Maintenance Under The Hindu Adoption And Maintenance Act, 1956

The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 is a significant piece of personal legislation that seeks to update and codify Hindu adoption and maintenance law. This law also applies to Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, and anyone else who is not a Muslim, Christian, Parsi, or Jew, in addition to Hindus.

What is Maintenance?

In the definition section of the act, Section 3(b), maintenance is defined as something that can cover costs for food, clothes, shelter, education, and medical care.

  • In essence, it is the financial support provided by a spouse or father to pay for all the essentials of life.

  • According to the clause, if maintenance is given to an unmarried daughter, it must also pay for any reasonable expenses she would incur up until the day she marries.

Right of Maintenance under Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956

It includes −

Maintenance of Wife

Following the divorce, usually, the wife is entitled to have maintenance from her husband. The idea behind this is to provide means of subsistence and allow her to maintain the comfort and lifestyle she enjoyed during her marriage.

  • There is no set minimum or maximum for maintenance; the amount will be determined by the court based on the husband's earning potential.

  • The maintenance should be substantial if the husband is well off in order to match the opulent lifestyle the woman was accustomed to before the marriage.

  • If this is not the case, it must be a sum that is sufficient to cover all of her justifiable needs.

Maintenance of Widowed Daughter-in-law

The husband is required to pay his wife alimony following the divorce. But if the bride's husband passes away, it is the father's responsibility to provide alimony. Section 19 of the Act specifies that

A Hindu wife, shall be entitled to be maintained after the death of her husband by her father-in-law, provided and to the extent that she is unable to maintain herself out of her own earnings or other property or, where she has no property of her own, is unable to obtain maintenance―

  • From the estate of her husband or her father or mother, or

  • From her son or daughter, if any, or his or her estate.

Further, sub-section (2) of the same provision states that any obligation under sub-section (1) shall not be enforceable if the father-in-law has not the means to do so from any coparcenary property in his possession out of which the daughter-in- law has not obtained any share, and any such obligation shall cease on the remarriage of the daughter-in-law.

Maintenance of Children and Aged Parents

The Section 20 of the Act specifies −

As per this provision, a Hindu is bound, during his or her life-time, to maintain his or her legitimate or illegitimate children and his or her aged or infirm parents.

Furthermore, sub-section (2) states that a legitimate or illegitimate child may claim maintenance from his or her father or mother so long as the child is a minor.

Lastly, sub-section (3) states that the obligation of a person to maintain his or her aged or infirm parent or a daughter who is unmarried extends in so far 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.

Maintenance of Dependants

The word "dependent" was not used in Hindu law before 1956. Dependent people rely on their parents, siblings, or other family members for support. According to Section 21 of the legislation, "dependents" in the context of this act refer to the father, mother, widow who hasn't remarried, and a minor son, grandson, or great-grandson with a deceased father and grandpa. Support must be given if the deceased was unable to make dependents independent.

  • The definition of dependent persons in Section 21 of the Act and their right to care in Section 22 are both made clear.

Maintenance of Father and Mother

Along with variations in the weather and in social demands, the family structure also fluctuates. As we have seen today, families are becoming more nuclear and are refusing to take on parental duty.

  • The Kerala High Court ruled in the case of Areefa Beedi v. K.M. Sahib that "The sentence of the father or mother must be read as the meaning of the father and mother." The next most crucial query pertaining to this rule is: according to this rule, the terms "father" and "mother" refer to "adoptive father or mother" and "adoptive father or stepmother," respectively.

  • The General Conditions Act of 1897 stipulates that a "father" must be an "adoptive father," but there is still a "mother."

Maintenance of the Children

The responsibility to care for children is a human responsibility that results from the close bond between parents and their offspring. As in the past, only the father has a legal obligation to raise the child. Both parents and legitimate and illegitimate offspring now have obligations under contemporary Hindu law.

  • In the case of Ramakrishnan, T. Vimala, and Others, when the topic of "Eligibility of Children to Claim Maintenance" was brought up, it was decided that minor children who do not have any physical or mental disabilities could request maintenance from their father.

Maintenance under Section 125 of Cr.P.C

In accordance with this Section, a magistrate of the first class may command a person to give his parents' wife a monthly allowance or

  • To his minor children who are dependent on him, whether they are his biological or adopted offspring,

  • Unmarried daughters who are major children, whether they are legitimate or not, but who lack the means to support themselves because of a physical impairment

  • Married daughter till the time of her majority if the husband is unable to support her. His or her parent(s), if they are unable to support themselves, and whomever neglects or refuses to do so

If the order is not followed, the magistrate may issue warrants for the amount levied. Within a year of the date on which the amount was due, the court must receive an application before the amount can be levied; otherwise, a warrant cannot be issued.

A woman is not eligible to get an allowance if she is living separately without a good reason, is living in adultery, or the couple has mutually agreed to separate.

Purpose of Maintenance

Additionally, the fundamental goal of granting maintenance is to keep one spouse's quality of life on par with the other spouse's and consistent with their situation before the separation. It is awarded either during or after the divorce case and terminates upon the death or remarriage of the recipient of alimony. The court makes the following decisions about spousal support based on the presence of certain factors −

  • No additional source of revenue. Checking whether the spouse seeking maintenance has a separate source of income or is totally dependent on the income of his or her husband is the most crucial consideration before granting maintenance or alimony.

  • Prior to separation, the respective litigating parties' standards of living

  • Expenses related to child maintenance.

  • Maintaining the spouse's lifestyle at the same level as it was prior to the separation is necessary.

  • Skills, capacities, and educational history of the spouse to support themselves and make a living, etc.


After researching the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, it was decided to view Indian law from a new angle. The text tackles not only the law governing the adoption and care of Indians but also the legislation governing Indian marriage and marriage, as well as the care of children and elderly parents, the care of widows and unmarried girls, and serving members of the municipality, family, and widowed bride. Recent court decisions demonstrate the progressive liberalization of the Indian courts' alimony decision-making practices. Maintenance is not only for the wife but also for everyone, including the widow, the daughter-in-law, the dependents or family members, as well as the children and old parents.

Therefore, this clause implies that it is everyone's responsibility to help those who are less fortunate. People have developed preconceived ideas about the Code over time, and one such idea is the dread of minorities, which must be disregarded, as well as the fear of being overshadowed by the laws of the executive majority.

Frequently Asked Question

Q1. Who is not eligible for maintenance?

Ans. Women who have been divorced by their husbands or who have successfully secured a divorce from their husbands are entitled to maintenance. However, a wife is not eligible to get maintenance if she is living in adultery or if she has other means of subsistence or self-earning.

Q2. How do you win a maintenance case?

Ans. You must establish the need for the proposed amount for your child in order to win your maintenance case. Even if you can demonstrate that the father can afford it, the court will not force him to pay if you do not have proof or cannot prove it. Only fair and proven amounts would be ordered by the court for him to pay.

Q3. When Maintenance can be rejected/ cancelled?

Ans. If the wife is living in adultery, she has left the company of the husband without valid reason or with mutual consent or if she has changed her religion or if she remarries.

Q4. How is maintenance decided?

Ans. When a couple decides to divorce by mutual consent, they jointly decide on maintenance and alimony. Yet in contested cases, the court steps in and decides whether to award alimony or maintenance based on the specific facts of each case.

Q5. In which cases wife would not be eligible for maintenance under Hindu law?

Ans. No wife shall be entitled to receive an alimony from her husband under this provision if she is engaging in adultery or is self-earning.

Updated on: 07-Apr-2023

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