Marriage Expenses Not Dowry

Excerpt:
The amount payable towards marriage expenses, according to us, has no characteristics of dowry within the meaning of Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. Dowry under the aforesaid Act refers to a property or a valuable security given by a party to marriage or his or her parents to the other party to the marriage or his parents. Amounts spent or payable towards marriage of a daughter is no way a payment of dowry, which the Dowry Prohibition Act prohibits. Therefore, the argument that marriage expenses claimed by the respondent would tantamount to payment of dowry does not merit acceptance under law.
Kerala High Court
Gopalakrishnan vs Gopalakrishnan on 14 March, 2019
             IN THE HIGH COURT OF KERALA AT ERNAKULAM

                                PRESENT

            THE HONOURABLE MR.JUSTICE C.K.ABDUL REHIM

                                   &

             THE HONOURABLE MR.JUSTICE T.V.ANILKUMAR

    THURSDAY ,THE 14TH DAY OF MARCH 2019 / 23RD PHALGUNA, 1940

                         OP (FC).No. 73 of 2019

 I.A.NO.2790/2018 IN O.P.NO.331/2018 of FAMILY COURT, MAVELIKKARA
                        DATED 23-01-2019



PETITIONER/RESPONDENT:

             GOPALAKRISHNAN,
             AGED 57 YEARS,
             S/O.KUTTIY, GOGO BHAVANAM, FROM, GIGI BHAVANAM,
             ERAMALLIKKARA P.O.,
             VANAVATHUKKAKARA MURI,
             THIRUVANVANDOOR VILLAGE, ALAPPUZHA.

             BY ADV. SRI.N.K.MOHANLAL

RESPONDENT/PETITIONER:
             ASWATHY,
             AGED 31 YEARS,
             D/O.GOPALAKRISHNAN,
             PALANIKKUNNATHIL HOUSE, ARANMULA, FROM,
             GIGI BHAVANAM, ERAMALLIKKARA P.O.,
             VANAVATHUKKAKARA MURI, THIRUVANVANDOOR VILLAGE,
             ALAPPUZHA.



THIS OP (FAMILY COURT) HAVING BEEN FINALLY HEARD ON 14.2.2019,
THE COURT ON 14.03.2019 DELIVERED THE FOLLOWING:
 OP (FC).No. 73 of 2019       : 2   :

                         C.K.ABDUL REHIM
                                     &
                         T.V.ANILKUMAR, JJ.
                      ---------------------------------
                       O.P.(FC)No.73 of 2019
                     ----------------------------------
              Dated this the 14th day of March, 2019


                          JUDGMENT

T.V.ANILKUMAR,J.

Father of an unmarried girl aged 31 years challenges the order dated 23.1.2019 of the Family Court, Mavelikkara in I.A.No.2790/2018 in O.P.No.331/2018 awarding an amount of `1 lakh towards the claim for her marriage expenses. The respondent, daughter filed O.P.No.331/2018 for a decree directing payment of marriage expenses to the tune of `10 lakhs, claimed under various heads of expenditure. After the petitioner having entered appearance in the original petition, she moved before the court below for award of an interim relief, claiming marriage expenses to the tune of `5 lakhs. The petitioner seriously opposed the plea. But the court below, negativing all his objections, directed the petitioner to pay a lesser amount of `1 lakh towards marriage expenses of the respondent, daughter, pending final disposal of the O.P. The said order is under challenge.

2. There is no denial that the respondent is the daughter of the petitioner. When the petitioner and respondent’s mother fell out in their matrimonial relationship, he sued her for divorce in the Family Court and the litigation is now pending in appeal. Ever since the petitioner’s strained relationship with his wife, the daughter has been in the company of the mother all these years. According to her, her marriage was proposed with one Mr.Vysakh Kumar, Eraviperoor Village, on 3.2.2019. Therefore she is badly in need of minimal marriage expenses to the tune of `5 lakhs, as an interim relief. According to her, she has no other source of income and her mother is also equally in impecunious circumstances.

3. According to the respondent, the petitioner is a retired Army person getting substantial amount of `50,000/- towards pension. He had worked as a security guard in the State Bank of Travancore, from where also he has earned a substantial amount of income.

4. The petitioner opposed respondent’s claim on four grounds, namely (i) He is suffering from Cerebral Micro Angiopathy and is being treated for the disease. Without the support of a bystander, he cannot pursue his daily affairs. (ii) Respondent, daughter is earning `20,000/- every month as a Pharmacist of CM Hospital, Pandalam and therefore she is dis entitled to any maintenance. (iii) Since the daughter is living separately from him for no justifiable reasons, she is not entitled to claim marriage expenses under law, and lastly (iv) The claim for marriage expenses advanced by her takes the characteristic features of ‘dowry’ defined under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.

