The Calcutta High Court on June 11, 2019, in the case of Somdatta Chatterjee nee Raychaudhuri v. Anindya Chatterjee, has held that wife is not entitled to maintenance under Section 36 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 if she has sufficient independent income to support herself.
The judgment was passed by a single judge Bench of Justice Biswajit Basu who observed that “The object of Section 36 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 is to provide a temporary financial support pending any action under Chapter V or VI of the said Act to the wife who has no independent income sufficient to maintain herself.”
In this case, the husband had filed for divorce before an Additional District Court on the ground of cruelty. Pursuant to this, the wife filed a claim for Rs 50, 000 per month as alimony under Section 36 of the Special Marriage Act. The Trial Court, however, rejected her claim, although it awarded her Rs. 30, 000 as litigation expenses. Aggrieved by the order, the wife challenged it before the Calcutta High Court.
Before the High Court, the wife contended that she is entitled to maintenance proportionate to that of her husband’s earnings. She submitted that her husband earned an annual income of about Rs. 75 lakhs per year. Further, she claimed that she earned about Rs. 48, 000 per month.
On an examination of salary records, however, the court found that the wife had earned over Rs. 74,000 per month between December 2018 and March 2019. In view of the same, the court noted that the wife had independent income to maintain herself.
The court said: “The present income of the wife/petitioner as it appears from her aforementioned salary certificates is not less than Rs. 74,000/- per month which is sufficient for her support particularly when she herself has assessed her requirement at Rs. 50,000/- in the application for alimony pendente lite.”
Therefore, the High Court upheld the lower court’s decision to reject her claim for maintenance, ruling that “The learned trial Judge in the order impugned has considered the requirement of the wife/petitioner vis-à-vis her income and is absolutely justified in refusing the prayer of the wife/petitioner for alimony pendente lite. The order impugned, therefore, does not call for any interference.”
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