A wife is entitled to maintenance from her estranged husband even if she lives in the same household, according to a Delhi Court that recently granted a woman’s petition for interim maintenance. The Court also stated that in Indian society, an educated woman may be denied a regular job because she must attend to the needs of her matrimonial home.

Additional Session Judge Monika Saroha noted that, “Needless to say, the wife is entitled to a maintenance amount in consonance with the earnings of her husband, other necessary expenses of husband and other dependents on the husband”.

The Court was hearing an appeal from a trial court order that had dismissed a woman’s request for interim maintenance from her estranged husband. The Court was hearing an appeal from a trial court order that had dismissed a woman’s request for interim maintenance from her estranged husband.

The woman had filed a complaint under Section 12 of the Domestic Violence Act (DV Act), alleging torture by her husband. The trial court found no basis for granting interim maintenance after the husband denied the allegations, noting that the woman had Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees and was capable of supporting herself.

The Court in the instant appeal, observed, “A middle aged woman, a mother of three, who has accused her husband and in-law of threatening her with domestic violence, cannot be denied maintenance on the ground that many years ago she had procured a BA and B.Ed degree.

The trial court erred in assuming that the man was bearing the expenses because she lived in the matrimonial home, according to the Court. The Judge highlighted, “It is a common scenario in several households in our society where a victim of domestic violence is deprived of basic necessities and not a rupee is given to her to meet her daily needs, even though she resides in the same house.”

It was established that the trial court’s order was issued when the woman was still living in the matrimonial home, as opposed to now, when she is living with her parents, with no obligation to pay rent or electricity and water bills. Judge Saroha, on the other hand, stressed that a wife was still entitled to a minimum amount from her husband for her daily needs, such as food, toiletries, groceries, and clothing.

The woman claimed that, despite her qualifications, her husband and in-law forbade her from working after their marriage. The husband, on the other hand, was found to have failed to present evidence to the trial court that his estranged wife had earned a living since the marriage. It was pointed out by the Court that, “He has not mentioned anywhere in his reply to the complainant under Section 12 of PWDV Act or in his income affidavit what amount was ever earned by the complainant after marriage, who her employer was and for how many days she had so worked?

The judge noted that if the wife had earned a decent amount for herself, the husband was “silent” on those details. It added, “This only grants more credibility to the version of complainant that she has never worked after her marriage. Indeed the couple has three minor children…Thus, as (it) is usually a practice in many Indian households, an educated woman despite her qualification may not be allowed to join any regular employment to take care of her young children born in quick succession and to attend to the needs of her husband and family.”

The Court stated that just because the husband was providing for the children’s education, food, and so on, no presumption could be made that he must be supporting his wife. “The trial Court was wrong in coming to the conclusion that merely because the aggrieved person before it was residing in her matrimonial house, she is not entitled to any maintenance,” it held.

The Court allowed the woman’s appeal and directed that the arrears be cleared within 12 months. “A long time is given for clearing the arrears considering the salary of the respondent and his legal obligation towards maintaining his three children,” it noted.

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