This article is written by Sarthak Kulshrestha, from Jagran Lakecity University, Bhopal and Oishika Banerji of Amity Law School, Kolkata. This article discusses some of the maintenance cases ruled in favour of the husbands.

Introduction 

The definition of maintenance as provided in the dictionaries in general is “support or subsistence.” The term “maintenance” is not specified in any religious community’s marital regulations. However, the right to claim maintenance is predicated on the presumption that the claimant lacks the financial resources to sustain themselves. The expenditures for necessities or requirements for the substance of life are usually covered by maintenance. It is not, however, only a right to the claimant’s survival. To determine the amount of maintenance, the court will consider the husband’s and wife’s possession of the property, the husband’s or wife’s capacity to work, the parties’ behaviour, and other factors. Before determining the amount of maintenance, the position of the parties and the standard of living they have enjoyed throughout the marriage must be taken into account. 

The legal system of India sets out the provision of maintenance which has to be paid to the spouse, either husband or wife, depending upon the circumstances of a case. Personal laws like the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 contain the provisions for maintenance following the dissolution of a marriage. In Muslim personal laws too, maintenance is granted under the statutes like Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage), Act, 1986, and Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 2019. The Special Marriage Act, 1954 is another legislation dealing with marriages irrespective of religion or faith which either of the party follows, the maintenance can be sought in this Act as well. Apart from the Personal laws, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (PWDVA), and Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) also contains the provisions of maintenance. Parties belonging to any religion can enforce their right to maintenance under these statutes. All of these provisions are intended to require a man to fulfill his moral commitments to society in regard to his wife, children, and parents. The inability of the wife, child, father, or mother to maintain themselves could lead to social problems, and it became the State’s concern not to allow such inability to grow into issues of greater magnitude, unless the consequences of such inability were checked by providing appropriate measures, with large-scale vagrancy being a likely offshoot. But little is known about a man being taken care of by his wife and children and therefore this article provides a few notable case laws where the judiciary has accepted the uncommon fact of the wife or the children maintaining their husbands or fathers. 

Maintenance of husband : an insight 

Article 39 of the Indian Constitution, which falls within the broad header of the Directive Principles of State Policy, states, among other things, that the State shall direct its policies toward ensuring that all citizens, men and women alike, have access to a sufficient means of subsistence, that children are provided with opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy and dignified manner, and that childhood and youth are protected from exploitation and moral and material abandonment. The very principle of this article has been incorporated in Sections 24 and 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. These are the two noteworthy provisions that must be taken into consideration while talking about the maintenance of husbands. Both these provisions are gender-neutral in their approach and therefore can be invoked in maintenance suits involving the husband as the aggrieved party. 

It is true that Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (maintenance pendente lite ) allows any party to file a maintenance application if the other party is able to give maintenance and the other party has no means of sustenance. However, this does not imply that a husband who is otherwise capable of earning a livelihood should cease working and rely on his wife’s earnings. In the case of Govind Singh v. Smt. Vidya (1999), that appeared before the Rajasthan High Court, it seemed that the appellant, Govind Singh, had rendered himself incompetent by ceasing to operate the hired auto-rickshaw. It was a well-established Anglo-Saxon law precept that no one may be permitted to become incapacitated and that adage holds true in the case of a working husband. The Court, therefore, observed that a person who voluntarily incapacitated himself from earning, would not be entitled to claim maintenance from the other spouse.

List of maintenance cases in favour of the husband

There have been several cases in which the Courts gave the decision in favour of the husband and rejected the claim of maintenance to the wife either due to the wife’s own fault or her sound financial condition. Let us look into them one by one. 

