Maintenance fundamentally means support to someone who is unable to maintain and sustain herself or himself. Predominantly in India, women are not able to maintain and sustain themselves after the divorce or the death of a husband due to constraints and diminutions they face in society. This makes it harder for women to sustain themselves and looking at the constraints and restrictions women face parliament has passed a law regarding this. Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 which governs the law concerning maintenance.
For this article, our concern would be the maintenance of the widowed daughter-in-law which is governed by Section 19 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 (HAMA). Under section 19 of HAMA, the widowed Hindu wife is entitled to maintenance from her father-in-law to the extent that she is not able to sustain and maintain themselves from earnings or property.
Maintenance of Widowed Daughter-in-Law
Where the widowed daughter-in-law is unable to sustain and maintain themselves from her income or estate or has no estate of herself or is not able to secure maintenance from the property of her husband or her mother or father then she is entitled to the maintenance from her father-in-law under section 19(1) of HAMA. Nonetheless, section 19(2) of HAMA states that where the father-in-law has no means to provide maintenance to the widowed daughter-in-law from his property then the obligation stated under section 19(1) ceases to be enforceable. In addition, the widowed daughter-in-law’s maintenance right would cease to exist after her remarriage.
Right of Maintenance of Widowed Daughter-in-Law:
Maintenance of the widowed daughter-in-law can be met up from the estate where the deceased husband had a share in the estate. To plead section 19 the deceased husband should have a share in the estate. In Raj Kishore Mishra v. Smt. Meena Mishra, the court decided that the father-in-law is under no obligation if he does not have sufficient means to provide maintenance through his coparcenary estate.
It is crucial to note that the daughter-in-law would have no right to claim the ownership of the property self-acquired by the deceased husband’s parents. In Satpal v. Suman and Ors. It was stated that maintenance of the widowed daughter-in-law from the salary of the father-in-law would be inconsistent with section 19(2) of the Act. As the husband has no share in the father’s salary, the widowed wife would also have no share.
Under the old Hindu law, an uncodified daughter-in-law had the right of maintenance against the self-acquired property of the father-in-law but it is important to consider that section 4 of the act which provides for a non-obstante clause would be having the overriding effect and the aforesaid rule would cease to exist subsequent to the enactment of the HAMA. Mother-in-law would not have any legal liability to support and provide finance for her daughter-in-law from her own estate or possessions.
In Venubai v. Laxman Lahanuji Rambhad, the court stated that it is important to understand that section 19 is a whole scheme in itself laying down obligation and its enforceability, and sections 19(1) and 19(2) are not independent of each other. Under section 19 the daughter has a right that corresponds to the obligation of the father-in-law.
Maintenance of Minors with the Widowed Daughter-in-Law:
In a Hari Ram Hans v. Smt Deepali & Ors. judgment by Punjab and Haryana High Court, it was held that under section 19 of HAMA the word ‘widow’ would also include minor children living with her and are entitled to maintenance.
In Smt. Raina v. Hari Mohan Budhaulia case the honorable Allahabad High Court held that the petitioner widowed daughter-in-law and her two minor daughters are also entitled to maintenance from her father-in-law as she had no means to maintain herself and her daughters and the father-in-law had the sufficient means to maintain her along with her two daughters.
The high court also quashed the impugned order passed by the court below saying the court should not go into the provision’s technicalities but consider the act’s intention while enacted.
Section 19(2) of HAMA:
It is important to understand the scope and meaning of Section 19(2) as it mentions the coparcenary property in the ownership of the father-in-law through which he would be providing maintenance to his widowed daughter-in-law. In Nand Kishore Lal vs Shrimati Chanchala Lal, the court stated that the coparcenary property refers in the section would consist of ancestral property or joint acquisition. Sub-section (2) of Section 19 has the meaning that is only extended to the ancestral property.
Women’s social and economic condition in Indian society is often fragile and weak due to the constraints and restrictions they face in an overwhelmingly patriarchal society. This makes women dependent and after the separation or the death of the husband, the women become unable to maintain themselves. Looking at the aforesaid situation the parliament has passed an appropriate law known as the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 (HAMA) which governs the maintenance rights of a wife and widowed daughter-in-law.
As Section 19 of HAMA further clarifies the stand of the law regarding the rights of maintenance of women. As the law protects and safeguards the interest of widowed women in a case where she is unable to sustain and maintain themselves after the death of their husband. In this course of events, it becomes obligatory for the father-in-law to provide maintenance to the widowed daughter-in-law and as well to the minor children thus they can sustain themselves.
- Salil Tiwari, [S. 19 Of Hindu Adoptions & Maintenance Act] “Widow” Would Include Minor Grandchildren Staying With Mother: Punjab & Haryana HC, Law Beat, 7 January 2023, available at: https://lawbeat.in/news-updates/s-19-hindu-adoptions-maintenance-act-widow-would-include-minor-grandchildren-staying-mother-punjab-haryana-high-court#:~:text=Synopsis,own%20earnings%20or%20other%20property
- Basit Amin Makhdoomi, Minor Children Of Widowed Daughter-In-Law Entitled To Maintenance U/S 19 Hindu Adoptions And Maintenance Act: Punjab & Haryana High Court, LiveLaw, 6 January 2023, available at: https://www.livelaw.in/news-updates/punjab-haryana-high-court-widow-daughter-in-law-minor-children-maintenance-father-in-law-section-19-hindu-adoptions-and-maintenance-act-218287