This article is written by Piyush Singla of 3rd Semester of BBA LLB (H) of Vivekananda Institute Of Professional Studies, an intern under Legal Vidhiya
In-depth discussion of maintenance under the Hindu Marriage Act is provided in this article, along with an examination of its numerous facets, such as the variables taken into account when calculating maintenance amounts, the parties’ respective rights and obligations, and the legal processes that oversee this crucial area of family law. Understanding the subtleties of maintenance under the Hindu Marriage Act can help us better comprehend the legal system that helps people through difficult times and works to create a society that is just and equitable for all.
Hindu Marriage Act, Maintenance, Section 24, Pendente Lite, Interim Support, Financial Security, Spousal Support, Legal Expenses, Enforcement of Orders, Family Law, Dependent Spouse, Economic Support, Courts, Legal Proceedings, Justice, Alimony, Divorce, Child Maintenance, Financial Obligations, Society Equality.
Hinduism views marriage as a sacred institution that unites two people in a lifetime commitment based on love, compassion, and respect for one another. But just like any other kind of relationship, marriages can also have difficulties and complications, which can occasionally result in arguments and divorces. It is imperative in these circumstances to attend to the financial requirements of all parties concerned, particularly in cases when one partner is financially reliant on the other. Enacted in 1955, the Hindu Marriage Act covers maintenance as well as the solemnization and dissolution of marriages, guaranteeing the financial security of all parties, especially the wife.
The legal requirement for one spouse to support the other financially, either throughout the marriage or following a formal separation or divorce, is referred to as maintenance, sometimes known as alimony or spousal support. In accordance with the Hindu Marriage Act, maintenance is essential for preserving people’s rights and dignity, with a primary focus on the financial security of the wife in the event of a divorce. This legislative provision recognises the value of financial support for the spouse who may be less fortunate after the divorce and works to preserve the values of justice, fairness, and equality in the context of married partnerships.
The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Section 24, addresses the costs of the proceedings and supports pendente lite. In this context, “pendente lite” is a Latin phrase meaning “while a suit is pending” or “while litigation continues,” and it relates to the provision of basic necessities to a dependent spouse. Therefore, it is clear that “maintenance pendente lite” refers to giving the spouse—either the woman or the husband—living costs and monetary assistance while the lawsuit is underway. Please provide further information regarding Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955.
In family law, maintenance is the term used to describe the monetary assistance that one individual gives to another, usually a spouse or kid, in order to pay for living expenses and basic necessities. One party’s financial support of another is required by law, particularly when the recipient is unable to support themselves enough. For spouses, maintenance may be paid during a marriage or following a formal separation or divorce.
Maintenance is meant to make sure that, even after the marriage has ended, the dependent spouse or child can continue to live at a level that is comparable to what they were used to. The level of living established during the marriage, the length of the marriage, the recipient’s age and health, the paying party’s ability to pay, and the recipient’s income and financial demands are all common criteria that go into determining the amount of maintenance.
A consensual agreement between the parties involved or a court decision may be used to award maintenance. It is crucial in enabling those who could be economically disadvantaged for a variety of reasons—such as unemployment, a disability, or caring obligations—financial stability and support. The rules and legislation pertaining to maintenance are jurisdiction-specific and can be found in marriage acts or family laws unique to each nation or area.
Section 24 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (hereinafter ‘HMA,1955’) states that in any proceeding under the HMA, 1955, if a court believes that either the husband or the wife has no source of independent income to provide for his or her support and the required expenses of the proceedings then the court may, on the application of such dependent spouse, order the other spouse to pay –
- The expenses of the proceedings
- The monthly sum during such proceedings as the court finds reasonable with regard to the income of both the spouses.
Similar provisions are found in Section 36 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954, with a significant distinction in that the husband is not entitled to alimony pendente lite, or payments paid while the lawsuit is pending, since only the woman may do so. In addition, the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973, Section 125, addresses the husband’s obligation to provide interim maintenance to the wife.
