'Illegal' wife is entitled to alimony: SC
RAKESH BHATNAGAR, TNN Dec 18, 2004, 01.09am IST
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has ruled that though bigamy may be illegal under Hindu law, such a marriage can't be declared immoral and the 'illegal' wife cannot be denied alimony. The ruling came with the apex court legitimising the maintenance claim of a Hindu wife whose marriage was declared illegal on grounds that it was bigamy. The court said her husband was liable to pay alimony to her and maintenance for their children.
"Keeping into consideration the present state of the statutory Hindu law, a bigamous marriage may be declared illegal being in contravention of the Hindu Marriage Act, but it cannot be said to be immoral so as to deny even the right of alimony or maintenance to a spouse financially weak and economically dependent," said a Bench of Justices D M Dharmadhikari and H K Sema on separate appeals by the litigating couple.
While the husband, a lawyer, challenged the Madhya Pradesh high court order asking him to pay Rs 3,000 as maintenance for his 'wife' and their daughter, the wife had challenged dissolution of the marriage on the grounds that it was a bigamous alliance.
Rejecting the woman's petition, the Bench upheld dissolution of her marriage because it was bigamy and, therefore, illegal. However, invoking section 25 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the court asked the husband to pay alimony to the aggrieved wife and daughter. "The facts of the present case fully justify grant of maintenance both to the wife and the daughter," the Bench added.
Noting that after the second marriage, the couple lived as husband and wife and they had a considerably long married life of about nine years, the court directed the husband to pay arrears of maintenance running into over Rs 1 lakh.