Shiv Kumar Yadav v. Smt. Santoshi Yadav (2004)

In the case of Shiv Kumar Yadav v. Smt. Santoshi Yadav (2004), a revision petition was filed by the husband, Shiv Kumar. The facts leading to this petition are briefly explained hereunder as:

  • After marriage, the husband took his wife to his home located in village Kanhera. As per the allegations in the petition, the husband started harassing his wife and subjected her to cruelty. She left the matrimonial house and went to her maternal grandfather’s house. Thereafter, she filed an application under Section 125 of CrPC for maintenance. Her parents were labourers and were not able to maintain her, and she was also not able to maintain herself. On the other hand, the husband had an annual income of 20,000/- rupees per month.
  • The Magistrate dismissed the application as the wife categorically stated before the Court that even if the husband assures her not to make any dowry demands and will not subject her to cruelty, she will not return to the home.

The Magistrate rejected the application filed by her, on the ground given under sub-section 4 of Section 125 CrPC. It states that maintenance cannot be granted if the wife abstains from returning to the matrimonial home and lives separately without any sufficient reason. The order was reversed by the Additional Sessions Judge but in the revision petition, the High Court of Chattisgarh found that the order of the Judicial Magistrate was correct, as Shiv Kumar, the petitioner proved that his wife-respondent was living separately without any reason thus, she lost her claim to maintenance.

Lalit Mohan v. Tripta Devi (1988)

The 1988 case of Lalit Mohan v. Tripta Devi was one of the few early cases that dealt with the maintenance of the husband by his wife. The case appeared before the Jammu & Kashmir High Court to the Single Bench of Justice R Sethi. 

Facts of the case 

In the trial court of Sub Judge, Reasi, the respondent-wife (Tripta Devi) sought to dissolve the marriage by obtaining a divorce decree under Section 13 of the Jammu and Kashmir Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The respondent-wife claimed that the couples’ marriage was solemnized on October 13, 1976, in accordance with Hindu rituals and traditions. After a year, the spouse was involved in a terrible car accident and lost his mental stability for a period of time. The parties’ relations got tense and deteriorated day by day. The respondent claimed that her spouse had battered her and subjected her to cruelty over a period of more than four years. The husband’s (petitioner, Lalit Mohan) treatment towards his wife at the time of the present case was reported to be brutal and barbarous. 

The husband was accused of defaming the wife by bringing baseless and false accusations against her character. Since October 1979, she had been deserted willfully and without justification. The wife was compelled to quit her husband’s firm and was forced to live in her parents’ house in Reasi against her choice due to her husband’s forced circumstances. The respondent was said to have been convinced by the wife’s father to move in with him at Reasi, but despite the father’s efforts, the husband did not change his attitude towards his wife.

The marriage between the parties and the occurrence of the accident is not challenged in the objections made on behalf of the husband, the petitioner. The spouse is said to have had a major brain injury as a result of the accident and was in a coma for a long period. The wife, instead of behaving like a pious Hindu wife and helping the husband at the time of his accident and injury, deserted the husband and did not even think it proper to attend to her husband. The wife was to blame for the breakdown of the relationship, and it is said that she had abandoned her husband. The petition was submitted in bad faith with the intention of obtaining a divorce on false grounds. It was further submitted that the petition was not bona fide as the wife was taking advantage of her own wrong. 

The issues that were framed by the trial court have been provided hereunder:

  1. Whether or not the application has been correctly validated, and if so, what effect does it have?
  2. Has the petitioner been subjected to harsh treatment by the respondent?
  3. Whether the respondent had wilfully deserted the petitioner without any reasonable and probable cause?

After considering the evidence presented by the parties, the trial court concluded that the wife had proven the issues of cruelty and desertion, and eventually directed the passing of a decree of divorce under Section 13 of the 1955 Act. The present appeal was filed before the Hon’ble High Court after the wife was aggrieved by the trial court’s judgment and decree on various grounds, including that the trial court did not properly appreciate the evidence presented in the case and that the issues framed were not proved in her favour. It is further argued that even if the charge of cruelty and desertion had been proven, no decree could have been entered in the wife’s favour because, according to her husband, she had approved the acts of cruelty and desertion that she had complained about in the petition. The husband had also filed an application for recovery of conjugal rights under Section 9 of the 1955 Act. Despite the fact that both petitions were consolidated, the trial court made no decision on the husband’s petition specifically. 