5. The court below, after considering contentions of both parties, found that the father is liable to meet the marriage expenses of the respondent since she has no sufficient means to support herself from any source of her own. The medical ground urged by the petitioner was not accepted as if it was not proved before the court below. The contention that marriage expenses payable by a father to a daughter virtually amounts to dowry was also rejected by the court below.

6. We heard the counsel appearing on both sides.

7. The liability of a father to maintain his daughter does not depend on his financial position or status and it is quite independent of possession of any properties or assets with him. Marriage expenses are part of maintenance amount as defined by Section 3 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956. Therefore a father has statutory obligation to meet the marriage expenses of his daughter, so long as she is unable to maintain herself. The amount payable towards marriage expenses, according to us, has no characteristics of dowry within the meaning of Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. Dowry under the aforesaid Act refers to a property or a valuable security given by a party to marriage or his or her parents to the other party to the marriage or his parents. Amounts spent or payable towards marriage of a daughter is no way a payment of dowry, which the Dowry Prohibition Act prohibits. Therefore, the argument that marriage expenses claimed by the respondent would tantamount to payment of dowry does not merit acceptance under law.

8. Equally unsound is the argument of the learned counsel for the petitioner that the separate residence of the respondent from the father will disentitle her to claim marriage expenses. Under Section 23(2)(c) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, the claimant who lives separately without any justification is generally disentitled to claim maintenance from her parent. But here, the respondent has an explanation that ever since petitioner’s relationship with her mother strained, she has been continuing in the company of her mother. We do not think that the justification offered by her is without merit.

9. It may be true that the petitioner is undergoing treatment for some sort of disease. But that does not excuse him from discharging his statutory liability to an unmarried daughter. He is admittedly a pensioner who was formerly in Military service and later a security guard in a Bank. These facts would prima facie prove that he has sufficient means to make payment of interim marriage expenses of the respondent as fixed by the court below. There is no evidence to prove that the respondent has got any independent source of income of her own, though there is an allegation against her that she is a Pharmacist attached to a particular hospital. In an interlocutory proceeding claiming marriage expenses, the court is concerned only with establishment of a prima facie case by the claimant based on the available materials before the court. Applying the test of prima facie case, we are satisfied that the respondent has no source of income and the father/petitioner has sufficient means to meet the marriage expenses of his daughter, to the extent fixed by the impugned order.

10. We are satisfied that the court below has taken a very reasonable and balanced view in the matter and the impugned order does not consequently call for any interference on factual or legal grounds. We are inclined to confirm the order and dismiss the original petition. However, taking a lenient view to the petitioner, we are inclined to permit him to make payment of `1 lakh awarded by the court below in two equal installments.

In the result, confirming the impugned order of the Family Court, Mavelikkara in I.A.No.2790/2018 in O.P.No. 331/2018, we dismiss this O.P. The petitioner shall pay the amount of `1 lakh ordered, in two equal installments falling due on or before 31.3.2019 and 30.4.2019.

Sd/-

C.K.ABDUL REHIM JUDGE Sd/-

T.V.ANILKUMAR, JUDGE Bb APPENDIX PETITIONER’S/S EXHIBIT P2 EXHIBITS:

A TRUE COPY OF THE STATEMENT OF OBJECTION I.A.NO.2790/2018 IN OP NO.331/2018 BEFORE THE HON’BLE FAMILY COURT, MAVELIKKARA EXHIBIT P3 A TRUE COPY OF THE ORDER DATED 23/1/2019 IN IA NO.2790/2018 IN OP NO. 331/2018 BEFORE HON’BLE FAMILY COURT, MAVELIKKARA.

EXHIBIT P4 A TRUE COPY OF THE MEDICAL CERTIFICATE DATED 5/1/2019 ISSUED BY MUTHOOT HEALTH CARE PRIVATE LTD.

EXHIBIT P5 A TRUE COPY OF THE MEDICAL CERTIFICATE DATED 7/6/2016 ISSUED BY MEDICAL COLLEGE HOSPITAL, KOTTAYAM IN CONNECTION WITH NEURO AILMENT.

EXHIBIT P6 A TRUE COPY OF THE CERTIFICATE DATED 22/12/2018 ISSUED BY VILLAGE OFFICER, THIRUVANVANDOOR.

RESPONDENT’S EXHIBITS:

NIL //True Copy// P.A. To Judge Bb