Supreme Court: In an exemplary decision upholding a wife’s right to receive maintenance, the division bench of Dipak Misra and P.C. Pant, JJ., held that a wife’s right to receive maintenance under Section 125 of CrPC is an absolute right, unless disqualified. The Court further reiterated that grant of maintenance to a wife is a measure of social justice and a husband who is under obligation to maintain his wife, cannot be permitted to plead his inability to do the same due to financial constraint, as long as he is able- bodied and capable of earning.
As per the facts of the present case, the appellant was compelled to flee her matrimonial home due to extreme atrocities committed upon her by the respondent (husband). Suffering from desertion and ill-treatment, the appellant filed an application for grant of maintenance at the rate of Rs.4000 per month on the foundation that husband was working on the post of Nayak in the Army and receives salary as well as other perks. The Family Court, Lucknow decided in the favour of the wife and directed the respondent to pay a sum of Rs.2500 as monthly maintenance allowance from the date of submission of application till the date of judgment and thereafter Rs.4000/- per month from the date of judgment till the date of remarriage. However the High Court reduced the maintenance allowance by 50% on the ground that the husband had retired from the service. The appellant was represented by J.N. Dubey.
The Court was highly critical of the fact that the High Court failed to appreciate the evidences with the same finesse as it was done by the Family Court. The Court pointed out that the husband took voluntary retirement from the services so that he escapes the liability of paying the allowance. The Bench also took to task the Courts for prolonging the case for over a decade, especially when it has been already reiterated by this Court that cases related to maintenance should be decided expeditiously for the benefit of the wife. The Court further observed that a woman, who has been compelled to leave her marital home, should “not be allowed to feel that she has fallen from grace”. As long as the wife is held entitled to maintenance under Section 125 CrPC, it has to be adequate so that she can live with dignity as she would have lived in her matrimonial home. Thus in an ex-parte decision, the Court set aside the Order of the High Court and upheld and restored the decision of the Family Court. Shamima Farooqui v. Shahid Khan, 2015 SCC OnLine SC 288, decided on 06.04.2015