Ravi Jadhav
Is a married woman in a joint Hindu family entitled to maintenance from her father-in-law in case her husband has failed to maintain her owing to physical disability or mental disorder?On the recommendation of the Punjab and Haryana high court last February, the Law Commission of India has prepared a report on this grey area in the existing law. And according to a reliable source, the commission is of the view that adequate provision should be inserted in the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act (HAMA) 1956, under which the father-in-law, being the ‘Karta’ of the Hindu Undivided Family (HUF), is liable to provide maintenance to his daughter-in-law if his son is incapacitated due to disability.The Commission is likely to submit its report to the Union law ministry on Monday on the issue and recommend amendment in the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act (HAMA) 1956. This will be a significant move by the law panel to recognise the rights of a married woman in a joint Hindu family. However, the apex law body also suggests that the right to claim maintenance should cease once the husband receives his share from HUF, source added.Last February, when dealing with a case – Avtar Singh vs Jasbir Singh – the Punjab and Haryana high court had taken note of the legal obligation of the father-in-law to provide maintenance to the daughter-in-law in case of the son’s disability.In its order the high court had said: “The law is silent on whether a daughter-in-law, who does not have any source of maintenance, can claim maintenance if her husband is insane or of unsound mind. 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 on the father-in-law and entitled to maintenance as provided under section 19 of the HAM Act.”The high court was hearing the plea of a woman, whose husband was of unsound mind, seeking share of the HUF property for her maintenance. Although through a Panchayat settlement she had been given her share, subsequently her father-in-law had dispossessed her of the property.

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Law panel may recommend amendment to Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act