One of the most often used and debated sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure in Section 125. According to this legislation, a person who has the means to sustain himself is not allowed to refuse sustenance to his spouse (wife during divorce proceedings or former wife), children, or parents if they are unable to sustain themselves. But occasionally the spouses against whom the maintenance order is issued may not be content with the ruling made by the lower court; as a result, they should have a forum where they may air their complaints about the decision. As a result, they are entitled to use Section 397 of the Code to submit the revision application in a court of law.
The reason section 125 was enacted, was to ensure that the lives of the former wife and children of the husband don’t deteriorate any further after the mental anguish of going through the divorce; as we are well aware that in a typical Indian family, the man is often the only bread-winner of the family while the wife, often, takes of take household chores.
Scope and applicability of Section 125 CrPC
Maintenance for the wife, child, and parents is provided for in Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The court may order the respondent, to support the appellant by paying her a sum on a regular basis if the party has evoked Section 125 of the Code. The clause does have an exemption, though. The husband must be able to maintain his wife after their separation in order to pay maintenance to the wife, and at the same time, the wife cannot be in an adulteress relationship or live apart from her husband without good cause. The wife will not be entitled to any support even if they live separately with mutual consent. When a decision is made in favour of the wife, the court must ensure that the husband has enough money to pay the wife’s support. The wife must not have enough money after the divorce to support herself, thus the court must make sure of this as well.
Apart from regular maintenance, there’s also a provision under Section 125, that empowers the magistrate to pass an order for interim maintenance to be provided to the wife, although, the right to decide the amount rests with the magistrate. This was provided in the Case Vikas Yadav vs State Of U.P And Others, Etc. Etc on 3 October 2016.
Fairness and Responsibility
Maintenance grants are a measure of social fairness. The fundamental responsibility of a man is to support his wife, children, parents, and other close family members when they are unable to do so for themselves. The goal of the philosophy of maintenance is to stop depravity and poverty while raising the financial standing of women and children. A person is required under the CrPC to uphold his moral obligation to the community regarding his spouse, kids, and parents.
The main purpose of this section is to uphold the constitutional rights of women, children, and elderly parents as given under Article 15(3) reinforced by Article 39, and to provide social justice to them and prevent impoverishment and a homelessness state by forcing those who can and should support the said group of people in a moral sense.
Features of Section 125 CrPC
To properly understand Section 125 of CrPC, we need to thoroughly understand its features.
The most crucial stipulation is that unless the individual is ordered to pay maintenance and has “sufficient resources to sustain” the person making the claim and neglects or refuses to do so, they cannot be forced to do so. The burden of proof is with the one who claims not to have the resources necessary to support himself. He is not exempt from the obligation since he is unemployed. In the case of Hardev Singh v. State (1974), the Supreme Court ruled that if a “person is unable to pay a maintenance allowance due to his monastic status, he must put aside the yellow robe and work instead.”
Any individual who neglects or refuses to provide for his wife, children, and parents out of malice aforethought or out of any form of egoistic behaviour in response to their demands for maintenance.
When referring to a failure to maintain even when no such demand is made on the maintainer, the term “neglect” is used to describe a disdain for the responsibility that may be deliberate or inadvertent. While the “refusal” to maintain happens when there is a purposefully proclaimed intention to abdicate his duty. The husband’s actions may indicate or even reveal this goal. It is the claimant’s responsibility to prove this.
Is it a women-centric law?
It is well known that India is a patriarchal-prominent country (although, this has been slowly surely changing with modern times), and with these changes, not as much as the law but the behaviour of the Judicial System should change when dealing with non-violent cases which include a man and a woman as defendant and petitioner respectively.
It is written in Section 125 of the CrPC with respect to Maintenance-
Section 125 – If any person having sufficient means neglects or refuses to maintain;
- his wife, unable to maintain herself, or
- his legitimate or illegitimate minor child, whether married or not, unable to maintain itself, or
- his legitimate or illegitimate child (not being a married daughter) who has attained majority, where such child is, by reason of any physical or mental abnormality or injury unable to maintain itself, or
- his father or mother, unable to maintain himself or herself,
Let’s focus on the 1st point for now, “His wife, unable to maintain herself”, in a general sense, it means that a wife isn’t earning and cannot maintain even her basic needs like Nutrition, hygiene, etc, and/or isn’t earning enough that would render her living situation to that when she was living with her husband.
Therefore, if an ex-wife has the capability to maintain herself shouldn’t be granted; in its judgment, Supreme Court said that “If the wife is earning, it cannot operate as a bar from awarding maintenance to suit the lifestyle of her husband in the matrimonial home.” And this is something that is very reasonable because no matter how long the marriage has been maintained, the wife has become accustomed to the lifestyle but in a recent judgment, Madras High Court through Justice S M Subramaniam stated that “even if a wife has her own means of income, it will not be a bar for a court to order the husband to provide maintenance to her”; hence hinting that no matter what the economic situation of the Ex-Couple after their divorce, the man must provide support to his ex-wife as it is reflected in this statement published on VoiceforMenindia– “Obligation of the husband to provide maintenance stands on a higher pedestal than the wife, even if the wife is earning, it cannot operate as a bar from being awarded maintenance by the husband.”
However, not all is as grim as it seems; although, alimony is as same as maintenance; alimony is somewhat similar to Interim Maintenance, Bombay High Court while upholding a lower court’s order, ordered the Woman to pay alimony to her ex-husband and this Singular Judgment shows although, with a snail’s pace, the behaviour of the courts is moving from a women biased as it was very much needed in an earlier era towards a gender-neutral one as it’s the one that’s needed today.
Author(s) Name: Dhruv Bhadana (NLSIU/NLUD)