MAINTENANCE TO EMPLOYED WIFE – LIABILITY OF HUSBAND

24th June - MAINTENANCE TO EMPLOYED WIFE - LIABILITY OF HUSBAND

The Indian Position on Maintenance:

The liability of husband to maintain his wife can be categorized under different sub-heads under the Indian law, ranging from its variations under Hindu, Muslim, Parsi, and Christian personal laws; and the general liability imposed under CrPC S.125.

Here we analyze the provision under S.125 CrPC, and the evolution of the position over the years to the current position, especially for an employed wife capable of maintaining herself. The provision deals with the maintenance of wives, parents and children who are unable to maintain themselves, and where the person has sufficient means, but refuses/neglects to maintain such persons. The benefit is available to a wife who is unable to maintain herself, a minor child, a major child unable to maintain himself or herself due to his mental or physical abnormality (except an unmarried daughter), father or mother unable to maintain themselves. The aggrieved person may approach the Magistrate for relief, who may in turn direct such person to pay monthly allowance for the maintenance of his wife or such child, father or mother, at such monthly rate as such magistrate thinks fit.

Maintenance to Employed Wife

The provision purports to provide relief to a wife who is unable to maintain herself, indicating that in case she is capable of doing that, then she may not successfully claim further payment of maintenance by husband. The provision also contains words “with sufficient means” meaning that the person against whom the proceedings have been initiated must have reasonable means of maintaining the wife but neglects/refuses to do so. Provision under CrPC is not in conflict with the same under personal laws, and a person not entitled to maintenance under this section may still successfully sue under their respective laws. The judicial trend with respect to maintenance to employed wives has been varying over time, and the view has been quite dynamic. It is not necessary that the woman should be an absolute destitute before she can claim maintenance, and the phrase “not able to maintain herself” indicates that she is unable to meet her needs even if she has a meager income.

  • Pratab Bhai Trivedi v Priyamvada Ghamu Pratapbhai Trivedi[1], the Court held that merely because the respondent had chosen to work would not disentitle her to the right of maintenance.
  • Ashok Kumar vs. Satwant Kuar[2], it was held that the husband’s may avail benefit in terms of his liability, to the extent of the independent income of the wife, but then again his income too will be taken into consideration.
  • In Mamta Jaiswal v Rajesh Jaiswal[3], it was held that a spouse who is well qualified to get the service immediately with less efforts is not expected to remain idle and to squeeze out the adversary by implementing the provisions of law suitable to their purpose.
  • The Madras HC in Manokaran @ Ramamoorthy vs M. Devaki[4] held that an employed wife with sufficient means could not receive maintenance under S.24 HMA.
  • Munish Bhasin & Ors v NCT of Delhi and Anr[5], held that it was not open to the Court to direct the appellant to pay maintenance to his wife and child as a pre-condition foe anticipatory bail u/s 498A or S.406 IPC.
  • Neeraj Aggarwal v veeka Aggarwal[6], it was held that in the present case the applicant/ wife is a well-qualified engineer and, therefore, there is no need for her to sit idle at home waiting for the maintenance from the husband.

However, it has to be noted that this is not a blanket refusal by the judiciary to provide maintenance to employed wives. The Supreme Court has laid down that an estranged woman can claim maintenance from her husband in spite of her efforts to earn a monthly income if that is not enough for her maintenance, and she does not need to be an absolute destitute to apply for maintenance.

 

INDIAN KANOON

[1] II (1993) DMC 25 Gujarat

[2]  I (1983) DMC 27 Delhi

[3] Civil Revision No. 1290/99 Decided On: 24.03.2000, HC of Madhya Pradesh

[4] AIR 2003 Mad 212

 

[5] CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 344 OF 2009 before the SC of India

[6] M No. 28/07, ADDL. DISTRICT JUDGE, Rohini, New Delhi

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