In the circumstances of restitution of conjugal rights (Section 9), judicial separation (Section 10), void marriages (Section 11), voidable marriages (Section 12), and divorce (Section 13), the provision of interim support under Section 24 is applicable. Regardless of who initiated the proceedings, either the husband or the wife may seek interim maintenance for themselves, their kid, or both. One party to the action must not have enough income on their own to cover their living expenses and the costs of the procedures as a whole in order for interim maintenance to be granted. Even in the event that the Respondent disputes the existence of the marriage, the court may nonetheless use the authority granted to it under Section 24.
Procedure under Section 24 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
An issue is considered as a short investigation under Section 24 of the HMA, 1955, rather than as an extended trial. The court cannot refuse to grant interim maintenance and costs associated with the proceedings under Section 24 just because it thinks the petitioner has little chance of winning the dispute.
The Bombay High Court held in the 1996 case of Sushila Viresh Chhadva v. Viresh Nagshi Chhadva that the likelihood of a marriage being declared null and void should not be a reason to deny interim maintenance and court costs to the spouse seeking such maintenance under Section 24 of HMA, 1955.
According to the proviso appended to Section 24, the application for the payment of interim support and the costs associated with the proceedings must be resolved as soon as possible, within sixty days of the spouse receiving notice.
Quantum of maintenance under Section 24
Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 does not establish a strict formula for determining the amount of interim support. However, the following variables determine how much such interim maintenance will cost:
- The duration of the marriage.
- The means and conduct of the spouses.
- The ability of the spouse to earn.
- Education and maintenance of children.
- Other such reasonable needs of the claimant.
It should be mentioned that the Court has broad authority when it comes to giving support pendente lite; nonetheless, this power cannot be used arbitrarily. It need to fall under Section 24’s purview and be based on the best practices for marriage law.
The Bombay High Court ruled in Dinesh Mehta v. Usha Mehta (1978) that determining a reasonable sum for interim support falls under Section 24 of the Housing and Municipalities Act, 1955. Therefore, determining a fair amount really involves striking a balance between a number of opposing assertions. The Court went on to say that in order for anything to be reasonable, the wife must be guaranteed the same level of comfort and facilities as she did when living with her husband, with the exception of any decrease brought on by their separation and the establishment of two separate residences.
When can an application under Section 24 be made?
During the course of the lawsuit, an application for interim maintenance and costs of proceeding under Section 24 of the HMA, 1955 may be made at any moment. The wife may request the grant prior to filing her written statement if she is the respondent in this scenario.
The Rajasthan High Court ruled in Chagan Lal v. Sakkha Devi (1974) that applications for maintenance under other matrimonial statutes and for interim maintenance under Section 24 HMA, 1955, must be decided as soon as possible, but in any case, before the main application is decided.
Maintenance to children under Section 24 of HMA, 1955
The fundamental goal of Section 24 of the HMA, 1955 is to make it possible to pay the claimant spouse’s legal fees as well as interim support. However, in certain extraordinary circumstances, the court may decide to award maintenance to dependent children residing with the spouse who has requested interim support, if the court finds the claim to be legitimate.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court ruled in Jasbir Kaur Sehgal v. District Judge (1997) that clauses under Section 24 cannot have a narrow interpretation. Furthermore, it was decided that the wife would be entitled to maintenance pendente lite for both herself and her living, single daughter.
Expenses of the proceedings
Under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, a spouse has the right to claim interim maintenance, including necessary expenses related to legal proceedings. This provision ensures that the spouse receives adequate funds to cover court fees, lawyer’s fees, expenses for witnesses, photocopying, typing, process fees, and other related costs. A landmark case, Prili Parihar v. Kailash Singh Parihar (1975), established that the court can grant additional expenses beyond the initially sanctioned amount if the need arises later.
Enforcement of orders
Courts have the authority to enforce orders related to interim maintenance and legal proceedings expenses, utilising methods beyond the Civil Procedure Code, 1908. In the Narinder Kaur v. Prilam Singh (1985) case, a husband, who refused to comply with the order to pay interim maintenance, was held in contempt and sentenced to four months’ imprisonment.
