Tag Archives: Blood Relations

‘Mother’ and ‘Stepmother’ – Status of

In Kirtikant D. Vadodaria v. State of Gujarat, (1996) 4 SCC 479, it was held as under:

“The expressions ‘mother’ and ‘stepmother’ have not been defined either in the Criminal Procedure Code or in the General Clauses Act, 1897. These expressions have also not been defined by the Hindu Law or the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 or by any other law. All that the explanation attached to Section 20 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 provides is that the expression ‘parent’ includes a childless stepmother. On a conspectus view of dictionary meaning of the two expressions – ‘mother’ and ‘stepmother’ in various dictionaries, it clearly emerges that there is inherent distinction between the status of a ‘mother’ and ‘stepmother’ and they are two distinct and separate entities and both could not be assigned the same meaning. The expression ‘mother’ clearly means only the natural mother who has given birth to the child and not the one who is the wife of one’s father by another marriage.

A stepmother is one who is taken as a wife by the father of the child other than the one from whom he is born or who has given birth to him. This clearly goes to show that the woman who gives birth to a child and another woman who is taken by the father as his ‘other’ wife are two distinct and separate entities in the eyes of law and who in common parlance are known and recognized as real ‘mother’ and ‘stepmother’. That being so, another woman who is taken as a wife by the father of the child cannot be given the status of a mother to the child born from another woman as there is no blood relation between the two”. Ajay Singh Maurya v. State of Uttarakhand, 2016 (150) FLR 920.

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Expression – Relative of the Husband

The expression “relative of the husband” has been used in Section 498-A I.P.C. While interpreting the said expression, the Hon’ble Apex Court in U. Suvetha v. State, (2009) 6 SCC 757 held it to mean a person related by blood, marriage or adoption. In the absence of any statutory definition, the term ‘relative’ must be assigned a meaning as is commonly understood. Ordinarily it would include father, mother, husband or wife, son, daughter, brother, sister, nephew or neice, grandson or granddaughter of an individual or the spouse of any person. The meaning of the word ‘relative‘ would depend upon the nature of the Statute. It principally includes a person related by blood, marriage or adoption.
The expression “relative of the husband” further came up for consideration in Vijeta Gajra v. State, (2010) 11 SCC 618 and while approving the decision in U. Suvetha v. State, (2009) 6 SCC 757, it was held that the word relative would be limited only to the blood relations or the relations by marriage. It was held as under:
“Relying on the dictionary meaning of the word ‘relative’ and further relying on P. Ramanatha Aiyar’s Advanced Law Lexicon (Vol. 4, 3rd Edn.), the court went on to hold that Section 498-A IPC being a penal provision would deserve strict construction and unless a contextual meaning is required to be given to the Statute, the said Statute has to be construed strictly. On that behalf the court relied on the judgment in T. Ashok Pai v. CIT, (2007) 7 SCC 162. A reference was made to the decision in Shivcharan Lal Verma v. State of M.P., (2007) 15 SCC 369. After quoting from various decisions, it was held that reference to the word ‘relative’ in Section 498-A IPC would be limited only to the blood relations by marriage.”
It is a well known rule of construction that when the legislature uses the same words in different parts of the Statute, the presumption is that those words have been used in the same sense, unless displaced by the context. Hence, the expression “relative of the husband” in Section 304-B IPC would mean such persons, who are related by blood, marriage or adoption. State of Punjab v. Gurmit Singh, (2014) 9 SCC 632.

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