A woman who lived like a wife and in perception was treated like a wife cannot be deprived of maintenance, the Tripura High Court held.
Such a woman also has a right to live in the society with dignity and Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) must be interpreted considering the legislative changes which deal with the changing reality of the man-woman relationship.
Here, a petition was filed by the husband stating that the woman asking for maintenance from him had married him while his spouse was alive and thus the marriage between them was not legal and she was not his wife. The observation made by the Family Court was that the marriage was proved by evidence, even though the husband had a living spouse at the relevant point of time, but the fact was grossly suppressed from the woman at the time of marriage. The Court observed that the husband cannot be allowed to use his wrong for his advantage.
It was argued before the High Court that woman except one who is legally married could not be included in the class of ‘wife’ for purpose of Section 125(1) of CrPC.
The Court also noted the concept of maintenance as under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
It says- “A woman who lived like a wife and in perception was treated as the wife cannot be deprived of maintenance. For this purpose, a co-terminus provision for granting maintenance may be looked into and uniformity in the definition may be brought in.”
The provision of maintenance for a Hindu wife is also available in section 18 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956.
A purposive interpretation of statutes is extremely important to achieve the object of the statutes. Such interpretation will also be resonant with the empathy in Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Such a woman also has a right to live in the society with dignity and not as destitute.
The Court observed that the woman was unaware of the fact that the husband was married, and they have lived together as husband and wife after a ritual on the day of Dol Purnima for more than 10 years. The bench dismissed the revision petition after observing that the husband failed to prove the above-mentioned aspect.