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Supreme Court Sets Conditions: Grandfather’s Liability

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The Supreme Court has outlined two essential conditions for children seeking maintenance from their grandfathers. Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, in a four-page written order, stated that for a grandfather to be financially responsible for his grandchild’s maintenance, the child’s father must be financially destitute, and the grandfather must be in a comfortable financial position. This ruling emerged from a three-judge bench, led by Justice Mansoor, addressing the question of whether a maintenance decree against a father could be enforced against the grandfather or if the child needed to initiate a separate maintenance suit against the grandfather.

The judgment clarified that if either of the specified conditions was not met, the grandfather was not obligated to provide maintenance for his grandchild. These conditions, according to the court, serve as grounds for the grandfather’s defense when faced with a maintenance claim. The ruling emphasized the child’s responsibility to substantiate these conditions while ensuring the grandfather has the opportunity to present a defense, aligning with the constitutional right to a fair trial and due process outlined in Article 10A.

The court highlighted that the determination of maintenance for a grandchild is a civil obligation, requiring a fair trial and due process for the grandfather. Both conditions, essential for imposing this obligation, are factual in nature and must be proven through evidence in a suit specifically instituted for maintenance. The judgment firmly asserted that evidence collection and findings on these factual propositions should occur in a suit for maintenance, not in an execution proceeding.

Moreover, the judgment underscored that the Family Courts Act of 1964 prescribes the procedure for adjudicating maintenance claims. Such claims, affecting a grandfather’s property, must follow the due process outlined in the law. The court firmly held that a maintenance decree against a father cannot be executed against the grandfather directly. Instead, the child must initiate a separate maintenance suit against the grandfather if the father’s assets are insufficient for decree execution.

Addressing the Islamic law perspective, the judgment clarified that if the father is deceased or financially incapable of supporting the child, the obligation to maintain the child falls on the grandfather, provided he is financially capable. Notably, the court emphasized that the petitioner (grandfather) was not a party to the suit against the father, and no decree was passed against him.

The Supreme Court, by setting aside the previous orders of the executing court, declared them without lawful authority and of no legal effect. The petitioner’s application for releasing his property from attachment was allowed, with a clarification that the minor decree-holder, if desired, could initiate a separate maintenance suit against the grandfather. This decision marks a significant legal precedent, ensuring a fair and due process in cases of child maintenance claims against grandfathers.

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