Guidelines for matrimonial cases

Context – The Supreme Court has laid down the guidelines for payment of maintenance in matrimonial cases.

What are the impacts of early marriage?

  1. Health issues – Girls are married off early and bear children long before they should. This triggers a state of poor maternal health and is one of the root causes of high levels of child stunting and wasting in India.
  2. Dependency – Since girl brides are not able to complete their education, they remain dependent and underpowered which acts as a big hurdle towards achieving gender equality.
  • There is also the possibility of a marriage not working out for varied reasons, leaving the girl or young woman in extreme distress because often she is not financially independent.

What did the Court say?

As per the Supreme Court guidelines-

  • Deserted wives and children are entitled to alimony/maintenance from the husbands from the date they apply for it in a court of law.
  • A violation would lead to punishments such as civil detention and even attachment of the property of the latter.
  • The plea of the husband that he does not possess any source of income ipso facto does not absolve him of his moral duty to maintain his wife, if he is able-bodied and has educational qualifications, the court declared.
  • Both the applicant wife and the respondent-husband have to disclose their assets and liabilities in a maintenance case.
  • Other factors such as “spiraling inflation rates and high costs of living” should be considered, but the wife should receive alimony which fit the standard of life she was used to in the matrimonial home.
  • Overlapping jurisdiction under different enactment– Husband doesn’t have to pay maintenance in each of the proceedings under different Maintenance laws.
  • The Court also added how an “order or decree of maintenance” may be enforced under various laws and Section 128 of the CrPC.

Why such a judgment?

  • Usually, maintenance cases have to be settled in 60 days, but they take years, in reality, owing to legal loopholes.
  • The top court said women deserted by husbands are left in dire straits, often reduced to destitution, for lack of means to sustain themselves and their children.
  • Despite a plethora of maintenance laws, women were left empty-handed for years, struggling to make ends meet after a bad marriage.

What are the other   laws where women can make a claim for alimony in India?

  •  Maintenance under the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956.
  •  Child maintenance under section 125 CrPC.
  • Maintenance under Section 26 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
  • Protection of Women from the Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

Way forward-

Maintenance laws have been enacted as a measure of social justice to provide recourse to dependent wives and children for their financial support, so as to prevent them from falling into destitution and vagrancy.

Print Friendly and PDF