Summary of Hindu Adoptions & Maintenance Act 1956

Summary of Hindu Adoptions & Maintenance Act 1956

Introduction

The Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act was enacted in the year 1956 in India. It was enacted as a part of the Hindu Code Bills. There were other legislations (like The Hindu Marriage Act (1955), The Hindu Succession Act (1956), and The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act (1956).)  These were enacted during the same period under the prime ministership of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to codify and standardize the current Hindu legal traditions.

The Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act (1956), deals with the legal procedure for adoption of a child by Hindu adults and their legal obligations to provide maintenance to various family members.

Applicability of Hindu Adoptions & Maintenance Act 1956

The act applies to all persons who are Hindu. There are also other persons who fall under this category but do not follow Hinduism, they are- Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, Virashaiva, Lingayat, followers of Brahmo and Prarthana or members of Arya Samaj. In other words, the act is applicable to all citizens of India who are not Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew. The act does not apply to adoptions that were made before the day of enactment. However, that is not the case with marriages. It applies to all marriages irrespective of whenever they happened. Moreover, if a wife is not Hindu then the husband is not bound to provide maintenance for her under this Act.

Meaning of Adoption

Even though the act has not specified any definition of the word ‘adoption’ but Manusmriti describes it as “taking someone else’s son and raising him like their own.” However, according to Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act (1956), the concept of adoption became wider as the word ‘son’ was replaced with ‘child’ which includes both a girl and a boy child. Any adoption made neglecting this act is considered to be void.

Who can adopt?

Under this act only the persons who fall under the category of Hindu

can adopt on fulfilment of certain criteria.

  • The adopter should be a person falling under the category of Hindu.
  • They should be capable enough to be able to provide for the adoptee.
  • Men can adopt with the consent of his wife or all of the wives. The only way of getting around this is if the wife is of unsound mind, if she has died, if she has renounced the world or has ceased to be a Hindu. Unmarried men can also adopt as long as they have attained the age of majority. But, a man who wants to adopt a daughter is required to attain the age of 24 years or older.
  • Women can also adopt with the consent of their husband. The only way of getting around obtaining the consent or permission of the husband is if he is of unsound mind, has died, has renounced the world or has ceased to be a Hindu. Unmarried women can also adopt once they have attained the age of majority. However, if a woman wants to adopt a son then she is required to be at least 24 years of age.
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Who is capable of giving an adoption?

  • No person except the father, mother or guardian of the child is capable of giving adoption.
  • If the father of the child is alive then he alone has the right to give in adoption with consent of the mother unless she has died, renounced the world, ceased to be a Hindu or is of unsound mind.
  • The mother of the child can give in adoption if the father has died, renounced the world, ceased to be a Hindu or is of unsound mind.
  • Where both the father and mother have died, renounced the world, abandoned the child, an unsound mind or the parentage of the child is not known, the guardian of the child may give him/her in for adoption.
  • Before granting permission to the guardian, the court shall be satisfied that the adoption is merely for the welfare of the child and there are no other hidden motives.

Who can be adopted?

  • The adoptee can be either male or female
  • The adoptee must be a Hindu
  • The adoptee has not been already adopted
  • The adoptee should be unmarried (unless there is a custom or usage applicable to the parties which permits persons who are married being taken in adoption)
  • The child cannot be 16 years or more (unless there is a custom or usage applicable to the parties which permits persons who are married being taken in adoption)
  • If a son were to be adopted then the adoptive father or mother must not have a legitimate or adopted son in the house.
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What are the legal implications for an adopted child?

  • Once the child has been adopted, he/she enjoys all the benefits from those family ties.
  • The child is cut off from all legal benefits from the family who had given him or her up for adoption.
  • Adoption is recognized by Hindus and not by Muslims, Christian or Parsis. The procedure, conditions and legal implications of adoption are clearly stated in Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act (1956). All the adoptions are to be made in compliance with this act else they are considered invalid. This act came into effect on 21st December, 1956. Prior to this act only male child could be adopted but now there are provisions for a female child too. This act extends to the whole of India except for those who do not fall under the category of Hindu.

Meaning of Maintenance

The concept of maintenance was introduced so that the partner who is not financially independent can get help from their spouse in order to have a comfortable lifestyle. The maintenance can be in a gross sum or on periodical or monthly basis. Under no conditions, the maintenance shall be owed beyond the life of the non-Applicant. The income and property of the non-Applicant is considered while determining the permanent alimony. Interim maintenance is to be paid and will be applicable till the final disposal of the main case.

Maintenance of Hindu wife

A Hindu wife is entitled to be maintained by her husband throughout her lifetime irrespective whether the marriage was formed before or after the enactment of this act, the act still remains applicable. The only way a wife can null her maintenance under this act is if she ceases to be a Hindu or if she commits adultery.  The wife is allowed to separate from her husband and still be provided for by him. The separation can be justified through various reasons such as if he has another living wife, he has converted to a different religion, if he has treated her cruelly, etc.

If the wife is widowed then it is the legal duty of the father in law to provide for her. But, this obligation only arises when the wife has no other means of income or no other means of providing for herself. If the wife has a land of her own or any other source of income then the father in law is free from his legal obligation. Also, if the widow marries some other man again then under such circumstances the legal obligation of the father in law comes to an end.

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Maintenance of children and aged parents

  • According to this act, a Hindu is legally obliged to maintain his/her legitimate or illegitimate children and his/her aged or infirm parents.
  • Maintenance may be claimed by children from his/her mother or father as long as they are minors.
  • The legal duty of a person to maintain his or her aged or infirm parent or a daughter who is unmarried extends insofar as the parent or the unmarried daughter, as the case may be, is unable to maintain himself or herself out of his or her own earnings or other property.

Amount of Maintenance provided

(1) The amount of maintenance shall be on the discretion of the courts.

(2) In determining the amount of maintenance, if any, to be provided to a wife, children or aged or infirm parents under this Act, regard shall be given to-

  • the position and status of the claimant
  • the reasonable wants of the parties
  • if the claimant is living separately, whether the claimant is justified or legally right in doing so
  • the value of the claimant’s property and any income derived from such property, or from the claimant’s own earnings or from any other source
  • the number of people entitled to maintenance under this Act

No party under this act can claim maintenance if he/ she has ceased to be a Hindu. This act is applicable only to the people who fall under the category of Hindu. The amount of maintenance, whether fixed by a decree of court or by agreement, either before or after the commencement of this Act, may be altered subsequently if there is a material change in the circumstances justifying such alteration. Basically, this act resolves the hardships of those persons who are dependant for a living. The Indian courts have also recognized the right of maintenance of working women and held that they can claim maintenance from their husband even if they earn a monthly income, which is not enough for them to maintain themselves.

Author: Khushi Maheshwari Maheshwari,
Fairfield Institute pf Management and Technology ( 2nd year) /BBA LLB (H)

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