Legal Guide

The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956

by Nandita Meenakshi · 3 min read

Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956

Introduction

The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act governs the legal process of Hindu adoption and the subsequent legal duties, such as the maintenance of children, wives, and in-laws. Adoption and maintenance rules are mainly based on the personal laws of several religions. The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956 administers such legislation in India for Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists.

Adoption under Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956

Definition:

Adoption is defined as the Act or process of creating a legal relationship between a child and a parent who is not the child’s biological parent, giving the adult custody of raising the child. The adopted child has the same rights as a natural child of the adoptive parents, including the ability to inherit.

Conditions for a valid adoption

Only Hindus can adopt under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956, subject to meeting certain requirements. According to the provisions of this Act, no adoption shall be legitimate unless the following requirements are met:

1) The individual adopting should have the capacity, as well as the legal right, to adopt. 

2) The person making the adoption must have the ability to adapt 

3) The adopted individual should be capable of being adopted.

4)The adoption must be carried out in accordance with the terms of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956

A male Hindu who wishes to adopt a child must meet the requirements 

1)The person must meet physically fit and of good moral character,

2) The person must not have an unsound mind or suffer from insanity, including epilepsy, idiocy, or lunacy.

3) The person needs to be a major and be able to have a son or a daughter.

4) If the person is married, then the consent of the wife is required for a valid adoption.

 A female Hindu who wishes to adopt must meet the following requirements

1) The individual must be of sound mind.

2) The individual should not be a minor.

3) Hindu women who are not married are permitted to adopt children.

4)In the event of a married female whose marriage has been dissolved, whose husband is deceased, who has entirely abandoned the world, who has ceased to be a Hindu, or who has been pronounced insane by a court of competent jurisdiction.

A child can be adopted under Hindu law if the following requirements are met:

1)The child must be Hindu.

2)The child has never been adopted.

3)The child is under the age of 15.

4)The child should not be married.

A person who has a Hindu son, son’s son, son’s son’s son, either by blood or by adoption, can adopt another son. This is similar to the case of a daughter. In case the adopter and the adoptee are of the opposite gender, the Act requires an age difference of 21 years. Thus if a person wants to adopt any child of the opposite gender, they must be 21 years older than the child.

Maintenance under Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956

 Definition:

Section 3(b) of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 defines the term maintenance as the Act of:

 1) in all cases, provision for food, clothing, residence, education and medical attendance, and treatment

 2) in the case of an unmarried daughter, also the reasonable expenses of an incident to her marriage,

 3) “Minor” means a person who has not completed his or her age of eighteen years.

Conditions for receiving maintenance under Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act:

A Hindu wife under Section 18 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act is entitled to live separately from her husband without forfeiting her claim to maintenance, provided her separate living is justified, which means that the husband:

  1. Is guilty of desertion
  2. Has treated her with cruelty
  3. Is suffering from a virulent form of leprosy
  4. Has any other wife living
  5. Keeps a concubine in the same house or is living or habitually resides with a concubine somewhere else
  6. The individual has ceased to be a Hindu by converting to another religion.

It is pertinent to note that a claim for separate maintenance under this provision can be made only when there is a subsisting marriage. A divorced wife is not entitled to maintenance under this section.

Maintenance of children and elderly parents under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act

A Hindu must support his or her children and elderly parents in addition to his or her spouse and widowed daughters-in-law. However, the responsibility to support the children lasts only until they reach the age of majority. 

Kinds of Maintenance under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956

Interim maintenance: Under Section 18 of the Act, the ability to demand interim maintenance in litigation is a substantive right. The civil court may give interim maintenance in the exercise of its inherent competence.

Maintenance pendente lite: After consideration of the husband’s situation, the wife should be given maintenance pendente lite. Even though the woman lives separately, the husband is nevertheless responsible for her maintenance.

Maintenance for wife: The widow has no claim to the husband’s separate property. Neither section 18 related to wife maintenance nor section 21 relating to widows provide for any charge for maintenance on the husband’s separate property.

Amount of Maintenance under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956

The Act specifies the considerations that the Court looks into when determining the amount of maintenance to be awarded to the wife, children, aged or infirm parents, widowed daughter-in-law, and dependents, such as the claimant’s position and status, reasonable wants, income and property, and whether the claims are justified. The amount of maintenance is generally up to the discretion of the court.

Conclusion

From the above discussion, it can be seen that the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act is extensive and substantive, but also that the law on Indian marriage can be very ambiguous and may differ from case to case.

Divorce cases have increased over the years, and people lack awareness and knowledge regarding these matters.  Adoption and maintenance issues can be easily resolved with the help of an online lawyer or consult legal expert who will provide the right kind of family legal advice in such matrimonial matters.

A person take recourse under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act in case of adoption or maintenance dispute. Talk to a lawyer for family legal advice.

Nandita Meenakshi

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Nandita Meenakshi

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