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List of Dependants Entitled to Claim Maintenance from Heirs of a Deceased Person under Hindu Law

(b) His or her mother

(c) His widow, so long she does not remarry.

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In Panna Lal Hazara v. Fhul Mani Hazara, the Calcutta High Court held that a step-son is under an obligation to maintain his step-mother because she is the widow of his father. The liability is not personal but related to the fact that he had inherited the property from his father who was the husband of the step-mother.

The liability would be limited to the extent of the property, he inherited from his father. But the liability will come into operation only if the widow had not inherited anything from her deceased husband.

(d) His or her son of pre-deceased son, or the son of a pre-deceased son of his pre-deceased son so long as he is a minor; provided and to the extent that he is unable to obtain maintenance, in the case of a grandson from his father’s or mother’s estate, and in the case of a great grandson, from the estate of his father or mother or father’s father or father’s mother.

(e) His or her unmarried daughter, or the unmarried daughter of his pre-deceased son or the unmarried daughter of a pre-deceased son of his pre-deceased son as long as she remains unmarried:

Provided and to the extent that she is unable to obtain maintenance, in the case of a granddaughter from her father’s or mother’s estate and in the case of a great grand daughter from the estate of her father or mother or father’s father or fathers mother:

His widowed daughter, provided and to the extent that she is unable to obtain maintenance,—

(1) From the estate of her husband; and

(2) From her son or daughter, if any, or his or her estate; or

(3) From her father-in-law or his father or the estate of either of them;

(g) Any widow of his son or of a son of his pre-deceased son, so long as she does not remarry, provided and to the extent that she is unable to obtain maintenance from her husband’s estate, or from her son or daughter, if any, or his or her estate. In case of a grandson’s widow, also from her father-in-law’s estate.

But in case of T.A. Laxmi Narsamba v. Sundermma, the Andhra Pradesh High Court delivered an important judgment, where it held that it is only a moral obligation upon the father-in-law to give maintenance allowance to the widowed daughter-in-law but it turns into a legal liability upon one to whom the father-in-law gives his property either through a will or through gift.

In Jadi Kandam Seetah Mahalaxmi v. Mandempudaima Prasad, the Andhra Pradesh High Court interpreted the term “heirs” in wider connotation. The expression includes those persons also who by virtue of testament or any other mode become entitled to a share in the property of the deceased. If the term is understood in restricted sense so as to include only those heirs left by the deceased then all those heirs getting a share through testament would be deprived.

In order to avoid this situation, within the expression “heirs” both the types of heirs, namely, heirs by testament as well as heirs left by the deceased should be included, so that their right to get maintenance is protected. If this meaning of “heirs” is not taken then the entire object of the Act would be defeated and the wife and other dependants would become helpless in absence of maintenance allowance and would starve.

Hindu jurisprudence lays down a fundamental principle that the property should not be alienated in favour of strangers in a way that the dependants of the alienator are deprived of their right to maintenance. Where the property has been alienated through gift or will, the alienee would be under a legal obligation to maintain the widowed daughter-in-law of the alienator. The judgment has in fact shed new light on the right of the dependents to be maintained.

(h) His or her minor illegitimate son, so long as he remains a minor;

(i) His or her minor illegitimate daughter so long as she remains unmarried.

Maintenance of Dependants:

Under sub-section (1) of Section 22 of the Act, the dependants of the deceased are entitled to be maintained by the heirs of the deceased out of the estate inherited by them. The liability to maintain is limited and extends only upto the estate of the deceased. This sub-section applies to the dependant of a person who had died before 21st of December, 1956. According to sub-section (3) the liability of each of the persons inheriting the estate of the deceased would be liable proportionate to the share which they get as heirs.

Sub-section (2) covers those cases of the dependants of a person who die after passing of the present Act (i.e., 21st December, 1956) who do not succeed to any share or part of the estate of the deceased at his death, by reason, that they have not been given any share by will or that they have been excluded on account of remoteness of their relations with the deceased.

The liability of the persons who took the estate is in this case also in proportion to the total share or part of the estate taken by him or her. Sections 21 and 22 read together are intended to create an additional liability of maintenance on a moral consideration on certain relations of the dependants.

These sections do not in any way affect the general rule of Hindu law that where a husband leaves share in a joint Hindu family property, his widow is entitled to maintenance out of it from those coparceners who hold that by survivorship.

In Ramabai v. Meerabai, the Madhya Pradesh High Court held that Sections 21and 22 of the Act do not in any way abridge the pre-existing rights of maintenance holders and these provisions of the Act arc prospective and apply only to the estate of Hindu whose death takes place after the commencement of this Act.

Though ‘sister’ does not find place in the list of ‘dependants’ in Section 21, it would not deprive the sister of getting her maintenance from her brother out of the property left by her father where she does not inherit the property from her father as an heir. The settled position of law is that an heir is legally bound to provide, out of the estate which descends to him, maintenance for those persons whom the late proprietor was legally or normally bound to maintain.

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