During the course of the proceedings, the husband filed an application in the High Court, requesting maintenance pendente lite as well as reimbursement for his legal fees. In addition, he had filed a petition for permanent alimony and maintenance as well. The learned counsel for the appellant-husband had argued that because the wife permitted the husband to cohabitate with her, the husband’s actions of cruelty and desertion were excused. According to the husband, the respondent-wife worked for the National Hydro Project Corporation and had adequate funds to provide his maintenance at the amount of Rs. 500/- per month, which was his minimal demand, under Sections 30 and 31 of the 1955 Act (currently Sections 24 and 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955). It was said that because the spouse experienced a brain injury that resulted in a permanent impairment in the neurological system, he was unable to make enough money to support himself. He was said to be completely reliant on his close relatives for his maintenance. The respondent’s counsel chose not to file any objections with respect to this contention thereby arguing that the husband’s application for maintenance was likely to be rejected as the same is not maintainable under the law.

Observations by the court of law 

  1. The Jammu & Kashmir High Court had observed that the trial court correctly concluded that the husband’s desertion and cruelty were proven based on the facts presented in the case and the parties’ actions. In the trial court’s decision and decree, there was no illegality or jurisdictional error. As a result, the trial court’s decision and order dissolving the couples’ marriage was therefore affirmed.
  2. The Court had observed that the wording ‘wife or husband’ in Sections 30 and 31 of the 1955 Act indicated that either of the parties to the marriage can seek relief under the Act, including maintenance pendente lite and permanent alimony. The Act’s provision on maintenance was plainly separate from the one found in Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. Under the aforementioned provisions of the 1955 Act, either party to the marriage might be given support and expenses of the proceedings if the circumstances are sufficient. The provisions were enacted so that a wife or husband who does not have an independent income adequate for her or his maintenance or to cover the costs of the proceedings would not be disadvantaged. These provisions were introduced on social and moral grounds with the goal of ensuring that the party could support himself or herself during the course of the proceedings because there was no freedom to form another marriage. The legislature intended to offer financial aid to the indigent spouse during the proceedings and after the passing of the decree. The other spouse owes it to the aggrieved spouse to offer financial help so that the processes can be carried out and that he or she is not subjected to famine or moral degradation while the proceedings are pending.
  3. The Court had noted that after the passing of the decree of divorce or judicial separation, perpetual alimony or maintenance may be given for a period not exceeding the spouse’s life or until he or she remarries. If it is proven that the husband has been having sexual relations outside of marriage, the order of maintenance granted to him might be revoked. 
  4. The facts and circumstances of this case revealed that the husband had no independent income and that the respondent-wife was able to give the husband support under Sections 30 and 31 of the 1955 Act. The Court was convinced that the petitioner was entitled to maintenance pendente lite, expenses of the proceedings, and permanent alimony and maintenance, based on the respondent’s own income and income from other properties, the petitioner’s earning ability, and the parties’ conduct. Given the facts and circumstances of the case, it was ordered that the respondent-wife must pay Rs. 500/- as court expenses and Rs. 100/- per month as maintenance pendente lite and permanent alimony to the petitioner, husband, from the date of application until his death or remarriage, whichever comes first.

Smt Kanchan v. Kamalendra (1992)

The Bombay High Court’s opinion in the case of Smt Kanchan v. Kamalendra (1992) is a notable one with respect to maintenance of the husband as the Hon’ble Court had observed that the husband could not rely solely on the income of his wife and granting maintenance to a skilled person will promote idleness if the husband can work and earn. 

