Hindu Law

What is Maintenance Pendente Lite? Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

Maintenance pendent lite means providing living expenses and financial support for the children, wife and other person while a suit is pending.

Maintenance Pendente Lite?

Maintenance refers to providing food, clothing, and other essentials to dependents such as children or a spouse. “Pendente lite” translates to “while a suit is pending.” Therefore, Maintenance Pendente Lite entails providing living expenses and financial support to dependents while legal proceedings are ongoing.

Maintenance Pendente Lite in Hindu Law

In Hindu Law, the provision for Pendente Lite is outlined in Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. This section empowers the court to grant two specific reliefs to either the husband or wife while a matrimonial suit is pending:

  1. Expenses related to the proceedings for which relief is sought.
  2. Monthly maintenance allowance throughout the proceedings.

This maintenance is applicable in cases of void marriages, annulments, judicial separations, divorces, restitution of conjugal rights, and alimony. Regardless of which party initiates the legal action, either the husband or wife can receive maintenance for themselves or their child from their spouse. The grant of maintenance depends on the financial circumstances of the parties involved, with the provision being that one party lacks sufficient independent income to support themselves or cover the necessary expenses of the proceedings; in such cases, they can receive support from the financially more affluent party.

Maintenance Pendente Lite is also provided for under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, in Section 36, and under the Criminal Procedure Code, in Section 125. However, in these statutes, only the wife is entitled to receive maintenance.

Provisions Regarding Interim Maintenance

Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973:

  • Section 125 empowers a first-class magistrate to order a monthly allowance to be provided by an individual to their spouse, elderly parents, or legitimate or illegitimate child if the spouse is unable to support themselves and the husband refuses to maintain them.
  • If a husband conditions maintenance on the wife living with him, but she refuses, the magistrate considers her reasons and supports her decision. However, a wife engaged in adultery forfeits the right to claim maintenance.
  • Maintenance pendente lite is granted based on the husband’s income, financial capacity, and other relevant factors, typically awarded within sixty days of serving notice to the respondent. The magistrate has discretion but must ensure a minimum allowance of Rs 500 per month for all dependents.

In the case of a minor daughter, the magistrate may order the father to contribute to her well-being until she reaches adulthood, with payments to begin promptly upon the magistrate’s order. A wife can claim maintenance in various circumstances, such as desertion, cruelty, remarriage of the husband, or conversion of religion.

Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum

The case of Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum (1985) is significant. Despite her husband’s contention that he had been providing Rs 200 per month, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Shah Bano Begum, affirming the right of Muslim women to maintenance under Section 125.

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Under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955:

Extracts of Sections 24-25, Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

24. Maintenance pendente lite and expenses of proceedings.-

Where in any proceeding under this Act it appears to the court that either the wife or the husband, as the case may be, has no independent income sufficient for her or his support and the necessary expenses of the proceeding, it may, on the application of the wife or the husband, order the respondent to pay to the petitioner the expenses of the proceeding, and monthly during the proceeding such sum as, having regard to the petitioner’s own income and the income of the respondent, it may seem to the court to be reasonable.

  • Section 24 allows both spouses to claim maintenance pendente lite if they lack independent income. The husband must demonstrate mental or physical incapacity to earn a living.
  • The Court can provide two reliefs:
    • Temporary maintenance to sustain basic needs during divorce proceedings.
    • Financial assistance for legal expenses, ensuring fair representation and a just legal process.

These provisions aim to alleviate financial disparities during legal proceedings, with the Court ensuring fairness and equity based on the parties’ financial circumstances.

Read Also: Hindu Law Notes: Origins, Sources and Schools of Hindu Law

Theories of Divorce under Hindu Law – Full Notes

Hindu Marriage Act Maintenace Money
Hindu Marriage Act Maintenace Money | Lawmonitor

Monthly allowance during the proceedings

During legal proceedings, one party can ask for financial support monthly. This is called maintenance pendente lite. It covers expenses like travel, lawyer fees, and others related to the case. The law says the court must grant this support if it’s requested.

# Both the husband and wife can ask for this support for themselves or their child. They need to show they don’t have enough money to cover their basic needs.

