What maintenance rights India's legal landscape holds for husbands

by IANS |

New Delhi, Sep 24 (IANS) Indian laws relating to maintenance have always tilted in the favour of the wife, at least that’s the common notion in the society. Everyone is aware that maintenance to the wife is well known and the most common concept in Indian society, but what about the husband’s right to claim it?

As we all know, Indian law is based on equality before the law; thus, both husband and wife are entitled to claim maintenance according to the law, but there are some riders on the husband’s right to claim maintenance.

Maintenance can be described as something that can provide for necessities of life such as food, clothing, shelter, education and medical expenses. In a matrimonial relationship it is the financial support paid by the wife or the husband, which covers all the basic requirements of life.

The provision of husband’s right to claim maintenance from their wives is provided under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. 

"Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act provides for the maintenance of Pendente Lite and the expenses of the proceeding to the husband, and Section 25 provides the husband with the right to get permanent alimony and maintenance," Advocate Anant Malik told.

Under Section 24, a “deserving man” who does not have an independent income sufficient for his living and support and does not have the necessary expenses for the proceeding can claim maintenance from his wife if she can afford to do so. 

Section 25 allows permanent alimony and maintenance to the husband. It obligates the wife to pay such gross sum or monthly or periodical sum for the husband’s lifetime, keeping in mind the wife’s income and property. 

"The court can modify the order if there is any change in circumstances. For example, in the case of mutual consent divorce, if the parties agree not to claim maintenance, the court can grant maintenance according to the case’s circumstances and facts," said Malik.

In any proceeding, if it appears to the court that either the husband or the wife as the case may be, has no independent income source for his or her support and the necessary expenses of the proceeding, the court can, on the application of the petitioner, i.e., wife or husband, order the respondent to pay the costs of the proceeding to the petitioner.

Thus, under this Section, a deserving husband who is not having an independent income enough for his support and necessary expenses of the proceeding can claim from his wife for such expenses if she can provide so. But, on the other hand, if the husband has sufficient income and capability to earn, he can not claim under this provision.

"The court must keep in mind the respondent’s and applicant’s income and other property while deciding the maintenance. If there is any change in the circumstances of either party at any time after the order is passed, the court can modify or revoke that order at the instance of either party," told Malik. 

The claims of the husband must be reasonable and must match the standard of necessities in their lives. If it is found that the claims and needs of the husband are not appropriate, the court shall not entertain such claims.

"There are certain conditions laid down that need to be fulfilled by the husband in order to claim his right to maintenance. He can claim maintenance only when he is in dire need of it, and he proves his inability to earn. A capable person remaining idle cannot claim this right," Malik said. 

As mentioned above, the burden of proof lies upon the husband. The husband will have to satisfy the court that he cannot earn and support his livelihood, either due to some physical or mental disability, and thus, he is entitled to get maintenance from his wife.

In the case of Nivya V M v. Shivaparsad M K 2017 (2) KLT 803, the Kerala High Court had held that if the husband is provided maintenance in the absence of incapability for him to work, it will promote idleness. 

The husband has to prove that he is permanently disabled to work and earn; only then he can claim maintenance.  

In Kamelandra Sawarkar v. Kamelandra AIR 1992 Bom 493, the Bombay High Court held that the husband could not depend wholly on the wife’s income. If the husband can work and earn, granting maintenance to a skilled person will promote idleness.

In the case of Rani Sethi v. Sunil Sethi 179 (2011) DLT 414, the trial court, according to the circumstances and facts of the case, held that the wife has to pay maintenance and directed her to pay to the respondent Rs 20,000/- and Rs 10,000 as litigation expenses and also directed to provide him Zen car for his use and convenience.

"Many laws provide the provision of maintenance to the wife. These laws are The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973; The Divorce Act, 1869; The Special Marriage Act, 1954; The Muslim Women Protection on Divorce Act, 1986; The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005; The Hindu Adoption and maintenance Act, 1956. But there is only one law that gives the right to claim maintenance to the husband from the wife," Malik said.

Maintenance law is a gender-equal law under the Hindu Marriage Act as it provides the right to maintenance to both husband and wife. However, other laws only give this right to wives, and therefore, there have been petitions filed against other laws, such as Section 125 of CrPC in the Supreme Court, claiming it to be gender-biased.

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