Legal Advice

Husband is liable to maintain his wife

Question: My husband refused to maintain and used to say that your rich parents are capable to maintain you. After the marriage, I cannot demand from my parents to maintain me. What is the responsibility of the husband in respect of maintenance of wife and whether he can refuse to maintain?


It is the paramount duty of the husband to maintain his wife. The matter relating to grant of maintenance is governed by Sections 3(b), 18 and 19 of the provisions of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956. Section 3(b) defines maintenance and includes food, clothing, residence, education and medical attendance and treatment of wife.

Section 18 gives a special right to wife and entitled her to be maintained by her husband during her lifetime. But this right is not unfettered, this right shall be ceased if she is unchaste or ceases to be a Hindu by conversion to another religion. Maintenance of a wife, during the subsistence of the marriage, is on the husband. It is a personal obligation and it cannot be shifted upon any other person during the lifetime of husband.

On the death of her husband, this obligation sifts upon her father-in-law. But only when her husband is a co-sharer in the properties held by her father-in-law. The husband must have a share in the property.

Thus it is evident that if the husband is alive only he is under obligation to maintain you. This liability cannot be shifted upon any other family member, only on the ground that your husband has shared in the property held by the family. In Kirtikant D. Vadodaria v. State of Gujarat [(1996) 4 SCC 479]; the supreme court held that

“According to the law of the land with regard to maintenance, there is an obligation of the husband to maintain his wife which does not arise by reason of any contract—express or implied—but out of a jural relationship of husband and wife consequent to the performance of the marriage. Such an obligation of the husband to maintain his wife arises irrespective of the fact whether he has or has no property, as it is considered an imperative duty and a solemn obligation of the husband to maintain his wife.”

“Further, according to Section 20 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, a Hindu is under a legal obligation to maintain his wife, minor sons, unmarried daughters and aged or infirm parents. The obligation to maintain them is personal, legal and absolute in character and arises from the very existence of the relationship between the parties.”

You cannot enforce the right to maintenance against father-in-law or mother-in-law. It is enforceable only against your husband. You cannot get any relief if you file an application for attachment of property of your father-in-law in lieu of your husband.

Shivendra Pratap Singh


High Court Lucknow