The Supreme Court set down comprehensive guidelines on alimony while hearing a dispute between a Mumbai-based couple.
- The Supreme Court leaned on Article 15(3) and Article 39, and a host of other laws while setting down these guidelines.
- It ruled that an abandoned wife and children will be entitled to ‘maintenance’ from the date she applies for it in a court of law.
How can the alimony be claimed?
The SC lay down that women can make a claim for alimony under different laws, including,
- The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
- The Section 125 of the CrPC, or
- The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
It would be inequitable to direct the husband to pay maintenance under each of the proceedings.
Alimony and Maintenance
Alimony and maintenance both connote the existence of a duty on the part of one person to provide for the needs of another person or persons who are dependent on them.
Interim maintenance: While the legal proceedings are still underway, a husband is required to pay maintenance for the wife, along with the expenses of the proceedings. The interim maintenance is payable from the date the petition is filed, till the time the final order is passed.
Permanent maintenance: When a decree of dissolution of marriage or judicial separation is obtained by the wife, the court may order that the husband shall pay the wife any particular amount fixed by the court, either periodically.
Females in India
- In India, for many girls, the inevitable reality seems marriage before completion of higher education.
- Girls are married off early and bear children long before they should.
- This reality triggers a state of poor maternal health.
- It is one of the root causes of high levels of child stunting and wasting in India.
- There is the possibility of a marriage not working out for varied reasons.
- This leaves behind the girl or young woman in extreme distress because often she is not financially independent.
- Parliament and the courts have persistently enacted legislation to give women better rights.
- Article 15(3) and Article 39 are two key constitutional safeguards.
- Article 15(3) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children.
- Article 39 directs state policy towards equal pay and opportunities for both men and women, and protecting the health of women and children.
Significance of judgment
- Given the large and growing percentage of matrimonial litigation, some clarity was necessary. Cases are known to drag on and acquire cobwebs, worsening the misery for vulnerable women.
- For women in India, especially the poor who are often overlooked in discourses, maintenance laws will mean little if they do not prevent dependent wives and children from “falling into destitution”.
- Girls are married off early and bear children long before they should. This triggers a state of poor maternal health and is one of the root causes of high levels of child stunting and wasting in India.
- There is also the possibility of a marriage not working out for varied reasons, leaving the girl or young woman in extreme distress because often she is not financially independent.
Issues related to Alimony and Maintenance in India:
- Maintenance and alimony are the only source of livelihood hence discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth is a direct attack on the right to life, liberty and dignity, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
- The discriminatory maintenance and alimony reinforce patriarchal and stereotypical notions about women and thus any provision that perpetrates or reinforces discriminatory stereotypes against women is manifestly arbitrary.
- All the women don’t have equal rights related to alimony in India which violate their right to equality as a fundamental right under Indian constitution.
- In India, the women are much vulnerable due to patriarchal attitude of society towards women therefore, there should be clarity regarding alimony so that women can live dignified life.
- Most of the girls in India get marry at early age and if they get divorce then proper alimony is needed to sustain their life.
- In India, judicial proceedings take long time and require enough money therefore interim maintenance is needed.
- Even after this many years of Independence and 70 years of India becoming a socialist secular democratic republic, laws relating to maintenance and alimony are not only complex and cumbersome but also against the constitutional mandate of being equal, rational and just.
- The discriminatory grounds of maintenance and alimony are violative of Articles 14, 15, 21 of the Constitution.