Facts of the case 

The couple, in this case, married on May 5, 1981, and were having a child out of wedlock. In the year 1985, the applicant-wife (Smt Kanchan) had filed for divorce under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. On 23-2-1989, the non-applicant-husband (Kamalendra) filed an application under Section 24 of the 1955 Act for maintenance at the rate of Rs. 600/- per month along with litigation expenses. The applicant worked for the Collectorate and earned Rs. 2,000 per month. Her take-home pay was Rs. 1200/- after deductions. She also needed to care for her child, who was roughly ten years old, as well as his schooling. She had adequately described the costs she would incur. Initially, the husband had a bookbinding business. According to him, the bank had seized his equipment in order to collect the debt. His father, who worked in the same industry as him, had refused to help him. By his order dated 6-12-1989, the trial court judge awarded maintenance at the rate of Rs. 100/- per month to the husband and directed the wife to pay Rs. 500/- towards litigation expenses. A revision petition was filed before the Bombay High Court by the applicant concerning the trial court’s decision. 

Bombay High Court’s observations 

  1. Taking into account the legislative intent of Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, any spouse in the proceedings might seek maintenance pendente-lite if they can demonstrate that they have no independent source of income to maintain themselves. As a result, both the wife and the husband are entitled to maintenance. The husband who is intending to seek maintenance from his wife will have to prove to the Court that he is unable to earn and support his family due to a physical or mental disability.
  2. The Court observed that the husband was a healthy individual both emotionally and physically. He had a problem with a specific firm but no disadvantage in earning the absolute minimum to maintain his family. It could not, therefore, be assumed that just because his business was closed, he had no source of income. Just because the wife was employed, the husband could not use Section 24 of the 1955 Act to make himself entirely reliant on her income. Granting maintenance to such able-bodied individuals armed with talent would promote laziness in the absence of any impairment or hindrance to earning and was against the spirit of Section 24 of the Act. Because the trial court acted without reason in granting maintenance to the husband, the challenged judgment cannot be upheld.

Yashpal Singh Thakur v. Smt Anjana Rajput (2001)

The case of Yashpal Singh Thakur v. Smt Anjana Rajput (2001) that appeared before the Madhya Pradesh High Court involved invoking the revisional jurisdiction of the High Court under Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 by the petitioner husband (Yashpal Singh Thakur), where he called in question the defensibility of an order passed by the learned Additional District Judge, Jabalpur.  

Facts of the case 

On the grounds of adultery and mental cruelty, the petitioner’s husband filed an application for dissolution of his marriage with the non-applicant wife (Smt Anjana Rajput) under Section 13(1)(i)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. On the 30th of May, 1996, they married in Jabalpur, India, according to Hindu Rites and Rituals. A boy called Prithvipal Singh was born into their union. The non-applicant was employed as a Technical Assistant at the State Forest Research Institute in Jabalpur, where she earned Rs. 4725 per month. It was undisputed that the petitioner spouse worked as a private secretary in the Madhya Pradesh High Court from October 1995 to July 1997, but had quit on July 14, 1997. The petitioner had denied being Prithvipal Singh’s father. After hearing the parties, the district court had ordered that the petitioner’s blood be tested to determine his paternity, but this was yet to be done owing to a lack of funds to pay the blood grouping costs. 

During the course of the procedure, the petitioner filed an application for maintenance and litigation fees under Section 24 of the 1955 Act. The non-applicant wife objected to the above-mentioned plea, claiming that the petitioner had resigned from the High Court employment to take a better one in Delhi. The learned trial Judge had observed that the petitioner was capable of obtaining private work and was financially self-sufficient. The trial court had further noted that the non-applicant wife was not only supporting herself but also her two-year-old child.

Mr. V.G. Tamaskar, learned counsel for the petitioner, had challenged the aforementioned order, claiming that the trial court had misled itself in recognizing the husband’s situation and that this alone renders the order void in the eyes of the law. Defending the aforementioned claim, Miss J. Iyer, the wife’s learned attorney, had argued that the petitioner had sufficient funds to support himself and pay for the litigation. She further claimed that if he was not earning, it was because he had willfully disabled himself and that he was not entitled to maintenance or litigation expenses under Section 24 of the 1955 Act because of the same.

