It is frequently quoted that a girl is 'parayadhan’ and once married belongs only to her matrimonial home and has to fulfil all her duties, responsibilities with unwavering devotion and loyalty. Apart from duties towards her husband and in-laws women also have some rights like the right to residence, right to live with dignity and self-respect, right to be maintained, right to have a committed relationship, right to share in husband’s ancestral property after his death.
RIGHT OF SHARE IN HUSBAND’S PROPERTY AFTER HIS DEATH
- Self-acquired property
Under the Hindu Succession Act 1956, husband’s property can be inherited by a married woman only after the death of the husband, provided the husband dies intestate. This means that -
- Wife does not get an automatic right to her husband’s property upon marriage and
- The Husband should not have expressly excluded or denied her share in his will.
Under the act, wife has been made a class 1 heir and has a preferential right to property as against the heirs specified in subsequent classes.
- Ancestral property
In case of husband’s ancestral property, wife does not have the right to it unless and until she inherits it from the deceased husband.
However, in the case of partition of a joint family property (between her husband and his sons), the wife has the right to a share equal to the share of a son. She can hold such property and enjoy it separately from her husband.
RIGHT OF MAINTENANCE OUT OF HUSBAND’S PROPERTY
Maintenance under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956
The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 defines maintenance as ‘provision for food, clothing, residence, education, and medical attendance and treatment.”1 The Act makes it a personal obligation of a Hindu to maintain
- His wife
- Children, and
- Aged parents.
Section 18 of the Act makes it obligatory for the husband to maintain his lawfully wedded wife during her lifetime.
Section 18(2) of the Act lays down the grounds on which wife may live separate and claim maintenance.
‘Desertion’ as aground for living separately is defined by Section 18(2) as “abandoning her without reasonable cause and without her consent or against her wish or of willfully neglecting her.” The distinction between “desertion” as a ground for living separately and as a ground for judicial separation or divorce under Sections 10 and 13, Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 is that under the former, it may be of any duration and in the latter, desertion must be of atleast 2 years duration.
Clause (b) of Section 18(2) defines cruelty as “treating her in such a manner as to cause a reasonable apprehension in her mind that it will be harmful or injurious to live with her husband”.
Clause (c) of Section 18(2) makes suffering from leprosy as a ground for the wife to live separate and claim maintenance.
- Another wife living
If the husband has any other wife living at the time of making a claim under this section, it is a valid ground for the wife to live separate and claim maintenance from husband under clause (d) of Section 18(2).
- Keeps a concubine
If husband keeps a concubine in the same house in which his wife is living or habitually resides with a concubine elsewhere, it is a valid ground for the wife to live separate and claim maintenance from husband under clause (e) of Section 18(2).
Clause (f) of section 18(2) says, “If he ceased to be a Hindu by conversion to another religion”.
- Any other justifiable cause
Clause (g) of section 18(2) provides for the discretion of the court to grant wife right to live separately and claim maintenance on any other ground which it seems justifiable and reasonable.
However, under Section 18(3), a Hindu wife shall not be entitled to separate residence and maintenance from her husband if she is unchaste or ceases to be a Hindu by conversion to another religion.
The Bombay High Court in Bai Appibai v. Khimji Cooverji2, held that under the Hindu Law, the right of a wife to maintenance is a matter of personal obligation on the husband. It rests on the relations arising from the marriage and is not dependent on or qualified by a reference to the possession of any property by the husband.
Maintenance under the Criminal Procedure Code
Section 125, Criminal procedure Code, is available to all neglected wives or discarded or divorced wives, abandoned children and hapless parents belonging to any religion, community against the husband, father or son.
Explanation (b) to Section 125(1) of the Code, defines "wife" as to include a woman who has been divorced by, or has obtained a divorce from, her husband and has not remarried.
The basis of the relief, under Section 125 is not whether a person is actually having means, but if he is capable of earning, he will be considered to have sufficient means.
However, a wife’s claim of maintenance may be defeated if-
- If she is living in adultery, or
- If, without any sufficient reason, she refuses to live with her husband, or
- If they are living separately by mutual consent.3
It has been observed and a settled law now that woman can’t claim right over her father-in-law’s property.
In Varinder Kaur v. Jitender Kumar and Another on 21 October 2016,
Hon’ble Justice Raj Mohan Singh upheld the judgment of the lower appellate court and held, ‘In view of above and in the light of aforementioned judicial pronouncements, it can be safely culled out that the appellant has no right to live in the self-acquired property of the plaintiff/respondent No.1. The lower appellate court has rightly passed the impugned judgment and decree against the appellant.’ Relying on apex court judgments, the court observed, “During subsistence of marriage, maintenance of a married wife is a personal obligation on the part of husband. Such an obligation can be met from the properties of the husband out of joint properties. The properties shown exclusively in the name of parents cannot be subject matter of any attachment or enforcement of any right of maintenance.”
It has been observed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court that Hindu Female’s right maintenance is a right which flows from the spiritual relationship between the husband and wife.
Vaddeboyina Tulasamma v. Vaddeboyina Shesha Reddi4,
The Supreme Court, in this case, highlighted the Hindu female’s right to maintenance as a tangible right against property which flows from the spiritual relationship between the husband and wife. The Bench comprising of Justice P.N. Bhagwati, Justice A.C. Gupta and Justice S.M. Fazal Ali held that Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 must be liberally construed in favour of the females so as to advance the object of the Act. This section makes female Hindu a full owner of a property, instead of a limited owner.
The Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2010
To protect interests of women after divorce, Marriage Law’s (Amendment) Bill was passed by Rajya Sabha on 26 August 2013, which provided for some major changes in the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and the Special Marriages Act, 1954. It provides for the irretrievable breakdown on marriage as a ground for divorce as well as grants women the right to a share in the property of their husbands.
The new bill makes provision wherein court would not grant divorce on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage if the court is satisfied that adequate provision for the maintenance of children born out of the marriage has not been made consistently with the financial capacities of the parents.
The bill allows a wife to oppose the grant of divorce on the basis that dissolution of marriage will lead to grave financial hardships. The court can also restrict grant of divorce if it is not satisfied with adequate provision for maintenance of children born of the marriage. The bill also provides that the court shall not pass a decree of divorce on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage until it is satisfied that the parties to the marriage have been living apart continuously for a period of three years before preceding the petition to divorce.
Thus, the bill has been made keeping in mind the hardships faced by women in marriage against their husbands and therefore makes provisions protecting and providing them reliefs from the harassment of husband and also securing the right to share in husband’s property.