This maintenance order pertains to February 2017. The Kerala High Court had quashed a husband’s claim for maintenance, observing that maintenance under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act is to be paid to the husband only when he is able to prove any incapability or handicap.
The Bench comprising Justice A.M. Shaffique and Justice K. Ramakrishnan observed that in the absence of such circumstances, endowing maintenance on the husbands would promote “idleness” among them.
A 24-year-old woman from Nellikunnu in Kasaragod, had filed the petition challenging the Family Court’s order to pay maintenance of Rs 6,000 per month to her estranged husband. The application for maintenance was filed by the husband after the wife approached Family Court, Kasaragod for dissolution of marriage under Section 13 (1) (ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, on the ground of infliction of cruelty by the husband.
The marriage between the petitioner (wife) and the respondent (husband) was solemnised in January 2011. After some time, the relationship between them strained. The petitioner filed before the Family Court, Kasaragod for a declaration that the marriage between the petitioner and the respondent was null and void, while the respondent filed for restitution of conjugal rights and both these cases were disposed in 2014.
Thereafter the petitioner filed for dissolution of marriage under Section 13(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act (hereinafter referred to as the Act for short) on the ground of cruelty on the part of the respondent. The respondent filed counter denying the allegations and praying for dismissal of the application. He has also filed application under Section 24 of the Act and Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure (hereinafter referred to as the Code for short) seeking pendent lite maintenance and litigation expenses from the petitioner wife.
Kerala High Court:
At the outset, the court noted that a petition for maintenance can be filed by the husband as well, by virtue of Section 24 of the Act. It, however, observed,
A husband seeking maintenance from the wife can be treated only as exceptional case as normally he had got the liability or obligation to maintain the wife and vice versa is only exceptional.
The Bench further said,
In the case of wife filing an application for maintenance from the husband, unless he is able to establish that he is permanently disabled from getting any income, he cannot be exonerated from the payment of maintenance to his wife. The same principle has to be extended in a case where he is seeking maintenance from the wife.
The court then went on to observe that the lower court had failed to note that there was no evidence to support the contention that the husband was incapable of being employed, or that he had any handicap or impediment to earn.
Quashing the order of maintenance passed by the lower Court, the high court stated,
Since the wife is in employment, the husband cannot make himself wholly depend on her income through a devise under Section 24 of the Act. In the absence of any handicap or impediment to earn, to grant maintenance to such able bodied person equipped with skill would promote idleness, which is opposed to spirit of Section 34 of the Act.
If such an attitude has been taken by the Courts, then idleness of husbands will be promoted and they will be tempted not to do any work and depend on the wife for their livelihood, and such thing is not expected to be promoted in the society and that was not the intention of Section 24 of the Act providing maintenance to either party to the proceedings.
It was intended to support only such spouse who is really incapable of maintaining himself/herself to get something for their sustenance and to conduct the litigation which they were forced to face from the other party to the proceedings who is capable of supporting the other spouse and nothing more.
*MDO does not encourage maintenance to either spouses if both are fully-abled and capable of working. In cases where the spouse is out of employment due to matrimonial duties, the working spouse can support her/him for a period of 1-2 years to return to their professional life. Time line in marriage is must and no spouse should be permitted to demand maintenance where the marriage has not even completed 2-years.
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