On November 4, the Supreme Court declared that deserted wives and children are entitled to alimony/maintenance from their husbands from the date they apply for it in a court of law.
In a judgment by a Bench of Justices Indu Malhotra and R. Subhash Reddy, the top court declared that women deserted by husbands were left in dire straits, often reduced to destitution, for lack of means to sustain themselves and their children.
The 67-page judgement by Justice Malhotra laid down guidelines to be followed by family courts, magistrates and lower courts. The judgement will be followed while hearing the applications filed by women seeking maintenance from their estranged husbands.
It is based on a matrimonial plea from Maharashtra on the question of payment of maintenance by a man to his wife and son under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The court said that despite a bunch of maintenance laws, after a bad marriage women are often left penniless and struggling for years to make both ends meet.
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Justice Malhotra wrote, “The view that maintenance ought to be granted from the date when the application was made is based on the rationale that the primary object of maintenance laws is to protect a deserted wife and dependent children from destitution and vagrancy. If maintenance is not paid from the date of application, the party seeking maintenance would be deprived of sustenance, owing to the time taken for disposal of the application, which often runs into several years”.
The maintenance cases which are to be settled in 60 days, take much more time in reality due to legal ambiguities.
In order to ensure that these orders are followed by husbands, the court said a violation would lead to punishments such as civil detention and even attachment of the property of the latter.
The court also declared, “The plea of the husband that he does not possess any source of income ipso facto does not absolve him of his moral duty to maintain his wife, if he is able-bodied and has educational qualifications”.
In case of a maintenance case, the applicant wife and the husband, both would have to disclose their assets and liabilities.
2. Expenses Related To Education
While calculating the alimony, the expenses of the children, including their education, basic needs and other vocational activities, would also be considered.
“Education expenses of the children must be normally borne by the father. If the wife is working and earning sufficiently, the expenses may be shared proportionately between the parties,” said Justice Malhotra’s judgement.
The wife should also be given alimony which fits the standard of life she was used to in the matrimonial home.
3. On Permanent Alimony
According to the judgement, the duration of the marriage would also be taken into account while calculating permanent alimony.
The court also said that it would not be fair and just to order a husband to pay his wife permanent alimony for the rest of her life, considering the fact that in contemporary society marriages do not last for a reasonable length of time.
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“Strict proof of marriage should not be a pre-condition for grant of maintenance under Section 125 of the CrPC,” the court said.
The judgment recapitulated that Section 125 of the CrPC would include couples living together for years within its scope.
Shivangi Thapa is an intern with SheThePeople.Tv