Section 18 Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956
Section 18 HINDU ADOPTION AND MAINTENANCE ACT, 1956, which deals with the
maintenance and separate residence of a wife provides as follows —
(1) “Subject to the provisions of tills Section, a Hindu wife whether married before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be entitled to be maintained by her husband during her lifetime”.
Section 18(1) is of a mandatory nature and lays down that every Hindu wife must be maintained by her husband throughout her life. The condition precedent for the application, of Section 18(1) will be that the woman must be legally married to the man against whom she is seeking its enforcement.
(2) A Hindu wife shall be entitled to live separately from her husband without forfeiting her claim to maintenance,—
(a) Desertion/Neglect, If he is guilty of desertion, that is, of abandoning her without reasonable cause and without her consent or against her wish, or wilfully neglecting her,
(b) Cruelty, If he has treated her, with such cruelty as to cause reasonable apprehension in her mind that it will be harmful or injurious to Iiv6 with her husband. In Kamla Jain Verses Rathnavelu, the husband by his conduct made it evidently clear that she was not wanted in the house and her presence was prevented by him. It was held that this amounted to cruelty and justified her living separately.
The burden of proof that the husband treated her with the cruelty is on the wife,
(c) Leprosy, If he is suffering from a virulent form of leprosy,
(d) Bigamy, If he has any other wife living. It is immaterial that the claimant is the first wife or second wife of the husband. A wife is entitled to maintenance and separate residence under this clause where the former wife is alive and it is not necessary that the latter should have been or is living with the husband [Kalawanti Verses Relen]. It is also essential that both the marriages of the husband are valid,
(e) Concubinage, If he keeps-a concubine in the same house in which his wife is living or habitually resides with a concubine elsewhere,
(f) Conversion, If he was ceased to be a Hindu by conversion to another1 religion,
(g) Residuary provisions, If there is any other cause justifying her living separately. It is submitted that all those cases where the court may refuse husband’s petition of restitution of conjugal right will be covered under this clause entitling a wife to claim separate residence and maintenance from the husband.
(3) Disqualification from maintenance, A Hindu wife shall not be entitled to separate residence and maintenance from her husband if she is unchaste or ceases to be Hindu by conversion to another religion.
Thus, it will be seen that sub-section (1) reiterates the principle of pure Hindu Law that a wife is entitled to be maintained by her husband whether he possesses property or not. The maintenance of a wife by her husband is a matter of personal obligation arising from the very existence of the, relation, and quite independent of the possession of the husband of any property ancestral or self-acquired.
There is an absolute right vested in Hindu wife to be maintained by her husband and this maintenance is dependent on her living with him and discharging the duties as wife. The wife will also be entitled to claim maintenance while living separately from her husband, if any of the conditions laid down in Section 18(2) is fulfilled. She is entitled to maintenance so far as she is Hindu and chaste.
The husband shall not be absolved from his liability to maintain his wife simply because he has ceased to be Hindu. Section 18(3) takes away the right of wife to claim maintenance if she ceases to be Hindu by conversion to another religion. The effect of husband ceasing to be Hindu would be that the wife would be entitled to separate residence and claim for maintenance.