Maintenance is the amount paid by one spouse to another in order to help the other spouse sustain a living. The concept of maintenance was introduced in order to ensure that if one of the spouses is not financially independent, the other spouse may help him/her in order to make the living of another person possible. Even in cases of divorce or in cases where both the partners are not living together, the financially independent spouse can be asked to maintain the other spouse who is financially not sound.
Throughout the history of India and the world, it is a well-known fact that women have been denied their right to earn a livelihood and were majorly dependant on their husbands. This has made women vulnerable as far as their needs are concerned and such acts of the past are still having adverse effects on the independence of women in India. Moreover, even today most of the women are dependent on their husbands for a sustainable living.
Keeping in mind the condition of women in India, there have been numerous provisions of maintenance for wives and women, in personal laws as well as Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. Thought a small percentage of women are independent and working, the courts have reiterated on various occasions that even working women cannot be denied their right to maintenance. Section 125 CrPC deals with the order to maintain wives, children and parents. While placing reliance on Shalija & Anr v. Khobbana (2018) 12 SCC 199 where Supreme Court held the difference between actual and capable of earning, in the criminal revision petition case of Arun Vats v. Pallavi Sharma & Anr, the Delhi High Court recapitulated the difference between ‘capable of earning’ and ‘actual earning’ and allowed the grant of interim maintenance to the wife, who is the respondent in the present case, under Section 125 CrPC, irrespective of the fact that she is an advocate, enrolled with Bar Council of Delhi. In this case, the husband, Arun Vats emphasized on the professional qualifications and the well earning lifestyle of his wife and how she is not entitled for maintenance in the said circumstances. The wife on the other hand stated that she was unable to pursue her profession on the account of the young age of her child. Besides, the husband could not even produce any document to support that his wife was well off. The High court upheld the order of the family court, which said that,
“The petitioner’s aforementioned contention, in absence of any supporting document remains a disputed question and needs to be tested in trial. The Family Court has recorded in the impugned order that any amount paid as maintenance in favour of the respondent/wife and her minor child for the period in question would be liable to be adjusted.
In view of the same, I find no illegality or perversity in the impugned order passed by the Family Court.”
This decision was based on the ratio of various Supreme Court judgments where it has clarified that merely because wife is capable of earning was held not to be sufficient reason to reduce the maintenance awarded by the Family Court.
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