12th Aug 2021
Author: Tanishqa Gupta, Bennett University, Greater Noida
Maintenance constitutes a sum of money that the husband is obligated to pay his wife on a monthly or annual basis upon either separation or divorce, or during the subsistence of their marriage. It is a type of financial support that a man gives to his wife. The objective of maintenance is to put back the wife in the same position and lifestyle as she was in during the existence of their marriage. It is a liability and becomes a moral obligation of the husband to provide such maintenance because of the matrimonial bond they shared. Women in society have faced many sacrifices, hardships, and discrimination in their lives, in the present times also they have not been treated with dignity and are discriminated against in society. Marriage is a holy union of two people where both the husband and the wife give into a lifelong commitment, for a physical emotional, and mental union. Maintenance is an amount whose objective is to ensure that the spouse who is affected the most financially is not left high and dry after the marriage in a state of vagrancy and no source of income to support herself just because their marriage failed and which does not mean that the spouse has to face such adversities, in maximum cases, it is the wife who is in this situation such conditions can apply to the children and parents of a man also. It was also iterated in the case of Vimal vs. Sukumar Anna Patil and Ors  that a man is compelled to perform the moral obligation which he owes to society in respect of his wife and children. By providing a simple speedy but limited relief, they seek to ensure that the neglected wife and children are not left beggared and destitute on the scrap-head of society and thereby driven to a life of vagrancy, immorality, and crime for their subsistence.
It is a measure of social justice and an outcome of the natural duty of a man to maintain his wife, children, and parents when they are unable to maintain themselves. Under certain circumstances, the wife can claim maintenance from her husband and, where it becomes the moral obligation to provide such maintenance which the society expects and in the view of the society the man becomes liable for such maintenance. Various laws in Indian recognize the right to maintenance under various acts, a Hindu female can claim maintenance under Hindu Personal Laws and under-provision of Criminal Code of Civil Procedure. Hindu marriage has been considered as a sacrosanct and not a civil contract by the traditional texts and wherein the marriage is an eternal, permanent and insoluble union which is an unbreakable bond, but in today’s time this concept has been broken by the introduction of divorce under the personal laws, is now available for either of the parties for permanent dissolution of marriage. Such provisions have allowed for a wife to claim for maintenance from her husband after the marriage is dissolved for her sustenance and it becomes his duty to provide her with such amount. This article will throw more light on the provisions of maintenance to wife in the Hindu law along with how it is a social and moral obligation of men to provide maintenance to women.
Maintenance in Indian Law
- Maintenance Under Section 125 CrPC
The concept of maintenance under Indian Law is divided among various acts and personal laws of different religions. The object of maintenance is to prevent immorality and destitution and ameliorate the economic condition of women and children. Under Section 125 CrPC maintenance can be provided to the wives, children (illegitimate and legitimate both), parents mother or dependent father not able to maintain themselves, then the magistrate can order such person to provide with the maintenance of some amount to wife, child, and parents as monthly allowances. The maintenance provided under this section is not restricted to any religion and is secular, anyone practicing and preaching any religion can claim maintenance under this section also the proceedings under CrPC is criminal rather than being civil like the personal laws. Also as seen in the case of Chaturbhuj v. Sita Bai  the object of such proceedings is not to punish a person for his past neglect but is enacted to prevent vagrancy by compelling those who can provide support to those who are unable to support themselves and have a moral claim to support.
The burden of proof here is on the wife to prove that she has been neglected by her husband who has sufficient means and is unable to maintain herself on her living. Under this provision, the aggrieved can claim for interim maintenance also under this section while the proceedings are going on in the court. The preview of Section 125 is very wide and is meant for social justice not barred by any factor such as caste, creed, religion, etc to provide justice to all.
Nature and Scope of Right to Maintenance Under Hindu Law
Hindu ancient texts have represented a marriage as a sacrament under which the union between the couple who gets married is indissoluble, eternal, and a holy bond in the eyes of the society. A marriage is considered to be a foundation of a family in society and is performed for the sustenance of a family in peace. It is seen to be one of the most important unions for the performance of religious duties under Hindu mythology. Hindu marriage is considered to be a sanskara and sacrament more than a civil contract. The current modern texts have defeated the features of a marriage of ancient texts, by the introduction of certain laws and provisions which directly gives the status of marriage as a civil contract between the two parties and laws to protect the rights of a woman to claim maintenance and alimony, restitution of conjugal rights protection from cruelty, adultery, etc.
