‘Father has duty to maintain and pay for education, wedding of daughters even if they are earning’

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court has held in a case titled ‘Poonam Sethi v/s Sanjay Sethi’ that a father has a duty to maintain his daughters and take care of their education and marriage even if they have attained majority and are employed and earning income
A Division Bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh said that there is a distinction between earning an income and the ability to maintain themselves.
An individual could be making money but still be unable to maintain himself/herself, the Court said.
“A father has a duty and an obligation to maintain his daughters and to take care of their expenses, including towards their education and marriage. This obligation is legal and absolute in character and arises from the very existence of the relationship between the parties. Kanya Daan is a solemn and pious obligation of a Hindu Father, from which he cannot renege,” the Court said.
The Court was dealing with an appeal filed by mother of three children claiming that for the last 11 years she had been raising them on her own with no financial help from the father.
The appeal was against an order of the Family Court which directed the father to pay maintenance for the minor son but refused any relief with regard to maintenance of two daughters who were above 18 years of age.
The counsel appearing for the father placed his reliance on the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 to state that the maintenance is restricted to the unemployed and dependent daughters. He further argued that there is no provision in the Hindu Marriage Act either that obligates him to pay maintenance of the daughters and wife once they are earning.
However, the High Court disagreed and said that earning money need to necessarily mean the person is able to maintain himself/ herself.
Citing several judgments of the apex court and the Delhi High Court, the judges said that the view taken by the Family Court is not supported by the established precedents.
“As regards the daughters, we are not in agreement with the learned Principal Judge, Family Court when it holds that as the daughters were majors on the date of filing the application, they were not entitled to any maintenance. The daughters may be of majority age today. However, the Respondent is still their father. He cannot simply resile from that relationship, and the accompanying legal and moral obligation, and state that he will not take care of them. The father’s duty to maintain his unmarried daughters, including his duty to provide for their marriage is clearly recognized by the law,” the bench held.
The Court said that even if an unmarried daughter is employed and earning an income, it cannot be assumed that she has the resources to meet her matrimonial expenses.