The Karnataka High Court has said that an able bodied man, who does not suffer from any disability or infirmity cannot seek maintenance from his wife just because the provision for it under the Hindu Marriage Act is gender neutral and he has lost his job.
"The petitioner/husband must remember that ‘it is better to wear out; than rust out’," the court said, rejecting man's plea for maintenance under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act.
"If maintenance is awarded to the husband as is claimed from the hands of the wife, merely because Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act is gender neutral for grant of maintenance, it would be promoting idleness notwithstanding the fact that the husband has no impediment or handicap to earn," Justice M Nagaprasanna said.
The court dismissed a petition filed by the husband seeking maintenance from his wife.
The petitioner had filed a petition seeking divorce and the wife too had filed a petition seeking restitution of conjugal rights. Subsequently, both had filed applications seeking maintenance. The husband claimed that after he lost the job following the onset of Covid-19, he had no means to maintain himself.
The wife, on the other hand, had claimed that the husband is working as an executive and also rented out certain properties. On October 31, 2022, the family court at Bengaluru rural district directed the husband to pay Rs 10,000 per month as interim maintenance and Rs 25,000 as litigation expenses.
The High Court cited the Anju Garg Vs Deepak Kumar Garg case in which the apex court held that if the husband is an able-bodied man, he cannot project the plea that he has no means to pay and it is necessary for any husband to earn by legitimate means and maintain the wife and the children, if any.
"Merely because he has lost his job on the onset of Covid-19, it cannot be held that he is incapable of earning. Therefore, it can be irrefutably concluded that the husband by his own conduct has decided to lead a leisurely life by seeking maintenance from the hands of the wife," the bench said.
The court said the application cannot be granted, saying the husband cannot afford to incapacitate himself and sustain an application under Section 24 of the Act to claim maintenance.
"This would be an anathema to the spirit of Section 24 of the Act. Therefore, the husband cannot seek any maintenance unless he would demonstrate such disability either physical or mental which incapacitates him from earning money by finding a job for himself. It is in fact the duty of an able bodied husband to maintain himself, the wife and the child, if any," the court said.