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DO EARNING WIVES HAVE RIGHT TO MAINTENANCE?

In matrimonial disputes, maintenance is one of the common issues. In fact in almost every matrimonial case, maintenance is being sought by the wives, irrespective of their qualifications and earning status. Generally, maintenance is being sought by the wives as they are substantially dependent upon their husbands for their financial needs and wants, if not for the other things. The law is quite clear on the issue of maintenance, but there is still some doubt over the scope of the provision qua educated, well qualified and earning wives.

Maintenance has been defined under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 as: 

“Maintenance” includes:

(i) in all cases, provision for food, clothing, residence, education and medical attendance and treatment;

(ii) in the case of an unmarried daughter, also the reasonable expenses of an incident to her marriage;

Moreover, there are various other provisions which pave way to the wives to seek maintenance.

Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 provides right to the party who has insufficient independent income to support himself or herself as the case may be to seek for maintenance pendelite from the other party. It is apposite to mention that section 24 grants right to maintenance to both the parties i.e. husband and wife to seek interim maintenance during the pendency of the matrimonial dispute.

Section 125 of the CrPC,

inter alia, provides right to the wife, who doesn’t have sufficient means to support herself, to seek maintenance from her husband who has refused to maintain her. Unlike section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, the section doesn’t furnish any benefit to the husbands. However, this provision is open to all the wives irrespective of their religion as the same is not restricted to a particular religion.

Section 18 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 provides right to a wife to seek maintenance from her husband. 

Section 23 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2002 (hereinafter the “DV Act”) empowers the Magistrate to pass interim and ex parte order qua maintenance to the wife where the wife has been the victim of domestic violence or there is likelihood that the husband (or any other respondent) may commit an act of domestic violence.

Moreover, wife can also avail the benefit under Section 36 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 which empowers them to seek maintenance from her husband during the pendency of the matrimonial dispute provided she has no sufficient means to maintain and support herself.

Justice Krishna Iyer in his judgment in Captain Ramesh Chander Kaushal v Mrs. Veena Kaushal & Ors.1 held that the object of maintenance laws is :

“9. This provision is a measure of social justice and specially enacted to protect women and children and falls within the constitutional sweep of Article (3) reinforced by Article 39. We have no doubt that sections of statutes calling for construction by courts are not petrified print but vibrant words with social functions to fulfil. The brooding presence of the constitutional empathy for the weaker sections like women and children must inform interpretation if it has to have social relevance. So viewed, it is (1978) 4 SCC 70.

Possible to be selective in picking out that interpretation out of two alternatives which advances the cause — the cause of the derelicts.” The legislations which have been framed on the issue of maintenance are the Special Marriage Act 1954 (“SMA”), Section 125 of the Cr.P.C. 1973; and the Protection of Women from DV, 2005 which provide a statutory remedy to women, irrespective of the religious community to which they belong, apart from the personal laws applicable to various religious communities.

Various case laws have been discussed herein after which have defined, modified restricted and enlarged the scope of right to maintenance for educated, qualified and earning wives.

A. Relevance of qualifications and independent income of the wives

Since the issue pertaining to maintenance can’t be decided with the straight jacket formulae, resultantly there is more than one judicial opinion on a similar point of law. However, the court often tried to elucidate various factors in order to adjudicate the issue of awarding maintenance. The Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in the case titled “Sh. Bharat Hegde vs. Smt. Saroj Hegde” has curbed out 11 (eleven) factors qua the same and among those 11 (eleven) factors ‘Independent Income and the Property of the Claimant’ (in most of the cases, wife) is one of the factors which can assist the court to arrive at a reasonable and justified amount. Thus, it is quite clear that the income of the wives play a major role in their application seeking maintenance from their husbands.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the case of Sunita Kachwaha vs. Anil Kachwaha has elucidated the following pre conditions qua the claim of maintenance from the husband under section 125 of the CrPC.

  • Wife being unable to maintain herself.
  • Husband has sufficient means to maintain her.
  • Husband has neglected to perform his duty to maintain his wife.

Furthermore, the Hon’ble Court also said that merely because the wife is earning some money doesn’t debar her to claim maintenance from her husband. 

In the case titled Shalija & Ors. Vs. Khobbanna the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that ‘capable of earning’ and ‘actually earning’ are two different concepts and merely because the wife is capable to earn money doesn’t give sufficient reason to the court to reduce the maintenance awarded to her. Here, the Hon’ble Court clearly held that the qualification of the wife per se doesn’t create any barriers for the wives to seek maintenance from their husbands.

B. Mere earning is not sufficient 

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case titled Chaturbhuj vs. Sitabhai has categorically held that merely because the wife earns some amount doesn’t disqualify her to seek maintenance from her husband under section 125 of the CrPc. 

C. Where the wife was earning more than her husband

In the case titled Amit Kumar vs. Navjot Dubey, the Hon’ble High Court of Punjab and Haryana refused to interfere with the decision of the lower court where the maintenance pendent lite under section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1956 was provided to the wife who was earning more than her husband. However, she was taking care of her two children. The Hon’ble High Court vide the aforesaid order affirmed the right to maintenance for working wives. 

The Hon’ble High Court of Calcutta in a recent case, Ramiz Raza vs. The State of West Bengal & Ors. has held that a wife has statutory right to seek maintenance from her husband irrespective of the fact that whether she is an earning individual or not. The relevant excerpt of the Hon’ble Supreme Court is as follows:

“It is well settled, by virtue of the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Bhagwan Dutt (supra) that even a wife having a substantial income of her own or even a working lady is entitled to claim maintenance from her husband. Though initially it was a misconception that a working woman is not entitled to claim maintenance since she has some substantial income and is able to maintain herself, but in view of the decision rendered by the Supreme Court in the said case it is evident that she can claim maintenance even though she is an earning lady.”

At last, it can be inferred from the above said statutory provisions and the case laws that the earning wives do have right to seek maintenance subject to the income status of both the parties and the gap between the wives’ incomes and their needs and wants.

Legalmax deals with varieties of maintenance cases and complex family laws issues. Our integrity and diligence makes winning combination. When you are choosing the best maintenance lawyer or family law lawyer, in this situation you can completely rely on our Legal Firm.

If you have any query for your maintenance matter, feel free to consult us on 9654340611.

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