In the Anita Karmotrar v. Birendra Chandra Kannokat (1962) case, the Calcutta High Court ruled that it was permissible to stay the petitioner’s proceedings if the husband did not comply with the order to pay interim maintenance and expenses, citing Section 151 of the Civil Procedure Code as the basis for the court’s power.
In the Amarjit Kaur v. Harbhajan Singh (2003) case, the Supreme Court emphasised that the key factor for granting interim maintenance was assessing whether the spouse seeking it lacked sufficient independent income for support. If the court determined the lack of adequate income, it was mandatory for the court to grant interim maintenance, with the court’s discretion limited to determining the specific amount.
Regarding non-compliance with orders during pending appeals, the case of Banso v. Sarwan (1978) from the Punjab and Haryana High Court highlighted that a husband, who disobeyed the court’s order to pay interim maintenance during his wife’s appeal, faced legal consequences. In this case, the High Court allowed the wife’s appeal due to the husband’s non-compliance with the court’s order.
Maintenance under CrPc
The laws pertaining to maintenance orders for spouses and children under Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, section 125.
The goal of maintenance proceedings is to force those who can afford it to support those who are unable to support themselves and who have a moral claim to support, not to punish an individual for past neglect but to prevent vagrancy from leading to crime and starvation. The maintenance provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure are independent of the parties’ personal laws and apply to individuals of all religious backgrounds.
In accordance with Section 125(1) of the Code, the following individuals may request maintenance in specific situations:-
According to Section 125(l)(a) of the Code, a person with sufficient means who neglects or refuses to provide for his wife in the event that she is unable to provide for herself may, upon proof of said neglect or refusal, be ordered by a Magistrate of the first class to make a monthly allowance for his wife’s maintenance at a rate the Magistrate deems appropriate and to pay said allowance to a person the Magistrate may from time to time direct.
Here, “wife” refers to a woman who has not remarried after being divorced either by her husband or through another divorce attorney.
The wife could be a minor or a major in any age. According to Section 125, a woman who is lawfully married is referred to as a “wife.” The parties’ respective personal laws would control the marriage’s legality. Should the validity of a marriage be contested, the petitioner will need to provide proof of marriage. A marriage that was confirmed by exchanging garlands was deemed void.
In accordance with Section 125(l)(a) of the Code, a wife who is unable to support herself—rather than one who is doing so with some difficulty—may be eligible for maintenance allowance if her husband neglects her or refuses to provide for her.
The term “unable to maintain herself” does not imply that she must be completely penniless, the first person on the street, wearing tattered clothing, and begging before she can file an application under Section 125 of the Code.
There is neither neglect nor refusal if a man is prepared to support his spouse in compliance with his civil duty. It is evidently “neglect” or a refusal to maintain the wife in accordance with Section 125 of the Code when the husband pays the wife a certain amount, but it is insufficient to cover her basic needs.
In three situations, the wife is not entitled to an allowance from her husband:
- either she is living in adultery
- refuses to live with her husband without a good reason, or
- in the event that they have agreed to live apart.
In accordance with Section 125(1)(b) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, a person with sufficient means may, upon proof of such neglect or refusal, order that person to make a monthly allowance for the maintenance of such child, at such monthly rate, as such Magistrate thinks fit, and to pay the same to such person as the Magistrate may from time to time. This applies to any legitimate or illegitimate minor child, married or not, unable to maintain itself, or, in accordance with Section 125(1)(c) of the Code, to his legitimate or illegitimate child (not a married daughter) who has attained majority.
But if the Magistrate is convinced that the spouse of a minor female child, if married, does not have adequate resources, the Magistrate may order the father of the child—who is mentioned in Section 125(1)(b)—to provide such an allowance, up until the child reaches majority. In this context, “minor” refers to an individual who is considered to have not reached majority status in accordance with the Indian Majority Act of 1875.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, did not affect a Muslim minor girl’s right to maintenance from her father.
