappa (AIR 2006 Kar. 196), in this regard.
Nevertheless, the court scaled down the claim of Rs.5,00,000/- made and held that an amount of Rs.1,00,000/- could be regarded as reasonable in the circumstances of the case as the share due from the father. It was observed that “the fact that the petitioner lavishly spent money for her marriage was not a sufficient ground to direct the respondent to bear with that liability in whole”.