Don’t let wife starve, HC tells hubby
MUMBAI: A wife cannot be expected to starve, the Bombay high court (HC) said while directing a family court to rehear an application filed by a city resident for interim maintenance from her husband, as the couple fights a divorce battle.
“It is not expected of the wife to starve even though the decree for divorce is stayed by the competent court,” said a division bench of Justice P B Majmudar and Justice Amjad Sayed. The family court’s view that the marriage was “under a cloud” was unsustainable,” the judges added, and quashed an order that had dismissed Meeta Shah’s plea for interim maintenance from her husband Nilesh.
The HC said the Rs 1,000 maintenance that was awarded in 2000 under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) “cannot be said to be adequate”. The judges directed the family court to decide on Meeta’s application within a month.
Meeta and Nilesh had married in 2000, but their relationship soured soon after. The same year, Meeta moved court under the CrPC, seeking maintenance as her husband had neglected her. Nilesh was told to pay Rs 1,000 as monthly maintenance.
Subsequently, a family court in Chennai granted divorce, but the order was stayed and the case was pending before the Madras high court. A few years later, Meeta filed a petition before the family court in the city under the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, seeking maintenance. Her application for interim maintenance was dismissed by the court in 2009 as she was not the wife of her husband and her position as a legally wedded wife was “under a cloud”.
Meeta then approached the high court. A single judge last year clarified that since the divorce had been stayed, Meeta continued to be the legally wedded wife, but dismissed her petition. Her appeal recently came up before the HC’s division bench.
“There is no question of there being any cloud as to whether (Meeta) is the legally wedded wife of (Nilesh),” said the division bench. The HC added that the fact of marriage was never under challenge and the Madras high court had already stayed the divorce, “which fact is completely lost sight of by the judge of the family court”.
The court, while telling the family court to decide Meeta’s plea for maintenance, clarified that it had expressed no opinion on the merit of what the maintenance amount should be or whether Nilesh’s income was sufficient to pay the amount.