Observations by the Madhya Pradesh High Court 

  1. The Court observed that in the present case, it was unmistakably clear that the spouse petitioner had chosen to live a sedentary lifestyle and had made no effort to generate money that he was capable of earning. He could not afford to become incapacitated and then file a claim under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. It would be an anathema to the very purpose of the said provision.
  2. The High Court concluded that the Trial Judge’s judgment was perfectly justified, and the contested order did not deserve any intervention.

Gurbinder Singh v. Manjit Kaur (2010)

In this case, while divorce and various other proceedings were going on, both the parties were made to sign a mutual settlement according to which they had to sign an undertaking. The undertaking bound both husband (petitioner) and wife (respondent) not to interfere in their personal affairs and also not to disturb their parents or relatives. It explicitly restricted any of the parties to do anything which could affect the character or reputation of the other. The respondent was also made to declare that she will not take any action against their children, provided that they were living with the petitioner at that time.

In August 2004, the respondent filed an application under Section 125 Cr. P.C. in Jalandhar Court. Following the application, the respondent was made to give the perusal of an ex parte order. It showed that she concealed the material facts from the Court. While applying for maintenance, she did not disclose that she was a teacher in a school in Jalandhar and that she filed an affidavit in the High Court that she will not harass her husband.

The Court found that she was filing the application for maintenance only to harass her husband and this clearly violates the undertaking signed between them. Her conduct of concealing material facts from the Jalandhar Court, and obtaining an ex parte order made her guilty of contempt of court and was liable to pay a fine of 10,000 /- rupees. The husband did not have to pay maintenance to her.

Alok Kumar Jain v. Purnima Jain (2007)

In Alok Kumar Jain v. Purnima Jain (2007), the husband (petitioner) and wife (respondent) had two daughters out of wedlock. Unfortunately, one of the daughters, Radhika, had a hearing problem in both ears. To meet the expenses of her treatment, the petitioner left his job in India and shifted to Abu Dhabi in the year 2000. The petitioner received 27 Lakh rupees as terminal benefits from the company where he used to work in India. This amount was deposited in the bank account owned by both of them jointly.

However, the wife filed for divorce under Section 13(1)(i)(a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Subsequently, she filed an application under Section 24 of the Act and demanded 2 Lakh rupees as maintenance from the husband, and 11 Lakh rupees for daughter’s treatment. The husband stated that the wife had already withdrawn 56 Lakh rupees from the joint account. He said that the wife had enough money to maintain her expenses and standard of living. The learned judge, without calling the wife to give the explanation of the investment made out of those 56 Lakh rupees, ordered the husband to pay the maintenance of 20000 /- rupees per month to the wife. 

The husband challenged the order in the High Court of Delhi and from the statement of bank account filed by the husband, it was clear that between 2001 and 2003, the wife spent 5,25,000/- rupees to sustain the household. She also withdrew 6,12,000/- rupees to purchase a car, a hearing aid for the daughter, and a computer. Apart from this, investments in FDs and PPF accounts in the name of the daughters have also been made amounting to 18 Lakh rupees. Thus, expenditure of 34,00,000/- by the wife was still left unexplained before the Court.

The Court said that the learned judge should have sought the explanation for the same and relegated the parties to the lower Court for fresh adjudication. It disposed of the petition and quashed the order that directed the husband (petitioner) to pay maintenance of 20000/- rupees.

Rani Sethi v. Sunil Sethi (2011)

While deciding on the case of Rani Sethi v. Sunil Sethi (2011), the Delhi High Court was considering a petition which was directed against the order of the learned Additional District Judge, Delhi, dated 24.2.2009, passed on an application filed by the respondent (husband, Sunil Sethi) under Section 24 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, seeking maintenance from the petitioner (wife, Rani Sethi). The trial court had ordered the petitioner to pay the respondent a sum of Rs 20,000/- per month in maintenance and Rs 10,000/- in litigation fees, as well as to provide a Zen car for the respondent’s use.