The Code doesn’t define the term “child.” It refers to a male or female individual who is not of legal age, meaning they are not eighteen years old as defined by the Indian Majority Act, 1875, and who is unable to sign contracts or pursue legal claims.
3. Father or mother
A Magistrate of the first class may, upon proof of such neglect or refusal, order such person to make a monthly allowance for the maintenance of his father or mother, at such monthly rate, as such Magistrate thinks fit, and to pay the same to such person as the Magistrate may from time to time direct. This is in accordance with Section 125(l)(d) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which states that if any person having sufficient means neglects or refuses to maintain his father or mother, incapable of maintaining themselves.
In India, it is customary for children to provide for their parents, and daughters are no different. Married or not, the daughter would still be responsible for supporting her parents.
It is unclear from Section 125 of the Code whether “father” or “mother” refers to adoptive fathers or adoptive mothers, or stepfathers or stepmothers. The General Clauses Act, 1897 states in Section 3(20) that a “father” shall include a “adoptive father.” Although the term “mother” has not been defined in a similar manner, it has been held that adoptive mothers are included in the definition of “mother.”
A childless stepmother may receive maintenance from her stepson under Section 125 of the Code, even though the term “mother” does not include “stepmother.” However, if the stepmother is a widow or her husband, if he is still alive, is also unable to provide for her, she may not receive maintenance from her stepson. If the stepmother has natural-born sons and daughters and her husband is still alive and able to work, she may not receive maintenance from her stepson.
In the event that there are two or more children, the parents may pursue a remedy at their place of residence against one or more of the children.
According to Section 125(1) of the Code, only a husband, father, son, or daughter, depending on the situation, may, in some situations, pay maintenance to the corresponding person—that is, the wife, child, father, or mother. In accordance with Section 125, the mother is not expected to provide maintenance to the father or, in some cases, the son and daughter.
Maintenance Under Hindu Adoption Act
The chapter 3 of Hindu Adoption Act talks about the maintenance. Maintenance has been described in the definition clause of the act i.e., Section 3 (b) as something that can provide for food, clothing, shelter, education and medical expenses.
Maintenance of wife
After the divorce, the wife is entitled to maintenance payments until she remarries. This is intended to allow her to maintain the lifestyle and standard of living from her previous marriage, with the requirement that she continue to make payments until she remarries.
The court will determine the appropriate maintenance amount based on the husband’s earning capacity; there is no set minimum or maximum amount.
In order to maintain the luxurious lifestyle that the wife was accustomed to before they were married, high maintenance is required if the husband is well-off.
Should that not be the case, it needs to be a sum that is sufficient to pay for all of her legitimate costs.
When is the wife entitled to maintenance?
The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act’s Section 18(2) lists the circumstances under which a wife is eligible for maintenance. According to the Section, in the following circumstances, a wife may live apart from her husband and still be eligible to receive maintenance:
- By leaving her without a good reason, without asking for her permission, or by wilfully disobeying her wishes, the husband has deserted his wife.
- The wife believes that living with her husband puts her life in danger because she experienced cruelty during their marriage.
- if the spouse has a communicable illness that is incurable.
- The husband either lives with another wife or mistress in the same home or in a different residence.
- The wife should live apart because the husband has converted to a different religion or for other justifiable reasons.
You can pay maintenance in instalments or all at once. Even in situations where the wife has a source of income and some property but requires financial assistance to cover essential costs like medical bills. The husband is responsible for providing maintenance for such expenses if required.
When maintenance is not to be paid to a wife?
After a divorce, a wife needs to be maintained in order to provide for her financial needs. However, this rule does have some exceptions.
According to the act’s Section 18(3), a wife is not eligible for maintenance:
Hindu wives are not eligible for maintenance if they have committed adultery or engaged in any other illegal sexual relationship with another person.
Furthermore, in the event that she converts to a religion outside of Hinduism and stops being a Hindu.
Maintenance of widowed daughters-in-law
Following their divorce, a husband is required to provide maintenance for his wife. In the event that the husband passes away, his father is obligated to provide his daughter-in-law with maintenance.
