This article on ‘Maintenance of Wife Under Indian Laws‘ was written by Ashok Kumar Choudhary, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
The financial support provided by a husband to his wife during and after the marriage, or after a divorce or separation, is known as the maintenance of a wife. The purpose of maintenance is to ensure that the wife can maintain a decent quality of life and is not left in a state of poverty. In many countries, including India, some laws govern wife maintenance and require the husband to pay alimony or maintenance to the wife. This article will explore the concept of maintenance and analyse the laws governing maintenance in India.
MAINTENANCE LAWS IN INDIA
- These laws aim to protect women’s rights and prevent them from being placed in a vulnerable position after divorce or separation. The legal concept of maintenance recognizes the financial rights of a spouse, particularly a wife or a divorced wife, who may have been financially dependent on their partner during the marriage. The goal of maintenance is not only to provide for the necessities of life, but also to ensure that the wife or divorced wife can live her life with a reasonable standard of living, take care of any children resulting from the marriage or relationship, and in some cases, cover legal costs if necessary.
- It is important to note that maintenance laws should be gender-neutral and applicable to both spouses. Proper implementation of these laws is essential to ensure that justice is served and that gender equality is achieved. Additionally, promoting education, economic independence, and social participation for women is necessary to empower them to understand their rights and worth, and to enable them to live their lives with dignity and security.
- We have different personal laws in India that apply to different religious communities, such as Hindus, Christians, Muslims, and Parsis. However, the common law is that every married woman has the right to file for maintenance under Sections 125-128 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CRPC) in India. Maintenance can be claimed by a wife, children, or parents who are financially dependent on the husband. These Maintenance acts serve a social purpose, and there are provisions under various laws, including the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, India has several laws in place that aim to protect and promote the rights of various groups, including women, children, and elderly citizens.
- Three notable acts that address these issues are the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005, and the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act of 2005. The Hindu
- The Adoption and Maintenance Act, for example, provides legal guidelines for the adoption of children by Hindu families and also recognizes the right of Hindu wives to receive maintenance from their husbands. Similarly, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act seeks to prevent domestic violence against women and provides for the speedy and effective delivery of justice to victims.
- The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act is aimed at ensuring the welfare and maintenance of elderly parents and senior citizens by their children or other relatives. This act recognizes the responsibility of adult children to care for their parents and provides legal remedies for parents who are neglected or mistreated.
- These acts reflect India’s commitment to protecting the rights and welfare of all its citizens, particularly those who are vulnerable and in need of support. While there is still work to be done in fully implementing and enforcing these laws, they serve as important steps toward building a more just and equitable society for all. All of these laws are designed to compel a man to fulfil his moral obligation to his wife, children, and parents in respect of financial support.
SECTION 125 CODE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE
Section 125(1) of the CrPC stipulates that only a legally wedded wife can claim maintenance. A lawfully wedded wife refers to a woman who has either been divorced, has obtained a divorce from her husband, or has not remarried. In the case of Savitaben Sombhai Bhatiya vs the State of Gujarat (2005), the Hon’ble Supreme Court clarified the term “wife” to mean a woman who has entered into a valid marriage with a man through a ceremony recognized by law.
The Court held that registration of marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act is not a mandatory requirement for claiming maintenance under Section 125 of the CrPC. The validity of a marriage depends on the essential requirements of a valid marriage, such as the party’s consent, the absence of any legal impediments, and the performance of the marriage ceremony according to the customs and traditions of the parties’ communities.
MAINTENANCE UNDER HINDU MARRIAGE ACT 1955
Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act recognizes that both men and women can demand maintenance from their spouses if they have any financial disability. This provision ensures that spouses are not left in a financially vulnerable position during or after the marriage. The amount of maintenance that a spouse can receive is fixed by the court, and if the spouse fails to pay, the matter can be taken to court. The Hindu Marriage Act allows spouses to claim maintenance, regardless of gender and provides a safety net for those who may face financial difficulties.