Our society has always been a male-dominated society that does not look into the hardships the woman goes through under a marriage like violence, domestic abuse, etc., and is kept suppressed. The patriarchy has such an effect on society that women are treated to be the ones who will look after the households and are suppressed to express their minds and views by the male-dominated society. After a lot of suffering and abuse faced by the women in marriage and society, there have been laws enacted to deal with these issues, following are the Acts enacted for a person to claim maintenance who is a Hindu by religion –
- The Hindu Marriage Act (HMA), 1955,
- The Hindu Succession Act (HAS), 1956,
- The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act (HAMA), 1956
Maintenance of Wife
The Hindu Marriage Act,1955 and The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 take about special provisions for the rights of wives to be maintained by her husband. It is the absolute right of the wife to be maintained by her husband, which is his obligation by the very existence of marriage and cannot deny such obligation. Right to maintenance of a wife comes with the concept of an undivided family in a Hindu family for a man to maintain his wife children and parents who cannot maintain themselves. Section 3(b) of HAMA, 1956 defines what maintenance is and a man is expected to provide food, shelter, clothing, medical assistance, etc., necessities to his family members. It was stated by the court in the case of State of Haryana v. Smt. Santra  stated that maintenance is a type of liability, and which is created by the Hindu law which arises out of the jural relation of the parties.
Section 18 of The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956 talks about the maintenance of wife in marriage by her husband, clause 1 of the section talks about maintenance of wife living with her husband, 18(2) talks about wife living separately from her husband and still have rights to be maintained by her husband under certain circumstances like if she has been deserted by him, the husband has caused apprehension of grave harm to her or cruelty that her life is in danger and she cannot stay with him anymore, he is having a second wife living or an extramarital affair or commits bigamy, keeping a concubine or a mistress in the same house as her or habituates which concubine in another place, having a harmful form of leprosy, converted to some other religion and ceased to be Hindu or any valid reason as to live separate. A wife under this section disqualifies for the right to be maintained by having a house and living arrangements, if she is unchaste or has converted herself into some other religion from Hinduism, then the husband is not liable to pay any maintenance.
Types of Maintenance
The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 lays down the types of maintenance that can be granted, as mentioned under Section 24 and Section 25 of the act which is maintenance pendente lite or interim maintenance and alimony or permanent maintenance, respectively. Under this act, the alimony or maintenance can be claimed by either of the parties in a suit be it husband or wife. Under Section 24 interim maintenance includes maintenance that is given for personal maintenance of the claimant and the court proceedings expenses. This type of maintenance is mainly claimed for immediate expenses for the court proceedings or the personal needs of either party. As iterated in the case of Rameshwar Nath Vs. Kanta Devi  this type of maintenance can be claimed by anyone to the suit, both respondent or appellant can file for this maintenance, the court here iterated said that awarding maintenance does not depend upon whether it is accepted or rejected. This infers that, if the main maintenance appeal is rejected by the court and the application filled for interim maintenance is still pending in court then, such court has the jurisdiction to pass interim maintenance. This provision is specially made for the spouses who do not have enough money to maintain themselves during the pending court proceedings. For claiming maintenance as stated in the case of Manokaran v. Devaki  wife can anytime seek maintenance during the proceedings who does not have sufficient means of income for the same and needs to prove it in front of the court, whereas the husband does the same for claiming maintenance.
Section 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act,1955 lays down provision for permanent alimony to the claimant in the form of periodic basis or on monthly basis, this is a type of permanent maintenance that the court grants to the applicant it can also be a gross amount given at once, here either wife or husband anyone applies the same. The objective of maintenance is to provide support to the wife after the divorce and not leave her to suffer or left indigent, such cases were applied to the nullity of marriage. Both sections 24 and 25 are provisions made to remove a woman from a handicapped position who is not able to maintain a stable life and living conditions. In the case of Bhausaheb v. Leelabai  court excluded an illegitimate wife or a mistress of a man from the word wife under Section 25 of HMA. Under this provision, the court can pass an alimony order even after the petition gets dismissed. Also, as seen in the case of Surendra Kumar Bhansali v. Judge, the Family Court  the court iterated that such applications under section 25 for maintenance can be filled after the passing of the decree, and the mere fact that the case is pending in the court will not affect the application filed. Such permanent maintenance can be ordered at the time of passing of the decree or subsequently after the passing of decree on matrimonial cases. The term passing of decree includes the nullity of a marriage under Section 25. Clause 3 of the section lays down conditions as to when the order for application can be terminated in the case of a wife if she becomes unchaste or the husband has an extramarital, under such circumstances the court can set aside the application for the maintenance of the applicant. Both these provisions are enacted for the smooth and effective proceedings and application for providing alimony or interim maintenance in cases where the husband-and-wife drift apart.
