The Karnataka High Court has held that a stepmother can claim maintenance from legal heirs of her deceased husband if it was proved, by way of evidence that her husband possessed substantial number of properties and that the legal heirs were extracting income from them.

The Bench of Justice K. Natarajan referred to the decision of coordinate bench of the High Court in the case of Ulleppa and Ors., Vs Smt. Gangabai and observed that “as there are huge properties held by the husband of the step mother of this petitioners and they are having income, therefore, the step-mother is also entitled for the maintenance.”

“the order of granting maintenance of Rs.25,000/- by the Family Court as interim maintenance is not sustainable and the matter is required for evidence to be recorded, documents to be marked by the petitioner/step mother in order to show her husband is having lot of properties and they are having income. Though the respondent is receiving rent of Rs.4,000/- but she is having divorced daughter and grand daughter, therefore, the petitioner requires to agitate the same before the Family Court and also she can claim maintenance in the Senior Citizen Act. Such being the case, granting Rs.25000/- per month without recording the evidence is not sustainable.” the Bench further held.

Senior Advocate Sandesh J. Chouta appeared for the petitioners and GP Mohammad Niyaz S. appeared for the respondent.

In this case, the petition was preferred by the stepchildren for setting aside and quashing the order of the Family Court whereby the petitioners were directed to pay Rs. 25,000/- per month as maintenance to their stepmother.

The Counsel for the petitioners contended that the stepmother was not covered under section 125 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC) as she was not a natural/biological mother. Therefore, she was not entitled for any maintenance under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizen Act, 2007, (Act). It was also submitted by the petitioners that the maximum amount that could be granted as maintenance was Rs 10,000/- per month.

The High Court said that even though the definition of stepmother was not defined under section 125 of CrPC but as per Section 2(d) of the Act the stepmother was covered in the definition of ‘parents’. Therefore stepmother would be entitled to maintenance, but she would have to approach the Tribunal under the Act and would also have to produce evidence and documents in order to show that her husband was having a lot of properties and the petitioners were making income out of those properties.

Considering the facts of the case, the High Court held that "The order of granting maintenance of Rs.25,000/- is hereby set aside and modified. The petitioners step mother is entitled for Rs.10,000/- per month until disposal of the case of the trial court. The family court is directed to record the evidence of the parties and decide the issue and dispose of the matter in accordance with the law, by taking into the note of Senior Citizen Act and section 125 of Cr.P.C."

Accordingly, the petition was allowed in part.

Cause Title- Khaleel Ul Rehman & Ors. v. Sharaffunnisa Muniri @ Ashaf Unnisa

Click here to read/download the Order