MUMBAI: A woman has to prove cruelty, neglect or abandonment to claim maintenance from her estranged husband, the Bombay high court has ruled.
Striking down a family court's order that an advocate from Nagpur has to pay a monthly maintenance of Rs 10,000 to his 66-year-old wife, an HC division bench of Justice S A Bobde and Justice S B Deshmukh said Seema Patil had failed to prove any of the charges against her husband, Nilesh: assault, neglect and having a mistress. Though the court quashed the maintenance order, Nilesh offered to pay Rs 2,500 to Seema every month and also look after her.
"The (wife) failed to establish a case of desertion, neglect, refusal, abandonment or of cruelty to her by her husband," said the bench, adding, that she had "also failed to establish the presence or existence of a mistress/concubine/any other woman in the house or life of the husband, entitling her to claim separate residence without forfeiting her right to maintenance".
The couple who married in 1962, have three grown-up children, all of whom are law graduates. Nilesh is a lawyer who practises in the HC bench at Nagpur as well as in the Supreme Court. The couple started having differences from 1993 and in 2001, Nilesh moved court for divorce on the grounds of cruelty. While his petition was dismissed, Seema filed a case under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, seeking maintenance, following which, a family court in 2008, ordered Nilesh to pay Rs 10,000 to her. Under the Hindu law, a husband is obliged to pay for his wife's maintenance and he can be relieved of the liability only if the marriage is dissolved or if his wife dies or if she is proved to have committed adultery or if she converts to another religion. A Hindu wife can seek maintenance on the grounds of cruelty, desertion, neglect or even claim separate home if the husband brings his mistress to their matrimonial home.
Though Seema claimed that Nilesh had hit her twice, the HC could not find any documentary evidence. The charge of neglect also did not hold water. "The wife could not have been deserted, abandoned or neglected by the husband as she lives in the same house as her husband, sons and daughter-in-law." She had also been handed over the possession of the matrimonial house after an agreement with Nilesh.