HINDU ADOPTION AND MAINTENANCE ACT 1956
Section 3 (b)(i) of the Act defines maintenance, which includes the provision of food, clothing, housing, education, medical attention, and treatment. This also covers the marriage expenses of unmarried daughters, as well as their future marriage expenses. To determine the amount of maintenance, the court must consider the financial means of the person against whom the award is being made. This includes the potential earning capacity of the husband. It is not just the actual income that must be considered, but also the husband’s potential earning capacity.
As per the law, every able-bodied person can earn and maintain their spouse. According to Section 23(2), there are various factors to be considered when determining the amount of maintenance for the wife, children, and parents.
MAINTENANCE UNDER MUSLIM PERSONAL LAW APPLICATION ACT 1937
Maintenance under the Muslim personal law is governed by “Shariat” which is the Muslim personal law. Under Muslim law, the concept of maintenance is described under the term “NAFAQAH,” which means providing basic needs to the wife, children, and parents. The amount of maintenance to be paid to the wife is based on the husband’s income. If the husband divorces his wife or in the case of his death, the wife can claim damages.
In the case of a divorce, the wife is entitled to maintenance during the “iddat” period, which can be of three months. If she is pregnant or has a child, the husband is obliged to provide maintenance to his ex-wife if she is unable to support herself. The father is also responsible for maintaining his children until they reach puberty. If he is unable to provide maintenance, then the responsibility falls on the grandfather, and then on the state.
MAINTENANCE UNDER CHRISTIAN LAW
The Indian Divorce Act of 1869 offers legal remedies to Christian wives who are unable to sustain themselves after a divorce. The Act enables them to seek alimony or maintenance in a civil or High Court, and the former husband is liable to pay the amount as ordered by the court for the wife’s lifetime. Section 36 of the Indian Divorce Act 1869 specifies that interim maintenance can only be claimed by the wife and not by the husband.
The court has the discretion to order monthly or weekly payments for the wife’s maintenance and support, as considered reasonable. These provisions aim to safeguard the rights of Christian wives who may be vulnerable in post-divorce situations, ensuring they have a means of support. In summary, the Indian Divorce Act, of 1869 is an essential legal framework that provides protection and assistance to Christian women facing challenges after a divorce.
MAINTENANCE UNDER PARSI LAW
The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act of 1936 provides for the rights of Parsi wives to maintain, both temporary and permanent alimony. During the pendency of a matrimonial suit in court, the maximum amount that can be decreed as alimony is one-fifth of the husband’s net income. In determining permanent maintenance, the court considers various factors such as the husband’s ability to pay, the wife’s assets, and the conduct of the parties involved.
The order for permanent maintenance remains in force as long as the wife remains chaste and unmarried. The provisions for pendent lite and interim maintenance in Section 39 of the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936 are similar to those in Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act. This legal framework aims to protect the rights of Parsi women and ensure that they receive the necessary financial support during and after a divorce.
The restoration of women’s rights through judicial pronouncements and other measures is a significant step towards gender equality. However, true progress can only be achieved when underlying societal attitudes toward women are transformed. Women must empower themselves through education, economic independence, and social participation to fully understand their rights and worth. Only then can society as a whole be uplifted. Mothers, as the first teachers and mentors of their children, play a vital role in shaping future generations.
No society can truly thrive until the women within it can live in peace and security. While maintenance laws should be gender-neutral and applicable to both husbands and wives, many women still struggle to claim their rights to maintenance. Proper implementation of the law is crucial to ensure that justice is served, and gender equality is achieved. Ultimately, it is only through collective efforts and a steadfast commitment to the rule of law that we can create a more just and equitable society for all.
List of References:
- Krishna Rawat, Maintenance under Hindu Law, 4(4) IJLMH (2021)
- Varsha, Maintenance Laws for Women in India, BnB Legal, 18 February 2022, available at: https://bnblegal.com/article/maintenance-laws-for-women-in-india/
- Ekta Gurjar, Laws and Offences Relating to Maintenance of Women, SSRN, 12 February 2012, available at: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2003352