36 (1)Becoming a ‘sanyasi’ by renouncing the world does not absolve you from the responsibility of maintaining your family. Gujarat High Court has advised a person, who had left his job and turned to spirituality and social work, to strive to earn something so that he could pay maintenance to his estranged wife.

“If he is so keen to do social work and help people at large, he should also do something to earn and maintain his own wife,” Justice SG Shah observed while directing one Sunil Udasi to pay maintenance amount regularly to his wife, Alka alias Soni, despite the fact that he had quit his job and was living in an ashram.

Udasi’s wife, Alka alias Soni, had earlier approached a court in Vadodara in 2002 and sought maintenance. Two years later, the court ordered Udasi to pay his wife Rs 3,500 every month. The amount was calculated on the basis of the husband’s earning of more than Rs 11,000 as he was then employed with the Bank of Hyderabad. Later, he left his job to stay in Ananddham Ashram in New Delhi which is managed by Vishwa Jagruti Mission. In 2011, Udasi challenged the maintenance order and sought reduction in maintenance amount on the ground that he was not earning anything as he had turned to spiritual and social activity. A family court rejected his application after which Udasi approached the Gujarat High Court.

Udasi placed before the high court a letter written by the head of the ashram stating that Udasi had “devoted his life to religious and social work and is residing in the ashram”, and hence is not earning anything.

This argument did not go down well with Justice Shah who observed: “The applicant is a healthy person. When he selected not to earn anything by resigning from his job and if he is residing in an ashram on his own, it is his moral, social and legal liability to maintain his wife by doing some earning activity so as to comply with the order of maintenance….He cannot escape his liability by saying that he is living in an ashram.”

The court even cited a Supreme Court order that says: “If the husband is healthy, able-bodied and is in a position to support himself, he is under a legal obligation to support his wife. The duty to provide maintenance has to be fulfilled even by earning money through physical labour.”



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