Facts of the case 

On December 6, 1982, the parties’ marriage was solemnized. They have a son, who is 26 years old, and a daughter, who is 24 years old, born out of wedlock. The parties admittedly began living apart from September 2006, and following the intervention of friends and relatives, the petitioner and respondent lived together in the marriage residence for a brief while, but the parties again separated on September 6, 2008. According to the trial court, the respondent’s allegation that he was kicked out of the matrimonial residence was prima facie accurate, as just a handful of his things were turned over to him on January 20, 2009, in the Court. The facts that were presented before the Delhi High Court involved contention from both parties to the case. The same has been discussed hereunder.

Contention of the petitioner (wife)

  1. The learned counsel for the petitioner stated that the learned trial court had exceeded its jurisdiction and had erroneously come to a finding with regard to the income of the petitioner. While it was undeniable that the petitioner was engaged in the business of operating paying guest hostels under the name ‘Paradise PG’, counsel for the petitioner contended that the trial court had failed to consider the costs of running the business, which included providing boarding, lodging, and transportation for students, and that the earnings from the business were insufficient to support herself and her two children.
  2. It was claimed that the trial court failed to take into account the petitioner’s financial situation. The counsel for the petitioner had further claimed that the petitioner’s financial situation was evident by the fact that she lived in leased housing and was paying a rent of Rs 12,500/- per month. 
  3. It was also contended that the trial court had entirely overlooked the fact that the petitioner was also responsible for two unmarried children, one son, 26 years old, and a daughter, 24 years old, and the petitioner must not only provide for their maintenance but also organize their weddings and safeguard the children’s future. Aside from that, the petitioner must fend for herself as she was medically unfit, suffering from Leucoderma and arthritis, and she must spend money on physicians, medications, and other testing. In support of her claim, copies of medical prescriptions had been filed with the Court also. 
  4. The counsel for the petitioner contended that the respondent was a capable individual who was competent to support himself. Counsel further claimed that the respondent was conducting business under the name and style of Sethi Contractor and hence was not entitled to any maintenance. Counsel had also placed emphasis on the respondent’s behavior and character. The petitioner had mentioned a number of examples in her petition to prove that the respondent had an immoral character.

Contention of the respondent (husband)

  1. Despite the fact that the business was started by the respondent and the petitioner together with funds received from the sale of the respondent’s ancestral property, and the business was profitable, learned counsel for the respondent contended that the trial court had been extremely conservative in granting only INR 20,000/- per month as maintenance for the respondent.
  2. According to counsel for the respondent, a review of the assets of the firm revealed that the petitioner was operating a successful business. It was also argued that the petitioner’s company assets, business investments, and other personal assets would provide some insight into his or her financial situation. It was further claimed that the petitioner had filed an additional affidavit before the trial court in which she admitted that she was operating a business under the name and style of Paradise Hostel for the purposes of which she had rented 81 flats in two societies and was paying Rs 5,07,000/- as rent and Rs 65,800/- as maintenance + electricity and other expenses towards the hostel, bus payments, and so on. In the additional affidavit, the petitioner also admitted that she was paying Rs 25,000/- per month for housekeeping, Rs 48,000/- per month for kitchen expenses, Rs 50,000/- per month for the salaries of drivers, electricians, plumbers, and Rs 2,50,000/- per month for the Hostel’s Ration, Grocery Expenditure, for a total of 386 students.
  3. The learned counsel for the respondent also contended that the respondent was rudely ejected from his home.

Delhi High Court’s observations 

  1. The Delhi High Court observed that the purpose of Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 is to pay a fair sum to the wife or husband who has no sufficient source of income for her or his maintenance or for the expenditures of the proceedings, that strikes equity between the spouses.
  2. The High Court concluded that the learned trial court had appropriately evaluated the relevant criteria after considering the circumstances of the case and the settled law. The High Court found no flaw in the judgment dated 24.2.2009 that obliged the High Court to intervene in the proceedings under Article 227 of the Indian Constitution. As a result, the current petition was rejected as being without merit. The husband was therefore eligible for the prescribed maintenance from his wife. 