The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act states as much in Section 19, but the father-in-law is only responsible for maintenance if:
- His daughter-in-law does not earn a living;
- She lacks assets to support herself independently;
- Even if she owns any property, it is not enough to cover her daily needs.
- If she has no property of her own and all of her husband’s, neither her parents nor her kids are providing for her.
The second clause of Section 19 also states:
The following situations exempt a father-in-law from having to pay maintenance:
- He cannot perform this action from any coparcenary property he owns;
- The daughter-in-law is not entitled to any portion of that property, and if she remarries, her obligations will cease.
Maintenance of children and aged parents
Maintenance is necessary for people who, for legitimate reasons, are unable to support themselves financially to meet their basic needs. These individuals may include elderly and young people.
The act’s Section 20 declares:
- Whether their offspring are illegitimate or legitimate, Hindu men and women are obligated to support them.
- As long as they are minors, children are entitled to maintenance claims from their parents.
- Even after reaching the age of majority, an unmarried daughter will be eligible for maintenance until the day she gets married.
The section also stipulates that:
- If elderly parents are unable to care for themselves, they must be supported due to their physical or mental infirmity.
- In this section, a stepmother without children will also be regarded as a “parent.”
Maintenance of dependants
If a deceased person’s dependents lack the capacity to care for themselves, they must be supported. Dependants are defined in Section 21 of the act, and Section 22 stipulates that they are entitled to maintenance.
Who are dependents?
A dependent is someone who cannot support themselves without the help of their parents, brother, or other relative.
According to Section 21 of the Act, the following relatives of the deceased are considered dependents for the purposes of this Act:
- A father.
- A mother.
- A widow who has not remarried.
- A minor son, grandson, or great-grandson with predeceased father and grandfather. Provided he has not been able to obtain maintenance from any other source.
- Unmarried daughter, granddaughter, or great-granddaughter with predeceased father and grandfather. Provided she has not been able to obtain maintenance from any other source.
- A widowed daughter who has not been able to obtain maintenance from the estate of her husband, children, or from her in-laws.
- Widowed daughter-in-law, or widowed granddaughter-in-law, who has not been able to obtain maintenance from any other sources.
- An illegitimate minor son or illegitimate unmarried daughter.
Do dependents need to be maintained?
Section 22 of the act states:
- Hindus who pass away must provide for their dependents using the estate they inherited from the deceased’s spouse.
- Dependents are entitled to maintenance from the executor of the estate if they have not received any share in the property or estate through will or succession.
- If more than one person inherited the deceased’s property, they will all be responsible for providing for the dependents.
- The value of each of their shares in that property will determine how much
- maintenance needs to be paid.
- If a dependent inherits a portion of the deceased’s property, they will not be responsible for supporting any additional dependents.
- The dependent who owns a share will no longer be eligible for maintenance payments from the remaining property, but those who have taken over the property will still be required to support other dependents.
Maintenance in Muslim Law
In Muslim law, the notion of maintenance was introduced to support individuals who are unable to support themselves. A person’s basic needs for survival, such as access to amenities like food, clothing, shelter, education, and other necessities of life, are included in the principle of maintenance.
From the perspective of those who qualify for maintenance, we will talk about the various facets of maintenance under Islamic law. These people are:
2. Children- Both boy and girl
3. Parents and Grandparents and
4. Any other relatives
Maintenance for Wife
In India, maintenance is known as “Nafqah” according to Muslim law. The amount a man spends on his family is known as his “nafqah.” A Muslim woman has an unalienable right to maintenance, regardless of her ability to support herself.
In contrast to the majority of other religious acts, which only allow maintenance for dependent women, all Muslim women, whether they are employed or not, are therefore entitled to it.
Regardless of his financial situation, the husband has a responsibility to provide his wife with adequate maintenance in all cases. But in the following situations, a Muslim woman cannot ask her husband for maintenance:
- She has not attained puberty.
- She has abandoned her husband and marital duties with sufficient reason.
- Where she elopes with some other man.
