The mere existence of a court order requesting a wife to restore the marital relationship with her husband does not absolve her from claiming alimony under criminal law if he has created circumstances such that she cannot stay with him, according to the Delhi Supreme Court.
The court noted that judges must bear in mind that they must give a decent living to those who are to be maintained by the persons legally obliged to support them, as well as the purpose behind Article 125 Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), that provides for maintenance to wives in certain circumstances.
The court also stressed that every maintenance case “cannot be painted and written with the same brushstroke” and that the courts involved must be “sensitive and careful”.
The court’s comments were made on a petition by a woman against a court order finding that she was not entitled to alimony under Article 125 CrPC in view of a civil court order issuing an ex-parte decree restitution of the marital rights were granted against her.
Judge Swarana Kanta Sharma stated that the court’s verdict was “incorrect” and noted that an ex-parte decree restitution of marital rights is not an absolute obstacle to awarding alimony under criminal law and if the court concerned is satisfied is based on evidence that the woman had good reasons to stay away from the man, maintenance can be awarded.
“The mere presence of a decree restitution of marital rights against the wife does not absolve her from claiming maintenance if the husband’s conduct is such that she is unable to obey such decree or husband was in such circumstances that she could not stay with him,” the court said in an order released earlier this month.
Since the petitioner’s alimony plea was filed in 2009, the court also noted that the present case “itself tells a story of how a maintenance claim became a maintenance battle as it took nine long years before various courts” and emphasizes “the need to raise awareness in order to deal with such cases as quickly as possible”.
The court noted that the petitioner had provided evidence to the court that she “had every reason to stay away from the husband because there was a risk to her life” and that the court should therefore have decided the issue of alimony on based on that evidence, but the same thing didn’t happen.
“If the evidence shows that the man’s behavior prevented the woman from living with him and he refused to support her and the minor children, her alimony cannot be refused,” the judge said.
The cruel behavior of the husband and attributing immorality to his wife and even questioning the paternity of the children born of the marriage would justify her to live separately and demand alimony. was entitled to alimony, the answer must be in the affirmative,” the court said.
While the court asked the court to reconsider the case, the court added: “Judges hearing such cases should keep in mind the purpose behind Section 125 Cr.PC and the need to maintain a dignified existence.” to people who are to be lawfully maintained by those who are legally obliged to maintain it with due speed and care”.
“The canvas of the life of each individual depicted in each case is not comparable, and therefore every judgment, although filed under the same section, cannot be painted and written with the same brushstroke and pen. Every case and life contained therein depicted should be treated with the circumstances of that case,” the court said.
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