Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.PC) is a safeguard implemented to ensure that the wife and/or children are maintained by the husband/father due to an anomaly of circumstances. Being unable to maintain oneself is a criteria that is established under the said provision. However, does this also apply to the circumstances wherein a mother, seeking maintenance, is educated and capable of earning an income? This question was brought before by the Petitioner in Sri. R Ravindra V/s Smt. N Anitha and Another wherein the order passed by the Hon’ble Family Court was challenged which granted monthly maintenance to the Respondent and her child along with a major percentage of the educational expense of the child to be borne by the Petitioner.
In the appeal filed and heard before Justice Raghvendra S. Chauhan of the Karnataka High Court Bench, the Counsel for the Petitioner argued the words “unable to maintain herself”, as mentioned in Section 125 of Cr.PC, should be interpreted to mean “incapable of earning, or destitute, or physically so disabled as to be unable to earn a living.” While making this interpretation, the Counsel for the Petitioner further pointed out that since the respondent No.1 was well educated with an M.Com. degree, and she has already worked, both prior and subsequent to her marriage, she is certainly “capable of maintaining” herself. The Counsel placed reference to the judgments in Dr. E. Shanthi v. DR. H. K. Vasudev (ILR 2005 KAR 4981) and Padmja Sharma v. Ratan Lal Sharma (AIR 2000 SC 1398) while relying on its submission.
The Counsel for the Respondents argued that the Respondent No 1 was merely a B.Com graduate as she has not been able to complete her M.Com degree. Also the Petitioner was not completely burnded with paying for the education of the child i.e. Respondent No 2. Hence the judgments of Dr. E Shanti and Padmja Sharma reluied upon by the Petitioner’s Counsel are not applicable to the case.
The High Court, after hearing the case presented to it by the respective counsel, observed and concluded as follows while dismissing the petition:
“In the present case, admittedly, the respondent No.1 is educated to a certain extent, at worst, a B.Com. degree holder, and at best, an M.Com. degree holder. Undoubtedly, she is saddled with the responsibility of having to look after her young son. Admittedly, she is not living with her parents. Thus, to expect her to work, and to do the household chores, is to expect too much. It is her circumstance which has forced her to be unable to maintain herself, and her child. Therefore, she squarely falls within the category of a wife, “unable to maintain” herself. Hence, the interpretation given by the learned counsel for the petitioner is clearly unacceptable.”
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