Maintenance of daughter-in-law under Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956

Maintenance of daughter-in-law under Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance act, 1956


Section 3(b) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act defines maintenance as provisions for food, clothing, residence, education, medical attendance and treatment.

The law provides for maintenance of Wife under Section 18 and Widowed wife under Section 19 of Maintenance Act, 1956.

Maintenance of Wife

Section 18 states that a Hindu wife is designated to be financially supported by her husband while she lives with him. However, when she lives separately she may claim maintenance as a right, from her husband during her lifetime, only under extraordinary circumstances as stated in the Act.

  • In case, she has been wilfully abandoned by the husband without any logical or reasonable cause and in disagreement to her own will and consent. This results in desertion and in some cases may also be a stance for divorce
  • If she is subjected to cruelty by her husband to the extent of living in reasonable fear of injury, she may claim maintenance from him. Such cruelty can also be grounds for divorce.
  • If the husband is suffering from a virulent form of leprosy, the wife may live separately and claim maintenance.
  • If the husband has illegally remarried or has another living wife, the first wife may refrain from staying with her husband and is entitled to maintenance.
  • If the husband has a mistress living in the same residence or has been customarily residing with her, the wife may claim maintenance by living separately.
  • On conversion of the husband to any other religion, the wife may choose to live apart and claim maintenance.
  • The Act after evaluating the above reasons leaves a discretion to the court to consider any other reason that may be corroborated by the wife. Her living separately from her husband must have an admissible cause.
  • Nonetheless, The Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act provides certain exceptions as well. If the wife is unchaste, or ceases to be a Hindu by conversion to some other religion, she is not entitled to claim maintenance.

Widowed Daughter In law – Maintenance

According to ancient texts the father-in-law was neither under any lawful compulsion nor any personal obligation to provide maintenance to widowed daughter-in-law. It was merely left to his ethical morality. If the father-in-law received some property by survivorship on the death of his son, who died leaving behind his widow, he would be under legal obligations to maintain the widow of such a son.

In accordance to section 19 of the said act Hindu widowed daughter’s in law have been accorded certain rights an privileges. The section stipulates, that any Hindu irrespective of when she is married, either before or after the present law was enacted and enforced is entitled to obligatory maintenance from her father in law to the extent she is unable to suffice herself.

  • Out of her own sources of incomes or estates
  • From the estates of her husband
  • Properties of her father
  • Properties of her mother
  • Properties of her son
  • Properties of her daughter

If the father in law has no inherent property in his possession out which the daughter in law has not received a share and has not remarried.

In cases were the father in law has inherent, as well as self-acquired properties, and the resultant earnings from the same are sufficient enough to maintain him along with his spouse, the widowed daughter law acquires a right in entitled to monetary support from the earnings out of the coparcenary assets. However, in such case there would not be any obligation on the earnings of the coparcenary property with regards to maintenance of the father in law and his wife.

Section 19 (2) of the act lists out the conditions under which the daughter in law can loses her right to maintenance. Some of them are listed below:

  • Where the father in law does not have any means to support himself other than the inherited which was owned by her deceased husband.
  • Where the widowed daughter in law has already received her share in the estate.
  • Where she has married again.
  • Where she has converted into another religion.

Nonetheless, the widowed daughter in law is entitled to maintenance. Irrespective of the fact whether she lives in the father in law’s house or not.

In Kanailal v. Pushparani Pramanik, the Calcutta High Court held that sub-section (2) of Section 19 applies only to parties governed by Mitakshara law. There is no question of a widow inheriting the share of her husband in any coparcenary property under the Dayabhag school of Hindu law. The provision of sub-section (2) of Section 19 cannot, therefore, apply when the parties belong to the Dayabhag school of Hindu law.  Yet, in accordance to sub section 1 of Section 19, a widowed daughter in law has the right to claim monetary support from her father in law irrespective of whether they are governed by Mitakshara or Dayabhag school of Hindu law.

Madras High Court recently observed in the S.V. Parthasaratliy Bhattacharya and others v. S. Rajeswari and others case that the father-in-law is liable to pay maintenance to widowed daughter-in-law if husband of widow is untraceable and /or deserted her for more than seven years and is deemed to have died.

However, the law does not provide for maintenance of grandson by the paternal grandfather. But where the widow’s commitment to maintain her children is considered and minors being stake holders in joint family properties not deriving any income, paternal grandparents being in possession of joint family property are liable for maintenance of minor grandsons with widowed daughter-in-law.

Though the act has spelled out certain, rights for wives living and widowed, with regards to entitlement of maintenance, in a country like India they are more often than not at the mercy of the husband and or the father – in – law. The same is a result of lengthy and complex judicial proceedings in our country, besides in most cases the wives are ignorant on their lawful rights and privileges.

Author: Nirrmiti Somaani,
DES Shri Navalmal Firodia Law College / First Year BBA LLB

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