The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Alimony hope for second wife

New Delhi, April 12: A Central government note has recommended that a woman tricked into tying the knot by an already married man should be paid alimony, even though the marriage does not stand in the eyes of law.

The note, put up by the law ministry for Cabinet approval, says there are several instances in which a man “misrepresents” his marital status to a woman he wishes to marry. He might conceal that he has a wife tucked away somewhere or claim he is a divorcee when his first marriage has not been ended by process of law. When the second wife wishes to split with him after finding out the truth, she is denied alimony on grounds that the marriage was not “legal” to begin with.

The law ministry suggests this position of law should be changed in the interests of gender justice. It suggests amendments to Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code, and even the Hindu Marriage Act and the Hindu Succession Act.

To push its point, the note cites a decision of the Supreme Court (Yamunabhai Vs Anantrao, 1988 SCC P.530) in which the court had held that Yamunabhai’s marriage was not legally recognised as her husband’s earlier marriage still existed. Since the second marriage was “unlawful”, Yamunabhai was denied maintenance.

Claiming this was inimical to gender equality, the note says even illegitimate children have the right to maintenance under clause (b) of Section 125 of the CrPC. Correspondingly, ‘illegitimate’ wives should be given the same right and status in the eyes of law.

Moving on to divorce cases, the note says family courts have generally caused “greater hardship to women instead of reducing it”. In Kerala, for instance, there are only three family courts.

“As a result of the Family Courts Act, all cases regarding divorce, maintenance etc, pending in district courts, were transferred to family courts. Instead of 14 district judges trying the cases, the burden has fallen on three family courts. As a result there have been inordinate delays.”

The note suggests family courts should either be abolished and jurisdiction given back to district courts or they should be established in every district in the country.

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