Nivya V M v. Shivaprasad M K (2017)

The 2017 case of Nivya V M v. Shivaprasad M K that appeared before the Kerala High Court, involved the woman being ordered to pay Rs 6,000 as monthly maintenance to her husband for spoiling his career by raising a false allegation of rape against him by a Family Court. 

Facts of the case 

The petitioner (Nivya V M) and the respondent (Shivaprasad M K) got married on 31.1.2011, and the marriage was recorded with the Marriage Registrar at Enmakaje. After a while, their relationship became strained. The petitioner had filed a petition in Kasaragod’s Family Court seeking a declaration that the petitioner and respondent’s marriage was null and void, and the respondent had filed for restitution of conjugal rights, and both cases were settled by a common judgment dated 18.3.2014 dismissing the petitioner’s petition and allowing the respondent’s. Following that, the petitioner filed a dissolution of marriage application under Section 13(i) (a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, alleging cruelty on the part of the respondent. The respondent filed a counterclaim, contesting the charges and requesting that the application be dismissed. He also asked the petitioner for pendente lite maintenance and litigation fees under Section 24 of the 1955 Act and Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908

The respondent was working in a financial institution under the name and style ‘Thulunad Chits, Kasaragod’ at the time of the marriage, and he was asked to resign from the post after false news was published in Malayala Manorama daily on 4.6.2011 alleging that the respondent had abducted the petitioner and taken her to different places and committed rape on her. He was therefore compelled to resign. The petitioner also filed a complaint against the respondent in Kasaragod’s Judicial First Class Magistrate Court, alleging that he committed offences under Sections 341, 365, 366, 376, and 506 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The complaint was forwarded to the Kasaragod police for investigation. 

The respondent was unemployed and was afflicted with a number of ailments. The petitioner was employed as an Assistant Professor of Biology and received a monthly salary of Rs.50,000/-. She simply needed a third to cover her expenditures. She was able to provide Rs.15,000/- per month to her husband, who was unable to maintain himself due to a lack of a reliable source of income. As a result, he requested before the Kerala High Court that the petitioner herein be ordered to pay Rs.15,000 per month in pendente lite maintenance and Rs.3 lakhs in litigation costs.

Observations by the Kerala High Court 

  1. The Kerala High Court had observed that Section 24 of the 1955 Act makes it clear that a petition can be filed by either a woman or a husband who is unemployed and has no source of income to support pendente lite maintenance and litigation fees from the other spouse who is able to do so. Because of the wording of Section 24 of the Act, a petition brought by the spouse, for this reason, is completely maintainable. 
  2. The Court went ahead to state that, the husband had mentioned in his testimony that he was a musician who attended carnatic and cinematic musical programs, as well as ganamelas, and received additional money in addition to his job as an employee of a private chits fund at the time of marriage. It was also established in evidence that he was capable of generating cash to pay large costs by hiring senior attorneys, as evidenced by his petition’s arguments. If he could raise finances for that, it’s hard to believe he won’t be able to raise funds to support himself.
  3. The Kerala High Court concluded that the decision of the Family Court requiring the petitioner to pay Rs.6,000/- in pendente lite maintenance was unsustainable in law and was likely to be overturned.

Hemlataben v. State (2010)

In the case of Hemlataben v. State (2010), the wife (petitioner) had already instituted the proceeding under Sec.125 Cr PC. under which the maintenance for her son was allowed at 750/- rupees per month. The petitioner was not given any maintenance because she was working in a factory and earned 2500/- rupees every month which was sufficient to maintain herself.

The wife prayed for maintenance before learned Magistrate under the PWDV Act and he granted the prayer. The husband challenged the order and the Additional Sessions Judge dismissed the order of the Magistrate.

