A woman, who has been deserted by her husband, can claim maintenance from him inspite of her efforts to earn a monthly income, the Supreme Court has ruled.
In a significant judgment, the bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and Aftab Alam gave a wider interpretation to the phrase "unable to maintain herself" and said: "….it would mean the means available to the deserted wife while she was living with her husband and not the efforts made by her after the desertion." The expression, added the judges, does not imply that the wife should be a destitute before she can apply for maintenance.
Dismissing the appeal of a man who had challenged a Madhya Pradesh high court order, the bench directed the petitioner to pay Rs 1,500 as monthly maintenance to his wife. The petitioner's plea that his wife could support herself with the money received from the sale of agricultural land did not impress the judges.
They said the test to decide maintenance amount for a woman who has been deserted should be based on whether she can maintain herself the way she did while staying with her husband. "The wife should be in a position to maintain a standard of living which is neither luxurious nor penurious but what is consistent with the status of a family," the judges said. In-order to claim the benefit of not paying maintenance the husband must prove that the wife earned enough to lead a similar lifestyle, which she led while living with him. The condition is in addition to the requirement that the husband must have neglected or refused to maintain his wife.