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Women’s Right to Maintenance Under Hindu Law

Maintenance laws for the women of this nation are divided into two classifications where one of it focuses on the maintenance due to a divorce or some other matrimonial remedies and the second one discusses maintenance while the period of subsistence of marriage. The main object of this Article is to enlighten the purpose of maintenance which is to prevent immorality and maintain the dignity of women and children. This Article talks about the necessity of alimony, and maintenance of wife, widow and dependent under Hindu Adoption and Maintenance, Act 1956.

Introduction
Undivided family gave rise to the origin of the right of maintenance. The person who is called as the head in such family is mandatorily bound to maintain the members of the said family. Under The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, Section 3(b) defines maintenance which is as follows:
  1. In all cases, provision for food, clothing, residence, education and medical attendance and treatment,
  2. In the case of an unmarried daughter, also the reasonable expenses of an incident to her marriage,

(c) “minor” means a person who has not completed his or her age of eighteen years.

Section 25 of The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 provides for the maintenance after a divorce or nullity of marriage and Section 125 of CrPC and Hindu Adoption & Maintenance Act, 1965 provides maintenance for wife, parent and children.


What Is The Right Of Maintenance Under The Hindu Adoption And Maintenance Act, 1956?

According to the Apex Court it was held that it is a liability created by Hindu Law and it arises out of jural relation of the parties.[1]
  1. Maintenance Of The Wife:

    Maintenance and separate residence of wife is dealt by Section 18 of the said Act:
    1. A Hindu wife, whether married before or after the commencement of the said Act, shall be entitled to be maintained by her husband during her life time.
    2. A Hindu wife shall be entitled to live separately from her husband without forfeiting her claim to maintenance and the requisite conditions are stated from clauses (a) to (g).[2]
    3. A Hindu wife shall not be entitled to separate residence and maintenance from her husband if she is unchaste or ceases to be a Hindu by conversion to another religion.

      1. Maintenance Provided Interimly:
        According to the Supreme Court under section 18 of the Act interim maintenance can be claimed and thus is a substantive right.[3] The obligation of the maintenance of the wife remains on the husband even though the wife might choose to live separately.[4] Both section 18 and 21 of the said Act do not provide for any charges for maintenance on separate property of husband.[5]
         
      2. Residence separate from the residence of husband:
        A judgment passed by the Madras High Court Stated that the wife was indeed entitled to a separate residence along with maintenance. The said wife in this case was living alone. She was living with her children. She was solely responsible for raising her kids as the wife, husband and the kids face the case of desertion. Even though the wife fails to prove the requisite grounds, she cannot be denied justice and cannot be denied relief. Maintenance claim by the wife can be covered under clause (g) of section 18(2).[6]
         
  2. Widowed Daughter-In-Laws Hold The Right To Maintenance:

    It is the rightful duty of the father-in-law to provide and maintain the daughter-in-law in case of the demise of his son who was lawfully married to the daughter-in law. She is entitled to maintenance to the point where she is unable to take proper care of herself out her own earnings or any other property.[7] This thereby, has been explained under the Section 19 of The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act./
     
  3. Parents And Children Too Can Claim For Maintenance:

    Not only are the fathers obligated to but so are the mothers obligated to maintain their Sons or illegitimate sons[8], daughters or illegitimate daughters[9], Aged and infirm parents. This has thereby been elaborated in the case of Phikururavegv v. P Chinnah.[10]
     
  4. Dependants Too Shall Be Entitled To Maintenance:

    1. Maintenance of dependents:
      Dependants are those who fail to have the capacity to maintain themselves. If there are any dependants of a deceased they must be maintained and this clearly is stated in the Section 22 of The Hindu Maintenance and Adoption Act.

      However, Section 21 of the said Act states all those who fall into the definition of a dependant are rightfully so eligible for maintenance. Having a thorough knowledge of Section 22 of the said Act will give a better insight as to how important it is to fulfill the obligation towards the maintenance of the dependants according to section 21.[11]
       
    2. Amount of Maintenance:
      It is thus in the hands of the Court to decide and determine the amount of maintenance. There is no as such fixed amount for maintenance that shall be paid. Section 23 of the said Act explains the amount of maintenance a person is eligible for. Although, once the amount has been set by a decree passed by the court it cannot be changed. In order to alter the set amount there has to be a clear justification.[12] The main purpose of maintenance is to provide proper care and aid in order to fulfill the basic needs when a person does not have requisite sources to provide for themselves.

      However, if there are any debts of the deceased, it is the duty of the dependants to first pay off the said debts before using the money for maintaining themselves. As we go forth in the above mentioned topic we must keep in mind if any party claiming for the maintenance is not a Hindu, they will not be eligible for the same as The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 belongs only to the people of Hindu religion.

Conclusion
The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 stands as one of the very essential Acts in order to protect the rights of women, children, old and infirm. This Act thereby, makes sure that they have requisite resources to live and sustain themselves by saving them from spending their lives on the street without food or shelter. This Act makes sure that there is no miscarriage of justice and that it strengthens the sections laid down when and if necessary in order to make the established rights more louder and clearer.

End-Notes:
  1. State of Haryana v. Smt Santra AIR 2000 SC 1888
  2. Sub-section 2, section 18 of The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act,1956
  3. Purusottam Mahakund v. Smt. Annapurna Mahakund AIR 1997 Ori 73
  4. Nelam Malhotra V. Rajinder Malhotra, AIR 1994 Del 234
  5. Sadhu Singh v. Gurudwara Sahib Narike, AIR 2006 SC 3282
  6. Meera Nireshwalia v. Sukumar Nireshwalia, AIR 1994 Mad 168
  7. Raj Kishore Mishra v. Meena Mishra AIR 1995 Allahabadd 70
  8. Krishna Prasad Rao v Jayashri & Ors, AIR 1986 AP, 17
  9. Balwant Kaur v. Chanan Singh AIR 2000 SC
  10. AIR 1970 AP 190
  11. Gangubai Bhagwan Kolhe v. Bhagwan Bandu Kolhe
  12. Vasantha v. Chandren AIR 2002 Mad 214, Section 22 of the Act

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