The petitioner challenged the order of the Additional Sessions Judge in the Gujarat High Court and Justice Akil Qureshi observed that the Magistrate could not have granted maintenance until and unless strong reasons are stated. The Additional Sessions Judge committed no mistake in setting aside the order of the learned Magistrate to grant maintenance to the petitioner. The wife’s petition was thus, dismissed by the High Court.

Kumaresan v. Aswathi (2002)

In Kumaresan v. Aswathi (2002), Madras High Court took the fact into consideration that if the wife is working then the husband need not maintain her. In this case, the husband (petitioner) filed the petition for divorce under Section 13(i)(a) of the Hindu Marriage Act. While so, the wife (respondent) filed two applications. First, to direct the petitioner to give the alimony pendente lite of 500/- rupees per month. Second, prayed before the Court to direct the petitioner to pay 5000/- rupees towards litigation fees. 

The petitioner argued that the respondent was a working woman who is employed in Kadhi craft at a shopping centre in Trichy, and she earns 4500/- rupees per month. Therefore, the petitioner is not dutiful to pay the respondent the demanded amount in the applications.

The Court took the view of Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and as it states that the only condition required for grant of maintenance pendente lite is that the party should not have sufficient independent income source. If it is found that the applicant has sufficient income, no maintenance pendente lite can be granted to him/her. Hence, the Court dismissed both the applications of the respondent and remitted the case to the trial court for fresh disposal.

Manokaran @ Ramamoorthy v. M. Devaki (2002)

In this case, the husband (petitioner) filed for divorce under Section 13(1)(i) (a) and (b) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The wife (respondent) filed the application for interim maintenance of 750/- rupees per month and litigation expenses of 1500/- rupees. The learned judge of the Family Court granted the interim maintenance and litigation expenses as demanded by the respondent considering the fact that the petitioner is working at Senthil Auto garage where he earns 2000/- rupees per month, thus would be dutiful to pay the said maintenance. 

The petitioner challenged the judgment in the High Court where the learned counsel, N. Manokaran appearing for the petitioner pointed out Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act in which frees the husband of the liability to pay maintenance if the wife earns sufficient to support her expenses. In the present case, the respondent was working in Raj T.V. and drawing the salary of 4500/- rupees per month. Therefore, the Court decided that since the respondent had an independent source of income, the petitioner would not be bound to give the interim maintenance and litigation expenses to her and dismissed the order of the Principal Family Court.

Conclusion

In our country, there are various laws that provide for the maintenance of the spouse after the dissolution of marriage. We have seen how the Courts in various cases have considered the circumstances and scrutinised the cases exhaustively in order to decide whether the demand for maintenance is legitimate or not. In all the cases discussed above, the claim for maintenance to the wife was denied or the question of maintenance was ruled in favour of the husband. It is pertinent to note that not only interim or quantum maintenance has been talked about, but the husband has been given relief in paying pendente lite maintenance and litigation expenses also, considering the financial background of the wife or checking whether she herself is at fault.

In the present context of India, it is apparent that women are considered to be the weaker section of society and the laws should be made to protect their interests. This would be consistent with the principle of “equal protection of laws” that has been incorporated in our democratic setup. But, in the case of such matrimonial matters, the husbands have been treated unequally under the garb of the said principle. Hence, the cases which have been discussed in this article have prevented such unequal treatment and upheld the principle of natural justice. 

References

  1. https://www.pathlegal.in/Top-20-Maintenance-Case-Laws-in-Favour-of-Husbands-blog-1432122 
  2. https://www.scobserver.in/journal/court-frames-comprehensive-guidelines-on-maintenance/ 
  3. https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2020/11/05/maintenance-of-wifehusband-doesnt-have-to-pay-maintenance-in-each-of-the-proceedings-under-different-maintenance-laws-explainer-on-supreme-court-guidelines/

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