Can wife claim maintenance under S. 125 CrPC where she as well as husband had spouses living at the time of alleged marriage? Del HC decides

Delhi High Court: Subramonium Prasad, J., reversed the order of the Family Court which had granted maintenance to the respondent under Section 125 CrPC.

Instant petition was filed for setting aside the Family Courts order wherein the trial court granted maintenance of Rs 4,200 per month to be paid by the petitioner to the respondent.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Section 125 CrPC is a tool for social justice enacted to ensure that women and children are protected from a life of potential vagrancy and destitution.

High Court observed that the Supreme Court has consistently upheld that the conceptualization of Section 125 was meant to ameliorate the financial suffering of a woman who had left her matrimonial home; it is a means to secure the woman’s sustenance, along with that of the children, if any.

Statutory provision entailed that if the husband had sufficient means, he was obligated to maintain his wife and children, and not shirk away from his moral and familial responsibilities.

In the decision of Bhuwan Mohan Singh v. Meena, (2015) 6 SCC 353, Supreme Court examined the underlying purpose as well as the social context of Section 125 of the Code.

Therefore, while adjudicating matters pertaining to the stated statutory provision, it must be borne in mind that the same was enumerated to further the cause of social justice and that the interpretation of the said Section should be done in a manner to prevent a situation wherein the wife or children are inadvertently nudged into vagrancy and destitution.

“…a speedy remedy for the supply of food, clothing and shelter to the deserted wife.”

In the instant matter, it was noted that the petitioner and respondent were already married to other individuals when their alleged marriage took place.

A decree of divorce can only be granted by the Courts and divorce by panchayat is not valid in the eyes of the law. Hence, it can be deduced that at the time of alleged marriage, petitioner and respondent were already married to other people and their spouses were alive.

A second wife whose marriage is void on account of survival of the first marriage would not be a legally wedded wife, and therefore would not be entitled to maintenance under this provision.

Concluding the matter, High Court expressed that under Section 125 CrPC does not envisage a situation wherein both the parties in the alleged marriage have living spouses, this Court opined that the respondent herein could not seek maintenance from the petitioner under the said provision.

Bench found it unfortunate that many women, especially those belonging to the poorer strata of society, were routinely exploited in this manner and that legal loopholes allow the offending parties to slip away unscathed.

“…while the Court sympathises with the position of the Respondent, it is constrained to deny her maintenance as per the law of the land which stands as of today.”

In view of the above, Court allowed the present petition. [Sunder Lal Saini v. Meena Saini, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 4930, decided on 9-11-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner:

Ram Kishan Saini, Advocate

For the Respondent:

Upasana Nath, Advocate

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