Quantum of Maintenance
The quantum or amount of maintenance is determined by looking into various factors of the current situation of the non-applicant and the claimant. Section 23 of the Hindu Marriage Act lays down certain conditions for determining the quantum of the maintenance to be awarded and is at the discretion of the court whether to allow the maintenance or not. The conditions which, to be looked into under this section are the status of the parties in the suit, the reasonableness of the amount claimed if the claimant lives separately and the number of people to be maintained, husband and wife’s property and income, etc. how well they are established and whether they need any kind of assistance. Furthermore, in the case of Bharat Hedge vs. Saroj Hegde  the hon’ble court ruled out 11 factors that must be taken into consideration by the courts at the time of application made for interim maintenance under Section 24 of HMA,1956 some of which are, reasonable wants of the claimant, income and property of the claimant, number of persons the claimant has to maintain, liabilities of the non-applicant, amount of maintenance under CrPC is adjustable with the one awarded under Section 24 of HMA.
It was also seen in one the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme court in the case of Rajnesh v. Neha  laid down that the quantum of maintenance should be realistic and reasonable in awarding the maintenance it must not be too extravagant affecting the respondent and neither be too meagre that the wife is not able to maintain herself. A wife will not be able to claim for any of such maintenance when she converts herself into some other religion.
Marriage is one of the essential acts and the very foundation of our society. It leads to a contract or a bond between the two parties for the performance of certain acts together for the stability and happiness of a family. Such marriages when in sustenance or when subsistence can lead to a wife leading to demand maintenance to maintain herself when separated or divorce for her, and it is a moral and social duty of the husband, as he is bound to do that. As seen Hindu ancient texts have not regarded for any such provisions, the legislature has enacted laws to protect the rights of women and abuse. There must be fair and just maintenance awarded to wives under their laws and introduce laws that protect women even after the dissolution of marriage and give them independence where they can live a life with dignity in the society. The current laws have played a crucial role in changing the perception of the people towards the ancient texts. After all the ancients texts and practices the Hindu Law has recognized such rights in various Acts and under which Section 24 and 25 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 plays a crucial role in the application of maintenance of a person who is a Hindu. These laws have played a pivotal role in uplifting the rights of women against her husband and in seeking maintenance.
 Vimal vs. Sukumar Anna Patil and Ors, (1981) 83 BOMLR 37
 Kamni Ahuja and Vasundhara Ravi, The concept of ‘maintenance’ under Indian law, https://www.ibanet.org/Article/NewDetail.aspx?ArticleUid=5BE1285C-2DFC-4513-88C2-ACC7E2A0C04E,(last visited June 21, 2021).
 Chaturbhuj v Sita Bai, A.I.R 2008 SC 530
 State of Haryana v. Smt. Santra, (2019) CPJ 211 (NC)
 Rameshwar Nath Vs. Kanta Devi, A.I.R 1957 Pun 85
 Manoharan v. Devaki, A.I.R 2003 Mad 212
 Bhausaheb v. Leelabai, A.I.R 2004 Bom. 283 (F.B.)
 Surendra Kumar Bhansali v. Judge, Family Court, A.I.R. 2004 Rsj.257
 Bharat Hedge vs. Saroj Hegde, 140(2007) DLT 16
 Rajnesh v. Neha, 2020 SCC Online SC 903
 Prachi Bhardwaj, Maintenance Of Wife, https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2020/11/05/maintenance-of-wifehusband-doesnt-have-to-pay-maintenance-in-each-of-the-proceedings-under-different-maintenance-laws-explainer-on-supreme-court-guidelines/ ,(last visited on 24th June,2021)
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