Judgment on Maintenance for the second wife
Narinder Pal Kaur Chawla versus M S Chawla
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Narinder Pal Kaur and M S Chawla were married according to Sikh rites and ceremonies in 1977, in Jalandhar. They lived as husband and wife for 14 years in their matrimonial home in Defence Colony, New Delhi. Two daughters were born, in 1981 and 1983. In 1991, Narinder Kaur resumed her studies and decided to finish her BA. In April 1991 she went to Phagwara, Punjab, to take her exams. When she returned, on June 13, 1991, her mother-in-law barred her from the house. Narinder Kaur had been deserted by her husband. At the time of her marriage, Chawla had professed himself a bachelor. In 1991, when she was barred from the matrimonial home, Narinder learnt, for the first time, that Chawla was already married to Amarjeet Kaur when they were married.
Narinder Kaur filed a criminal case of bigamy against her husband and Chawla was convicted. She filed a petition for maintenance for herself and the children under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act. As courts take a long time deciding petitions, Narinder filed for interim maintenance. Illustrative of the extremely low quantum of maintenance granted by the courts, she was granted interim maintenance of Rs 400 per month. In appeal, it was increased to Rs 700 and finally to Rs 1,500 per month by the Supreme Court.
In 2005, the main petition for grant of maintenance was dismissed by the trial court on grounds that Narinder Kaur Chawla was not M S Chawla's legally wedded "wife" and was therefore not entitled to file under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act. The trial court held that since Chawla was already married to Amarjeet Kaur, his second marriage to Narinder was void and had no legal validity. Narinder Kaur Chawla filed an appeal in the high court.
The Delhi High Court observed that the husband Chawla had not disclosed the fact of his first marriage, had married Narinder and had maintained a relationship of husband and wife for 14 long years.
Thus,The Delhi High Court judgment lays down that a second wife duped by her husband through concealment of his first marriage can be treated as a legally wedded "Hindu wife" and is entitled to maintenance under Section 18 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act.