Women receive maintenance from husbands in a decree of divorce as interim maintenance or as a final lumpsum amount. The question which arises here is that whether husbands will be entitled to maintenance in case the wife is well earning, financially independent and the husband is not so.

To start with, let’s understand what maintenance is. Maintenance is a sum of money provided to the spouse to fulfill the needs of daily life. It essentially provides financial support to people who need it. Traditionally, maintenance laws have focused on supporting females. Let us have a look at the various legal provisions providing for maintenance:

  1. Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code provides maintenance to
    a. A wife from her husband;
    b. Legitimate or illegitimate minor children, whether married or not, from their father;
    c. Legitimate or illegitimate children (differently-abled physically or mentally) from their father,provided such child is not a married daughter;
    d. Father or mother unable to maintain themselves from their son;
    e. Minor female child till she attains majority
  2. Section 18 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 entitles a Hindu wife to be maintained by her husband during marriage.
  3. Special Marriage Act, 1954 also entitles the wife to claim maintenance if she does not possess the capability to financially sustain herself. It’s section 37 provides for permanent alimony.
  4. Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 provides for interim maintenance to be paid by either spouse during the pendency of a divorce proceeding. Section 25 pertains to permanent alimony and maintenance, which the Court can award during the divorce.Thus, the Hindu Marriage Act is the only legislation which provides for maintenance for husbands. Section 24 refers to a ‘deserving man’. The provisions laid under the Hindu Marriage Act for husband claiming maintenance is a supportive and gender inclusive statutory provision. However, the husband must fulfill certain conditions as well as satisfy the court of his incapability to work and earn to claim maintenance.

Indian courts have generally been wary of granting maintenance to a husband. The conditions of a ‘deserving man’ are a little extreme. In the case of Nivya V M v. Shivaprasad M K (2017): The Kerala High Court ordered the woman to pay her husband monthly maintenance of Rs 6,000. The case originated from the petitioner’s false allegation of rape against the respondent, which adversely affected his career. The court observed that under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, either spouse could seek pendente lite maintenance if they are unemployed and without a source of income. However, considering the evidence presented, including the husband’s ability to generate funds for legal expenses, the court found the Family Court’s decision unsustainable and likely to be overturned.

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 determined that the wife must pay Maintenance and ordered her to pay the respondent Rs. 20,000/- per month and Rs. 10,000 as litigation expenses, as well as provide him with a Zen car for his use and convenience. However, the wife was dissatisfied with the decision and petitioned the Delhi High Court, which made the following observations:

“The purpose of section 24 of Hindu Marriage Act is to provide support to a spouse who has no independent source of income and is incapable of maintaining himself/herself. It is trite law that the term support is not to be construed in a narrow manner so as to mean bare subsistence. It means that the other spouse, who has no independent source of income, is provided with such maintenance so as to live in a similar status as was enjoyed by them in their matrimonial home. It is the purpose of section 24 that the wife or the husband who has no sufficient source of income for her or his support or for the expenses of the proceedings must be provided with such reasonable sum that strikes equity between the spouses.”

The Delhi High Court dismissed the appeal and upheld the trial court’s decision based on these facts and circumstances.

Therefore, it can be seen that unless the husband is going through extreme hardships due to which he is not able to earn or capable to maintain oneself, he is not ‘deserving’ of maintenance.



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