- In a case where she disobeys the reasonable commands of her husband
Maintenance to Muslim Divorced Woman until Her Remarriage
A Muslim husband is required by Section (3) (a) of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 to provide for the future of the divorced wife in a reasonable and equitable manner.
This also applies to her upkeep. Accordingly, in accordance with Section 3 (1) (a) of the Act, the husband is required to provide a just and reasonable amount for the wife’s maintenance after the iddat period.
Under Section 4 of this act, a divorced Muslim woman who has not remarried and is unable to support herself after the iddat period may make a maintenance claim against her relatives, who will be entitled to her property upon her death. Muslims now have more rights as a result of this.
Maintenance of the Children
A Muslim father has a duty to support his legally recognized child until he reaches puberty. The father is only required to support his son under Muslim law until the boy reaches majority.
While he must provide for his daughter until she gets married and moves in with her husband. The father is not required by law to provide for the illegitimate child.
Thus, it is clear from reading the aforementioned facts that Muslim Law’s maintenance provisions are distinct from those of other personal laws.
Comparison Of Maintenance Of CrPc With Hindu Law
The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 and the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956 are the two Acts in Hindu law that discuss maintenance provisions.
Sections 24 and 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 discuss interim and permanent maintenance, respectively. This is a separate Act that grants the husband the right to receive maintenance from his wife. However, a husband may only make a claim against his spouse if he is unable to work because of a physical or mental impairment. Therefore, while maintenance under the Hindu Marriage Act is not gender specific, it is under the CRPC, where only the wife may claim and not the husband.
Section 18 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956 addresses a lawfully married wife’s maintenance; a divorced wife is not covered by this section. Therefore, the wife who is keeping the marriage can make a claim under this section if she is living apart from her husband for any reason, such as her husband abandoning her or treating her cruelly, having a concubine in the home, committing adultery, giving up her Hindu religion, etc.
Comparison Of Maintenance Of CrPc With Muslim Personal Law
Muslim woman is entitled to claim maintenance under these laws:-
Muslim personal law
Muslim women protection of rights on Divorce Act 1986
If a Muslim woman is unable to support herself after the iddat period, she may file a claim for maintenance under the CrPc. Mohd. Ahmad Khan V. Shah Bano Begum is a well-known case where the question was whether or not a Muslim woman could be entitled to maintenance under Section 125 of the CRPC.
After a five-judge bench heard the case, C.J. Y.C. Chandrachud declared that a Muslim woman could be entitled to maintenance under Section 125 of the CRPCC since it is a secular provision that applies to all religions. In the event that Muslim personal law and the CRPC conflict, section 125 of the CRPC will take precedence over the personal law.
In conclusion, maintenance under the Hindu Marriage Act serves as a crucial aspect of family law, ensuring the financial security and dignity of individuals, particularly the economically dependent spouse, during and after marital disputes. Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, empowers the courts to grant interim maintenance and cover necessary legal expenses, providing a lifeline for spouses in need.
This provision, operating under the principle of “pendente lite,” acknowledges the pressing need to support dependent spouses and children during ongoing legal proceedings. The determination of maintenance amounts is guided by various factors, such as the duration of the marriage, the financial capabilities and conduct of the spouses, and the reasonable needs of the claimant, ensuring a fair balance in the support provided.
Crucially, courts possess the authority to enforce maintenance orders, ensuring compliance through legal means, including contempt proceedings and penalties. These measures emphasise the importance of upholding the financial obligations set by the court, promoting accountability and justice within the legal framework.
In essence, maintenance under the Hindu Marriage Act exemplifies the commitment of the legal system to create a society that is just, equitable, and supportive, safeguarding the well-being of all parties involved in marital disputes. By addressing the financial aspects with precision and fairness, the law strives to alleviate the economic burdens faced by individuals, fostering a sense of security and stability, even in the midst of challenging circumstances.
 Neha, Maintenance under Section 125 Cr.P.C, Legal Service India
 Sushant Biswakarma, All you need to know about Adoption and Maintenance under Hindu laws, Ipleaders
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