New Delhi, Oct 18: The Supreme Court today ruled that an “illegally wedded” wife and children born of such relationship were entitled to maintenance allowance from the estranged husband, in an order that could bring relief to deserted women.
In other words, according to the court, if a man deceitfully marries a second woman despite the subsistence of his earlier marriage, he is obliged to pay her monthly maintenance under CrPC Section 125.
A bench of Justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and A.K. Sikri rejected Badshah’s argument — he illegally married Urmila despite the subsistence of his marriage with Sobha — that he was not bound to pay maintenance to his second wife.
“We are dealing with a situation where the marriage between the parties has been proved. However, the petitioner was already married. But he duped the respondent by suppressing the factum of alleged first marriage.
“On these facts, in our opinion, he cannot be permitted to deny the benefit of maintenance to the respondent, taking advantage of his own wrong,” the court said.
It passed the judgment while dismissing an appeal by Badshah challenging the directions of the matrimonial court and Bombay High Court that he was obliged to pay every month Rs 1,000 to Urmila and Rs 500 to the daughter born of their cohabitation.
Badshah’s counsel argued that since he was already married to Sobha, the second marriage with Urmila in 2005 was void under the Hindu Marriages Act. So, he was not entitled to pay her maintenance.
But the apex court said: “If a man and woman have been living together for a long time even without a valid marriage, as in that case, term of valid marriage entitling such a woman to maintenance should be drawn and a woman in such a case should be entitled to maintain application under Section 125 CrPC.
“Secondly… when the marriage between respondent No.1 (Urmila) and petitioner was solemnised, the petitioner had kept respondent No.1 in dark about his first marriage.
“A false representation was given to respondent No.1 that he was single and was competent to enter into marital tie with respondent No.1. In such circumstances, can the petitioner be allowed to take advantage of his own wrong and turn around to say that respondents are not entitled to maintenance by filing the petition under Section 125 CrPC that respondent No.1 is not ‘legally wedded wife’ of the petitioner? Our answer is in the negative.
“We are of the view that at least for the purpose of Section 125 CrPC, respondent No.1 would be treated as the wife of the petitioner…. While dealing with the application of a destitute wife or hapless children… under this provision, the court is dealing with marginalised sections of society,” Justice Ranjana said.
The court said it could not give an interpretation to the law that was contrary to the intent of the legislation relating to Section 125 CrPC.
“We should avoid a construction which would reduce the legislation to futility and should accept the bolder construction based on the view that Parliament would legislate only for the purpose of bringing about an effective result.
“If this interpretation is not accepted, it would amount to giving a premium to the husband for defrauding the wife. Therefore, at least for the purpose of claiming maintenance under Section 125 CrPC, such a woman is to be treated as the legally wedded wife,” the bench said.
It said the principles of Hindu personal law had evolved out of concern for all those subject to it.
“The manifest purpose is to achieve the social objectives for making bare minimum provision to sustain the members of relatively smaller social groups. Its foundation spring is humanistic,” the bench said.