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Report No. 252

Right of the Hindu Wife to Maintenance: A Relook at Section 18 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956

Chapter 1

Introduction

In a decision given by the Hon'ble High Court of Punjab and Haryana in Avtar Singh v. Jasbir Singh, RSA No. 29/1988 (O&M), decision dated 11.02.2014, a lacuna in the position of Hindu Women qua their property and maintenance rights under the existing law was identified.

1.2 In the said case, the Plaintiff was the wife of a man of unsound mind, who had sought ¼th share in the land belonging to the family, from her father in law as maintenance for herself, her husband and her minor sons. The said share had been provided to her by her father in law through a family settlement before the Gram Panchayat, but the wife was later forcibly dispossessed of the land by her father in law and brother in law.

Since the said property had been voluntarily given by the father in law to his son of unsound mind and his family through a family settlement, the substantial question of law regarding the legal obligations of the father in law in such situations was not raised and the case was decided on the basis of whether the said family settlement before the Gram Panchayat was required to be registered in order to effect the validity. However, before parting with the case, the Ld. Judge made the following observations with regard to legal position of Hindu wives:

"Before parting with judgment, it would be appropriate to mention that no provision has been brought to my notice by learned counsel for the parties that if husband is insane or of unsound mind, the daughter in law who is not having any source of maintenance can claim maintenance for herself. When she has to maintain her mentally ill husband, her condition is worse than being a widowed daughter in law. In such a situation, the wife should be deemed to be dependent upon the father in law and entitled to maintenance as provided under Section 19 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act.

Copy of this Order be sent to the Union Ministry of Law and Justice and Law Commission of India for taking appropriate measures for amendment in the Act."

1.3 Based on the above recommendation, the Law Commission of India decided to look into the question.

1.4 Accordingly, the Commission formed a Committee for this purpose comprising of the Mr. Justice (Retd.) Ajit Prakash Shah, Chairman, Law Commission of India,; Justice (Retd.) Ms. Usha Mehra, Member, Law Commission of India, Ms. Dipika Jain, Associate Professor, Jindal Global University, Sonepat; and Mr. Saptarishi Mandal, Assistant Professor, Jindal Global University, Sonepat.

1.5 The Committee undertook an extensive study of the subject and analyzed all the pertinent laws in this regard, including the provisions of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 and also the classic Hindu Law.



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