In a significant judgment, the Bombay high court upheld that in cases of awarding maintenance to women who have been deserted by their husbands or partners, courts must not insist on “strict proofs of marriage.”
In a recent judgment, justice MS Sonak of the Bombay high court ruled that while deciding cases of maintenance to woman who have been deserted by their husbands, courts must include even those cases “where a man and woman have been living together for a reasonably long period of time.”
Justice Sonak was hearing an appeal filed by a Kolhapur resident, who was a victim of a bigamous marriage — at the time of their marriage, her husband had hid the subsistence of his earlier marriage. And after living with her for several years, he deserted her and their daughter and went back to his first wife.
Earlier, a sessions court had upturned a magisterial order that awarded a maintenance of Rs500 a month to the woman and another Rs500 a month to their daughter. The sessions court had held that considering that her estranged husband was already married, the woman could not be considered as his legally wedded wife and thus, her claims to maintenance did not hold. The sessions court, however, observed that the paternity of the couple’s daughter was not disputed and awarded the daughter maintenance of Rs500 a month.
The woman then appealed against the sessions court order in the high court. Justice Sonak cited several Supreme Court judgments to rule that the purpose of section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), under which the courts award maintenance, was to provide “speedy remedy” to women deserted by their husbands or partners and thus, the “standard proofs of marriage in such proceedings must not be very strict.”
“If the claimant succeeds in showing that she and the man have lived together as husband and wife, then the courts can presume that they are legally wedded spouses,” Justice Sonak said while quashing the sessions court order.
He also directed the man to pay a sum of Rs5,000 to the woman.