In one of the rare incidents, the Bombay High Court has directed a woman to pay alimony to her former husband. The bench has upheld two orders of a local court in Nanded in Maharashtra.
The local court has passed two orders, one in 2017 and the other one in 2019.
Justice Bharati Kharge rejected the wife’s contention that she had divorced her husband in 2015 (almost after 23 years) and the husband could not seek alimony now.
The civil court in its order had directed the woman to pay interim monthly maintenance of ₹ 3,000 to her ex-husband, and asked the headmaster of her school to deduct ₹ 5,000 from her salary every month and deposit the same with the court towards unpaid maintenance since August 2017.
The woman had approached the High Court stating that she had divorced her husband in 2015.
The High Court bench relied on Section 24 and Section 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act. The bench stated that they confer a right on the needy spouse to claim interim or permanent alimony, where a decree of restitution of conjugal rights or divorce has been passed.
Justice Kharge added, “The scope of Section 25 of the Act of 1955 cannot be constricted by not making it applicable to a decree of divorce being passed between the husband and wife….The provision of maintenance / permanent alimony being a beneficial provision for the indigent (needy) spouse, can be invoked by either of the spouse, where a decree of any kind governed by Sections 9 to 13 has been passed and marriage tie is broken, disrupted or adversely affected by such decree of the court.”
The couple got married on April 17, 1992 and got divorced in 2015. The wife had filed a petition seeking divorce on the grounds of cruelty and desertion.
After divorce, the husband filed a petition seeking Rs 15,000 per month as alimony. He had submitted that his wife is an M.A., B.Ed and is employed with a university. He had also stated that he has no source of income.
In the petition, the husband had also stated that he managed the house and kept aside his own ambitions to encourage his wife to obtain a degree.
On the other hand, the wife rejected his claims while submitting that he runs a grocery shop and also runs an auto-rickshaw and earns an income by leasing out the same.
However, the bench noted that the husband’s petition under Section 24 of HMA is maintainable and therefore, the wife should pay Rs 3000 monthly maintenance till the permanent alimony is decided.
In another order, the court had ordered the headmaster of the wife’s educational institution to deduct Rs 5000 from her salary every month and deposit it to the court with arrears.
Calling it a “travesty of justice”, the wife’s counsel stated that after the decree of divorce, proceedings for permanent alimony and maintenance under Section 25 of the Act of 1955, are not maintainable.
Section 25 states that an application for alimony can be sought at any time and therefore, the divorce did not bar the court from entertaining the application.
“The scope of Section 25, therefore, cannot be restricted by holding that on divorce / dissolution of marriage, the wife or the husband cannot bring such proceedings.”
“Since Section 25 has to be looked upon as a provision for destitute wife/husband the provisions will have to be construed widely so as to salvage the remedial entailments, the contention of the learned counsel cannot be accepted and it is open for the court to decide the application filed by the husband under Section 25 of the 1955 Act…The application for interim maintenance filed under Section 24 of the Act of 1955, has been rightly entertained by the learned Judge and the husband has been held entitled to interim maintenance while the proceedings under Section 25 are pending,” the bench said.