Step-parent not liable to maintain the minor child

Gujarat High Court-
Deciding on an important issue as to whether minor stepdaughter is entitled to
claim maintenance under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Code)
from her stepmother on the demise of the natural father of the stepdaughter,
the bench of J.B Pardiwala, J, held that the language used in Section 125 of
the Code is plain and unambiguous and the words “legitimate or illegitimate” as
used in Section 125 must, therefore, be presumed to carry its plain literal
meaning in the absence of any evidence that it was intended to mean something
else or include a stepchild also. The Court reasoned relying on CST, Uttar Pradesh v. Parson Tools and
Plants, Kanpur (1975) 4 SCC 22, observed that it is not open to this Court
to supply omission by extending the meaning of the words “legitimate or
illegitimate child” in the guise of interpretation by implication only because
this Court feels that it will be in conformity with the principles of social
justice and equity.

In the instant
case, the son of the respondent retained the custody of his minor daughter
after divorcing his wife from first marriage. Later, son of the respondent
married the petitioner. He, unfortunately passed away leaving the custody of
the minor child with the petitioner. However, respondent 2 applied for the
custody of the minor child which was accordingly granted to him by the learned
Additional District Judge, Bhavnagar.
Respondent 2 received a huge amount from L.I.C. on the demise of the father of
minor child. The said application has been filed by respondent 2 on behalf of
the minor child to seek maintenance from her step mother.

The Court while
reasoning also stated that the petitioner should not be saddled with the
responsibility of maintaining her step daughter, especially when her natural
mother is alive and is ready and willing to take care of the minor child. The
Court discussed in detail the meaning of expressions ‘mother’ and ‘step mother’
taking help of catena of cases. The Court hence quashed the order of the
Principal Judge, Family Court and also highlighted that the Code is secular in
nature and is applicable to all persons belonging to all religions and has no
relationship with the personal law of the parties.[ Manjulaben Prakshbhai
Sarvaiya v. State of Gujarat, Special Criminal Application (Maintenance) No.
2666 of 2015, decided on 8.10.2015]
Source: Legal news India