These would include the newly born till they acquire, on becoming adult, the capacity to form and rear up their own family, the wife who rears them up, and the aged parents who had in their youth similarly brought up and supported the family.
The right of a person to maintenance and the corresponding obligation of another to provide it, arc in their very nature, dependent upon a consideration of the character of relationship between them, their means and mode of living. The means and the mode of living are material to determine the quantum of the obligation. The hitherto normal condition of Hindu society being to live in joint families, it became the rule that every member of the joint family is entitled to reside in the joint family house and to be maintained out of the joint family funds, under the control of the Karta or the family manager; and on a partition of the family taking place, members not entitled to a share in the joint property are entitled to a provision being made for their maintenance. The law of maintenance could not, therefore be treated easily apart from the law of joint family and partition. However, because of the progressive weakening of the ties of joint family that bound the Hindus so far, accelerated in no small measure, by recent legislation which has tended only to destroy them, and the codification of the law of maintenance in the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (Act 25 of 1955), and in the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act 1956 (Act 78 of 1956), it has become necessary to treat the law of maintenance as a separate topic.
The right of maintenance is the offspring of the concept of joint Hindu family. The karta of joint Hindu family bears the responsibility of the maintenance of all the members of family, the observance of sanskaras in the case of every member and the marriage expenses thereof. The right of maintenance is available to those members also, who on account of their disabilities is disentitled to inheritance. The right of maintenance includes all the reasonable necessaries of life such as food, clothes and shelter. This might create obligations which are the outcome of legal relationship.
The persons entitled to maintenance, according to Dharmashastras, can be divided broadly into two categories; firstly, the persons about whom the Dharmashastra lays down a binding duty and secondly those persons about whom they lay down a general duty. The first category includes old aged & infirm parents, legal wife, and minor children. The second category includes parents in general, the preceptor’s wife, a casual visitor, guests and fire. Manu has said: “Old infirm parents, a dedicated wife and the minor children are to be maintained by committing even thousands of offences. Supreme Court observed In Raghubar Singh v. Gulab Singh,” that right to maintenance of Hindu wife is a pre-existing right that existed even under Shastric Hindu Law. It was not created by 1937 or 1946 Acts.