The right to maintenance of a Hindu widow is not a “mere formality” but a spiritual and moral right that can be judicially enforced upon by claiming “absolute right” on the property given to her for sustaining herself, the Supreme Court has ruled.
A bench, headed by Justice M Y Eqbal, while upholding a Andhra Pradesh High Court verdict in favour of a widow who had transferred the property willed to her by her husband for her lifetime to a relative, said it was the woman’s “absolute right” and she was free to bequeath the property.
“It is well settled that under the Hindu Law, the husband has got a personal obligation to maintain his wife and if he is possessed of properties, then his wife is entitled to a right to be maintained out of such properties.
“It is equally well settled that the claim of Hindu widow to be maintained is not a mere formality which is to be exercised as a matter of concession, grace or gratis but is a valuable, spiritual and moral right,” the bench, which also comprised Justice C Nagappan, said.
Referring to various judicial pronouncements, it said that though the right of a widow to be maintained does not create a charge on the property of her husband but she can certainly enforce her right by moving the Court for passing a decree for maintenance by creating a charge.
Discussing the details of the case at hand, the bench said, “In our opinion in whatever form a limited interest is created in her favour who was having a pre-existing right of maintenance, the same has become an absolute right by the operation of Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act.”