UMaintenance pendente lite can also be sought under Section 36 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954, but in this case, only the wife can claim maintenance.  She needs to prove her indigence or financial incapacity.

In a case from 2011, Rani Sethi v. Sunil Sethi,

the husband asked for support from his wife. He said she ran a paying guest business and was financially stable. He was kicked out of the house. They had two adult children. The court decided the wife had to pay Rs. 20,000 every month for support and Rs. 10,000 for legal expenses. They also gave them a car.

Who can ask for maintenance money?

Wife, kids, and elderly parents who can’t fend for themselves can request financial help. However, husbands can only ask for support under certain conditions in the Hindu Marriage Act. The court has to be sure that the person neglecting to provide support has the means to do so.

For Wife:

If a wife can’t support herself or her kids, she can ask her husband for help. However, she cannot claim maintenance if she’s living with someone else, refuses to live with her husband without a good reason, or if they’ve agreed to separate.

For Children:

  • Kids, whether they’re married or not, can ask for help if they can’t support themselves. The court can order support for them, even after they turn adults. However, married daughters can’t ask for support.
  • Section 26 of the Hindu Marriage Act allows the Court to pass interim orders for the maintenance and education of minor children. 
  • In a case in 1997, the court said a wife could get support for herself and her unmarried daughter from her husband, even if he didn’t disclose all his assets. (see details below)

case of Smt. Jasbir Kaur Sehgal v. District Judge (1997)

For Aged Parents:

Old or sick parents who can’t support themselves can ask for help. The law says kids have to take care of their parents, providing food, shelter, clothing, and medical care.

In a case from Dr. (Mrs.) Vijaya Manohar Arbat v. Kashi Rao Rajaram Sawai (1987), the court said both sons and daughters have to support their parents, even if they’re married and financially independent.(see details below)

case of Dr. (Mrs.) Vijaya Manohar Arbat v. Kashi Rao Rajaram Sawai (1987)

For Husband:

A husband can claim maintenance under Section 24 if he can’t earn enough to live on. He has to prove he can’t support himself due to mental or physical disability, thereby qualifying him to receive maintenance from his wife.

Maintenance Pendente lite vs Permanent Alimony 

Maintenance Pendente LitePermanent Alimony
Applicable LawSection 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955Section 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
PurposeProvide financial assistance during litigationProvide long-term financial support after the decree
Time of AwardDuring the pendency of the legal proceedingsAt the time of passing the decree of divorce or separation
Nature of AwardInterim maintenance and expenses of proceedingsPermanent financial arrangement
Awarded AmountCan be determined based on the financial needs of partyCan be a gross sum, periodical sum or monthly sum
DurationOnly applicable during the litigation periodCan be granted for a specified period or lifelong
Factors ConsideredFinancial capability of the party seeking maintenanceFinancial capability, standard of living and other factors
Maintenance Pendente lite vs Permanent Alimony | Lawmonitor

Landmark case laws on maintenance pendente lite 

In Gulab Chand v. Sampati Devi (1986), maintenance was granted to both the wife and her minor children, who were dependent on her. The court emphasized that in such cases, support could be extended to both the spouse and the children.

In Sandeep Kumar v. the State of Jharkhand and Another (2003), the husband contested a court ruling favoring his wife, asserting her financial independence through a music school. The wife countered, clarifying her role as merely assisting her sister-in-law and not being employed there. Despite this, the court provided temporary maintenance to the wife, considering her financial situation and allocated funds for legal expenses and monthly support.

In Smt. Kanchan W/O Kamelendra v. Kamalendra Alias Kamalakar (1992), the husband sought maintenance, claiming unemployment, while the wife was employed and supporting their child. The court denied maintenance to the husband, as he did not meet the criteria of being unable to support himself due to mental or physical disability. Granting support to an able-bodied person would encourage idleness.

These cases underscore the application of Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act and the factors the court considers when awarding temporary maintenance.

What is Maintenance Pendente Lite?

Maintenance Pendente Lite in Hindu Law

Who can ask for maintenance money?

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