The Supreme Court today ruled that a man is bound to pay maintenance to his divorced wife even if he obtains the divorce after proving desertion or adultery on her part.
Giving a liberal interpretation to Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) that deals with maintenance, a three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice of India JS Khehar said it was a social welfare legislation meant to give succour to women in need and save them from destitution.
Under Section 125(1) of the CrPC, a court can order a man to give monthly maintenance to his wife, including a divorced one, if there is sufficient proof that he neglected her or refused to keep her.However, Section 125(4) says: “No wife shall be entitled to receive an allowance under this section if she is living in adultery, or if, without any sufficient reason, she refuses to live with her husband, or if they are living separately by mutual consent.” Section 125(5) makes adultery and desertion grounds for cancellation of maintenance.The wife’s lawyer, Anil Nag, argued that a strict interpretation of the law on maintenance would deprive a woman judicially separated from her husband of any financial help.
Noting that the purpose of Section 125 was to prevent destitution of women, the top court said: “One has to see the legislative intent behind the law. It is a beneficial legislation. The interpretation should be to support the cause of woman.”The Bench’s ruling is in tune with earlier verdicts by two-judge Benches that consistently took a liberal view of the law on maintenance.The order came on a petition by a man from Mandi in Himachal Pradesh employed with the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) who challenged an April 9, 2015 order of the HP High Court that upheld a sessions court’s direction dated June 12, 2012, asking him to pay Rs 3,000 a month to his ex-wife.
The woman had left the matrimonial home on her own volition and there was no neglect on part of the husband. It was on this basis that he obtained a decree of divorce on September 4, 2008, after proving his wife had deserted him. Initially, he was ordered to pay a monthly maintenance of Rs 1,000, which was later enhanced to Rs 3,000 by the Mandi Sessions Court.Citing Section 125(4) and (5) of CrPC, the husband — who has remarried and has two children — contended that if a woman was not entitled to financial assistance from husband during subsistence of marriage then how could she claim it after divorce.
Source: The Tribune