Every Woman Has A Right To Maintenance

Every woman has a right to maintenance during childhood by her father, after marriage by husband and during old age by children. No law can deny maintenance to a woman. She can sue the other party as per law if the person disowns or refuses to maintain her.

A special provision under section 125 of Cr. P.C. is made for women to claim maintenance. Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974), right to maintenance extends not only to the wife and dependent children but also to indigent parents and divorced wives. Claim of the wife, etc., however, depends on the husband having sufficient means.

Religious Background

Initially, only Hindu women benefitted by this provision, as Muslim law prohibited it but the Honorable Supreme Court of India judiciously observed that India is a secular country and all provisions are applicable to all religions. This judgement became important for Muslim women too.

If the divorced Muslim woman is able to maintain herself, the husband’s liability ceases after the period of ‘iddat’ but if she is unable to maintain herself after the period of ‘iddat’, she is entitled to maintenance. A woman’s caste or religious background is immaterial.

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What About Financial Independent Women?

Many have raised the question, “Why a woman should be maintained? Why can’t a woman have an independent status? Women are very strong and now-a-days financially independent”.

The reply is even though women are financially independent these days, a man should not be let scot-free and allowed to dodge his responsibilities. Hence, this provision of maintenance is incorporated. Even today, the percentage of working women is very low in India. Most women prefer to remain indoors. In case of any misfortune, such women become destitute.

Hence the constitution has provided protection to the weaker section. It is always advisable to take benefit of the provisions made by law as those provisions are for the betterment of the society and community as a whole.

Even if the wife who applies for maintenance is earning sufficiently well for herself, she can still be entitled to alimony in case her husband’s income exceeds way beyond her own. The reasoning being the wife is entitled to live as per the standard and status of her husband.

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Quantum Of Maintenance

The term “maintenance” has varied theories to it and depends upon the circumstances of each and every single case. The quantum of maintenance cannot be assumed in advance. It is like a dreaded monster, especially for a man who wants to initiate a divorce, but is apprehensive that he may be asked to pay a huge amount as alimony to his wife, which he may not be in a position to afford. Nevertheless, whatever may be the amount of maintenance asked for by the wife, the Court is usually very judicious and kind. It takes into consideration all the liabilities of the husband with due regard to the requirements and necessities of the wife and children. Accordingly, it issues an appropriate maintenance order rendering justice to each of them. Nonetheless, the doors of appeal in the Court of Law are open to one and all, who are dissatisfied with the order passed.

Call For Revisiting Laws

Some activists have been calling for revisiting alimony laws these days. They believe this new shift away from guaranteed, lifelong maintenance is tough for women, who did not prepare for the financial realities of divorce and chose to be dependent on their husbands.

Researchers report that a marriage in which both parties earn about the same and do about the same amount of housework and childcare have a chance of divorce 48 percent lower than average. Each party is allowed to move on with their lives after divorce. Living off a cheque from an ex only keeps you emotionally embroiled in a marriage that is now over.

Originally from Nagpur in eastern Maharashtra, advocate Mrs Deepali Jayadeep Jayawant shifted to Navi Mumbai in 2002. She is well-versed with family matters, consumer matters, civil and criminal cases and High Court proceedings. She has recently presented a research paper in an international conference in Mumbai. She enjoys reading, sports and traveling. She pens a fortnightly column ‘Legal Diary’.
Readers can write to her at j.jayawant@yahoo.com

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