Noting that the mother is the legal heir of her deceased daughter, the Madras High Court held that a mother is entitled to accrued maintenance arrears of the deceased daughter under Section 15(1)(c) of the Hindu Succession Act.
In this order passed on April 21, Justice V. Sivagnanam dismissed a criminal revision application by the petitioner Annudurai against an order passed by Judicial Magistrate No.II, Madurantagam. The Magistrate had allowed the petitioner’s mother-in-law to recover the maintenance arrears amounting to ₹6.2 lakh after the death of his divorced wife during the litigation.
The bench read Sub-Sections 1 and 2 of Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act and clarified that arrears of maintenance were to be considered as both movable and immovable property that one had acquired under a decree.
“As per the Transfer of Property Act, the arrears of maintenance will be in the nature of the property that is heritable. But, the right to future maintenance however, was not transferable or heritable,” the court said.
The petitioner-husband stated that the maintenance was the deceased wife’s right and that the right was extinguished with her death. He contended that since the right to claim maintenance would not have survived on the divorced wife’s death, her mother was not competent to continue the proceedings and not entitled to claim arrears of maintenance.
The bench said that under Section 15(1)(c) of the Hindu Succession Act, a mother was entitled to the property of her daughter and that principle would apply to the present case.
Therefore, the bench agreed that the respondent counsel’s submission that since a mother was entitled to the property of her daughter, in the present case, the respondent mother was entitled to the arrears of maintenance accrued till the death of her daughter.
The High Court bench stated, “In view of Section 15(1)(c) of the Hindu Succession Act, the mother is entitled to the property of her daughter. In this case, the arrears of maintenance accrued till the death of her daughter Saraswathi (wife of the petitioner). Therefore, the learned Judge rightly impleaded the mother of the deceased daughter (wife of the petitioner) in the petition for arrears of maintenance. There is no infirmity in the order passed by the learned Judge and no reason to interfere with the impugned order and no merit in the criminal revision case. Accordingly, the criminal revision case is dismissed. Consequently, connected miscellaneous petitions are closed.”
“No doubt, the right of maintenance is the wife’s personal right. The maxim “Action personalis moritur cum persona” (A personal action dies with the person) is applicable, so far as future maintenance is concerned. So far as the arrears of maintenance is concerned, it is a property of wife as per the explanation 2 Section 14 of Hindu Succession Act,” the bench said.