The word maintenance in law means the amount or the economical support which is paid to the dependent wife, child, or parents to maintain themselves. The amount can be paid either in installments or at once.

The nature and scope of the economic support given to either of the spouse under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and other acts like Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 and under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973  has been created to provide maintenance and nurture the lives of the deserted and helpless females tied by the sacred knot and also to maintain lives of their children as the case may be, and even so that those females can help their living parents. Recently a lot of emphasis has been on the recent Supreme Court judgement during which maintenance was denied to the wife because her marriage was not valid in the eyes of court.

When one talks about the purpose of providing maintenance, then it is to give the  quality of life to the other spouse after separation. It is decided separately in every case and is given accordingly by the court of competent authority. It is even given during the proceedings of the court i.e. maintenance and pendente lite and also after the decree of the divorce and ends on the death and remarriage of alimony holder.

Maintenance is provided by considering many factors and then it is awarded. It can be temporary maintenance which is also known as maintenance pendente lite which is awarded by the courts during the proceedings of the court. The purpose of pendente lite is to meet the necessary expenses needed by one spouse who is also a party to the proceedings . Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 deals with the maintenance pendente lite. Further this temporary relief can be claimed under Section 125(1) [1]of Crpc also Permanent maintenance is the sum given to another spouse after the court proceedings are over and is covered under Section 25 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. It is given on a periodical basis which is decided by the competent court.

Interim maintenance is awarded when the wife has literally no source of income and she cant take care of her in any possible manner. The amount of maintenance in this case depends on the discretion of the court and it can’t be pre decided by the parties about the proportion of maintenance and quantity of maintenance. Should fulfil all the necessary requirements needed for the survival of the wife. These generally arises in conditions where husband has extra marital affairs or husband behaviour is brutal or cruel against wife and haa animosity against his wife and her parents, or husband has deserted his wife or there has been condition of religious conversion.

There are various factors which are considered before fixing the amount of maintenance. Those factors include, whether the wife has any source of income , whether she needs maintenance or not. The position and status of husband and wife is taken into consideration. The court will ask for justified reasons of separation. The total worth of assets and proportion will be taken into consideration. The income and expenditure of both the spouses will be analysed.

Section 24 and Section 25 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 deals with temporary and permanent maintenance respectively. Under Section 24 of the act, the court can ask one spouse to give the required amount to other party and respondent is bound to assist economically the petitioner in accordance with the law. Further, in respect to the Section 25 of the act, grants alimony on a permanent basis and is given on a periodic basis and also being decided by the court.        

Section 26[2] of the HMA act deals with the custody, maintenance, education and rest of all general expenses of their minor children. Court may, as it considers necessary and deems fit, from time to time pass interim orders during this regard and at regular interval of  time and has the facility to revoke, suspend or vary such order as well. It is an Obligation to maintain court order on part of  both father and mother of the kid or on either of them as ordered by the court. Section 20 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956[3] lays down an obligation on the Hindu male or female to maintain their legitimate or even illegitimate minor children and aged/ infirm parents, the amount of which is to be determined by the competent court so that their survival can be made possible.

Section18 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 deals with the maintenance and separate residence of the wife. A Widow does not get any charge on any separate property of husband.Neither Section 18 concerning maintenance of wife nor Section 21 handling widow provides for any charge for maintenance on the separate property of the  husband.

According to the section 19 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act a widowed daughter-in-law is entitled to be maintained by her father–in –law. Section 21 defines different  dependants: “dependants” means the relatives of the deceased and those among whom some of people are entitled to get ancestral property of the deceased. Section 22 defines maintenance of dependants. The heirs of a deceased Hindu who get properties are bound to maintain the dependents of the deceased out of the estate inherited by them from the deceased. Section 23 of the Act provides the amount of Maintenance and heirs are obligated to do so.

According to Section 125 of CrPC [4] first class magistrate has the power to order the person to provide a monthly allowance to:  his parents, wife, or his legitimate or illegitimate minor children who are not able to maintain themselves so maintenance to be given to them for their survival; legitimate or illegitimate major child not being a married daughter or till gets married, who are unable to maintain themselves due to any physical injury or abnormality; Married daughter till she attains her majority if her husband is unable to take care of her; His or her father or mother if they’re unable to maintain themselves, whoever neglects or refuses to do so. The main issue that was raised here before  the court was whether Section 125 can be applied  to Muslim women or not and whether a uniform civil code applies to individuals of all religions or not.

The judgments given  by various High Courts of India and Supreme Court of India from time to time makes it as an  legal obligation on the father-in-law to take care of his daughter-in-law in an unfortunate event of the inability of daughter-in-laws husband to maintain her and to give basic necessities. This judicial thinking has always got full support from some of our legal luminaries and proved to be beneficial.

From the plethora of judgements of various courts of India it is often concluded that Section 125 of CrPC provides for stringent means to suit with the provisions of maintenance. It not only breaks the barrier of faith which acts as an obstacle in providing justice to people but also provides for equal protection of law and justice for all irrespective of any kind of religion followed and propagated by an individual. Religion cannot overcome the doctrine of “justice” and “equity”, religion would not be consider into the account of law. The concept of maintenance is interpreted in a number of ways under different statutory provisions and statutes yet the purpose of it is to grant economical support to the other spouse. Code of Criminal Procedure through its Section 125 also aims at providing individuals following different religions to seek alimony and economical support in different manners.

Author’s Name: Shruti Saha

[1] Code Of Criminal Procedure,1973

[2] Hindu Marriage Act 1955, s26

[3] Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956,s20

[4] Code Of Criminal Procedure,1973

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