The Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 governs the adoption and maintenance rights of Hindus in India. The act applies to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs and provides a legal framework for the adoption, maintenance, and inheritance rights. The provisions related to maintenance for women are described below:
Maintenance of wife:
Section 18 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act 1956 deals with the maintenance of the wife. According to this section, any Hindu wife is entitled to receive maintenance from her husband during the period of her separation from him. The maintenance includes food, clothing, shelter, and other necessities as determined by the court.
The court may order the husband to pay maintenance to his wife if the wife is unable to maintain herself due to circumstances such as ill health, age, or other reasons. In determining the amount of maintenance, the court may take into account the husband’s financial status, the wife’s earning capacity, and the standard of living of the couple during the time of their cohabitation.
Maintenance of divorced wife:
Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 also provides for the maintenance of a divorced wife. Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) of India deals with the provision for maintenance for women and children. It provides for a summary procedure in the criminal courts for securing maintenance for the wife, children and parents who are unable to support themselves. The section empowers a Magistrate to order a person to pay a monthly allowance for the maintenance of his wife, children or parents, if they are unable to maintain themselves. The objective of this section is to provide immediate and effective means for securing maintenance for women and children who are in need.
Maintenance of widowed daughter-in-law:
Section 19 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 provides for the maintenance of the widowed daughter-in-law. A widowed daughter-in-law is entitled to claim maintenance from her deceased husband’s father if she is unable to maintain herself. The section further states that this obligation of maintenance shall cease if the daughter-in-law re-marries.
In case of a dispute regarding maintenance, a woman can file a complaint in a competent court. The court may order the husband or the father-in-law, as the case may be, to pay a reasonable and fair amount of maintenance to the woman. The amount of maintenance is determined by considering the financial status of the husband or father and the needs of the woman.
Some of the important case laws related to maintenance for women under the Hindu Adoptions and MaintenanceAct, 1956 are as follows:
Saroj Rani vs. Sudarshan Kumar (1984): In this case, the Supreme Court held that the maintenance of a Hindu wife is a legal right and the husband is bound to maintain her during the subsistence of the marriage.
Geeta Mehrotra vs. Rakesh Mehrotra (2002): In this case, the Supreme Court held that a divorced wife is entitled to claim maintenance from her husband if she is unable to maintain herself.
Gita Hariharan vs Reserve Bank of India (1999): This landmark case established that a woman has a right to maintenance even if she is financially independent. The Supreme Court ruled that a woman’s right to maintenance is not limited by her financial independence and is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution.
S.A. Padmavati vs P.V.G. Raju (2002): This case dealt with the issue of maintenance for a woman who is unable to maintain herself due to her old age, illness, or disability. The Supreme Court ruled that such a woman is entitled to maintenance under the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956.
In conclusion, the provisions of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 and CrPC provide for the maintenance of women in different circumstances, such as a wife, divorced wife, widowed daughter-in-law etc. Women can claim maintenance in case of a dispute by filing a complaint in a competent court, which will determine the amount of maintenance based on the financial status of the husband or father and the needs of the woman.