Prolonged separation does not affect the woman’s right to seek maintenance from her husband — under section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code — if she is unable to sustain herself, held the Bombay high court.
It recently upheld an order of the family court in Bandra, which granted maintenance to a 63-year-old city resident who asked her hotelier husband for financial aid, 28 years after she left him and started residing separately.
Justice RM Savant said the woman was entitled to file an application seeking maintenance when the need arose, even though she had not sought it in years.
“If the husband’s contention that the application was filed after an inordinate delay is accepted, then section 125 of the CrPC will become redundant. The wife will then be driven to destitution,” said the judge.
On October 29, 2015, the family court had directed the man to pay his wife Rs40,00 a month towards interim maintenance starting in March that year, when she had filed the application.
The woman had filed the application in her husband’s pending divorce petition, stating that after she and her husband separated, her father and brother had been caring for her. She added that she was finding it difficult to sustain herself after they died.
She said her husband was wealthy and owned several hotels in South India, along with several cars. She added that he had a lifetime membership to several well-known clubs, for which he paid a hefty amount.The man, however, denied that he owned either hotels or cars, and said he was burdened by several loans.
The family court found merit in the woman’s submissions and ordered him to pay the interim maintenance.
The husband then approached the high court challenging this order. His argument, however, failed to impress justice Savant. The judge rejected the argument on the grounds that the husband’s divorce petition was still pending, and therefore the marriage between the parties was still valid.
He added it was the man’s responsibility to take care of his wife.
The judge, however, accepted the husband’s contention that Rs 40,00 a month was exorbitant. The judge stated that Rs15,00 would be sufficient for the woman’s daily expenses and an equal amount would be required to take care of her medical expenses.
He thus reduced the interim maintenance amount to Rs30,00 a month.