A man, though jobless, must pay maintenance to his wife as ordered by courts in cases of divorce, the Bombay high court (HC) has ruled. A bench of justices Ranjit More and Anuja Prabhudessai, in a recent order, held that a man cannot plead penury in order to evade his liability to pay alimony.
HC further said that if the man was unable to find a job, “he could go to jail and participate in the various programmes conducted there for the inmates, earn money and thus, provide for his wife and child.”
The bench’s made the observations while upholding an appeal filed by a woman against a family court order reducing the maintenance amount granted to her at the time of her divorce. According to the woman’s plea, she and her husband got divorced in 2010 and the family court awarded her a monthly maintenance amount of Rs6,000, including Rs3,000 for their minor daughter. In 2013, however, the family court allowed a revision plea filed by the husband and reduced the maintenance amount to Rs3,000.
She claimed that the revised amount was grossly insufficient for her and her daughter who is five years old now and has just begun going to school. Also, the man had failed to pay even the revised alimony for the past two years. She said she had taken up a job as a teacher in a private school, but her earnings alone were proving insufficient for the upbringing of their daughter.
The man, on the other hand, told the HC that he had stopped paying alimony because he had lost his job as a security guard after the divorce and had been unsuccessful in finding another job since. He said he took up odd jobs on a daily basis and made about Rs3,000 per month and, thus, was not in a position to pay alimony.
The HC junked his plea saying that despite all circumstances, the maintenance of his divorced wife and daughter was his responsibility. “You are an able-bodied man. Find some work and if you fail to follow the court’s order, you will have to go to jail. You can live off the state then and earn money through its programmes and pay up,” the bench said.
The HC also set aside the family court order that reduced the maintenance amount and directed that the man pay up the pending amount as well.