Maintenance of Widowed Daughter-in-Law

Vidhi Agarwal

Marriage from time immemorial has been of a sacred nature. It is sine qua non for any family because of which it still exists even today. It was more of an emotional bond rather than a contractual bond, which it has become presently. In the contemporary times, “equality for all” has influenced all the relations worldwide.

With legalizing punishments for discrimination against women, the right of a woman has become a priority. To protect the same, various acts and laws were made, one of which is called Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act,1956. Under this Act, section 19 talks about- Maintenance of Widowed Daughter-In-Law.

What Does Section 19 Say?

“(1) A Hindu wife, whether married before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be entitled to be maintained after the death of her husband by her father-in-law.

Provided and to the extent that she is unable to maintain herself out of her own earnings or other property or, where she has no property of her own, is unable to obtain maintenance-

(a) from the estate of her husband or her father or mother, or

(b) from her son or daughter, if any, or his or her estate.

(2) Any obligation under sub-section (1) shall not be enforceable if the father-in-law has not the means to do so from any coparcenary property in his possession out of which the daughter-in-law has not obtained any share, and any such obligation shall cease on the remarriage of the daughter-in-law.” [1]

Explanation: the aforementioned section protects the rights of a widowed daughter-in-law and makes her a liability in the hands of her father-in-law to safeguard her rights from the in-laws.

It states that the Hindu wife, regardless she has been married before or after the execution of the act, should be taken care of by her father-in-law if her husband has died. However, this is not enforceable if the widow is sustainable enough to maintain herself or if the father-in-law is himself not in a suitable financial state to maintain her.

Also, the right is not applicable if the woman receives some kind of maintenance from the property of her father, mother or her deceased husband. If the woman receives maintenance from her daughter or son or their property, then too, she is not eligible for the benefits of this section. Remarried women are also exempted from this section.

Critical analysis: the section was initially implemented since the widowed daughter-in-law was forced out of the house of her in laws and was not accepted by her parents for maintenance. This resulted in violation of rights of women and a degraded status in society.

Women has always been subjected to discrimination from birth (female infanticide) to widow problems. Since women were married at a very early age, she did not receive proper education and hence no possibility of getting a job to maintain herself. She had been ingrained to think that she is inferior to men and this has been taken granted by men and in laws who then cannot stand the fact if women voice for themselves.

Women, who have always been subdued, required to be empowered and the mentioned act fulfills the purpose and is legally recognized in Smt. Balbir Kaur v. Harinder Kaur case.

However, this does not mean that the widow can take undue advantage of the protected right. In Mishra v. Smt. in Raj Kishore, the court held that the father-in-law is not bound and that the right is not actionable if he has no means of holding his daughter-in-law in custody of any coparcenary property of which the daughter-in-law has not gained any part.

In Animuthu v. Gandhimmal, the rule surrounding a widow’s remarriage is that a widow is legally eligible to receive a share in the inherited estate of her first husband after remarrying. Where the widow remarries, the responsibility of the father-in-law ends. However, she retains the right to have a share in her husband’s segregated property or can claim coparcenary property in his interest.

According to the statute, if, by virtue of survivorship, a coparcener obtains the property of a deceased coparcener, he must bear the responsibility of preserving the demands of both the widow and the deceased co-parcener’s unmarried daughters. Hindu law has always paid attention, be it a case of survivorship, to the widow’s right to land.

However, in the situations mentioned above, the right to claim maintenance from the father-in-law is reliant on the father-in-law having coparcenary property from which the widowed daughter-in-law has not received any share. Although the right to assert maintenance by widowed daughter-in-law against her father-in-law is confined under the Act to the degree of father-in-law coparcenary land, from which widowed daughter-in-law has not taken any part but by the old Hindu law, existing before the enactment of the Act, this right of maintenance against the self-obtained by the widowed daughter-in-law.

The right still is accessible against the self-acquired estate of her father-in-law to the widowed daughter-in-law of the pre-deceased son, as this right shall not stop to be in effect because it is not incompatible with any clause specified in the Act. The widowed daughter-in-law of a pre-deceased son is therefore entitled to claim a right of maintenance against her father-in-self-acquired law’s land, whether in his hand or in the hand of his heir or donor.

The Calcutta High Court held in Kanailal v. Pushparani Pramanik that Section 19, sub-section (2), refers only to parties controlled by Mitakshara rule. Under the Dayabhag school of Hindu law, there is no issue of a widow going to inherit her husband’s share of any coparcenary lands. Consequently, the clause of sub-section (2) of Section 19 cannot apply where the parties are members of the Dayabhag school of Hindu law. However, sub-section (1) of Section 19 bestows on a widowed daughter in-law the right to assert the maintenance of her father-in-law, regardless of whether it is regulated by Mitakshara or the Hindu law school of Dayabhag.

The Mohd Ahmed Khan v Shah Bano Begum led Justice Y Chandrachud to lament the appellants’ severe stance whose aim was to negate the right to the preservation of women who are helpless to preserve themselves. To assure that they satisfy the expectations of those being regulated, such clauses have been incorporated. The laws on the widows’ side are not too discriminatory, nor are they too lax for the deceased husband’s family members.

In S.V. Parthasaratliy Battachariar and others v. S. Rajeswari and others, the court noted that father-in-law is responsible for paying widowed daughter-in-law care if the widow’s husband is not identified for more than seven years and is considered to have died. In another recent case, a widow is entitled to seek maintenance from her father-in-law if the defendant is in possession of the self-acquired property of her deceased husband, a family court here has upheld.

The court ordered the father-in-law to pay her, in a 28-page judgment, a maintenance of Rs 40,000 per month and Rs 7 lakh for the time when the complaint was lodged, until the date of the order. The court also ordered the father to compensate the petitioner a price of Rs 10,000.

Hence, the section saves widowed women from falling into a dark pitch as well as prevents itself from being exploited in the hands of greedy and wrongfully intended women.

*link to source

*link to source

*link to source

*link to source

*link to source