Bom HC | Is it necessary for the wife to file an application for permanent alimony in ‘writing’ under S. 25 of Hindu Marriage Act? Court unfolds dilemma of ‘oral’ & ‘written’ application

Bombay High Court: Pushpa V. Ganediwala, J., addressed the following substantial questions of law:

  • Whether it is necessary for the wife to file an application in writing to grant permanent alimony under Section 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955?
  • Whether wife can claim maintenance under Section 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, as she is divorcee, after passing the decree of divorce?

Counsels representing both the parties had a consensus that Section 25 of the Act does permit the divorcee spouse to claim maintenance from the other spouse even subsequent to the passing of the decree of divorce, subject to certain conditions.

Court below failed to consider the wife’s prayer for permanent alimony under Section 25 of the Act.

Bench stated that various other High Courts including this High Court have held that the word ‘application’ as referred to in Section 25 of the Act i.e. ‘on an application made to it’ does not specify as to whether it is oral application or application in writing. Adding to this observation, Court stated that a broader view of Section 25 of the Act is to be taken considering the object and purpose for the inclusion of this provision in the Act.

In Madras High Court’s decision of Umarani v. D. Vivekannandan, 2000 SCC OnLine Mad 50, it was held that there is no need of written application under Section 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act and permanent alimony and maintenance can be granted on the basis of oral application.

Madhya Pradesh High Court, in Surajmal Ramchandra Khati v. Rukminibai, 1999 SCC OnLine MP 87, held that merely because the wife had not presented a separate application praying for grant of permanent alimony, it cannot be said that she is not entitled to the same.

In view of the above discussion, Bench expressed that in terms of Section 25 of the Act, for granting the relief of permanent alimony, the Court has to consider the respondent’s own income and other property, if any, the income and other property of the applicant, the conduct of the parties and other circumstances of the case, it may seem to the court to be just.

In the case of a decree by mutual consent, if relief for permanent alimony is sought, there is no occasion for the Court to observe the conduct of the parties, to examine their financial stability and other circumstances of the case to pass any order of permanent alimony at the time of passing of the decree of divorce by mutual consent. Essential element is that the Court should be able to comprehend the financial position and conduct of parties to pass permanent alimony order.

Appellant had narrated the financial status of the respondent-husband in her affidavit before the Court and she prayed to keep open the issue of permanent alimony for its consideration later on.

Since the appellate court dismissed the appeal on a misplaced ground of marital tie not subsisting, the said order is to be set aside.

On observing and noting the above discussion, Court opined that ‘application’ as referred to in Section 25 of the Act implies any application either in writing or oral for seeking permanent alimony and maintenance. Mode and form of the application under Section 25 of the Act are immaterial. The order in this regard cannot be passed in a vacuum.

Therefore, the matter is remanded to the trial court in order to decide the issue of permanent alimony. [Vijayshree v. Dr Nishant Arvind Kale, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 29, decided on 08-01-2021]

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