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Maintenance Awarded To Wife Is Not a Blanket Liability And Can Be Altered Subject To Change In Circumstances: Delhi HC

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In cases of divorce or separation, it’s normal for the wife to get maintenance from her husband for various reasons. Before y’all go off on me about female privilege, let me tell you that women have this right for a number of reasons including lack of educational qualification and opportunity, pay gap and also the fact that it’s common for women to give up their career to undertake household responsibilities but in several cases, women work and undertake household responsibilities and it’s only fair that they are awarded financial support during divorce or separation. The law has several provisions for a woman to seek maintenance from her husband. She can either file it under the Domestic Violence Act or under Section 125(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Now, usually, maintenance is considered to be a blanket liability, i.e., once an amount is fixed by the court, the same is to be paid by the husband to the wife till the end of the case or till the divorce. But in a recent judgement, the Delhi High Court has observed that the maintenance amount is subject to change depending upon the circumstances of the husband or the wife.

In a recent judgement, Delhi High Court noted that maintenance awarded to the wife under the CrPC is not a blanket liability for all times to come and that it can be increased or decreased depending upon the change in circumstances of the husband or the wife. As per a report by Times Of India, Justice Chandra Dhari Singh observed that the aim of granting interim maintenance or permanent alimony is not to punish the other spouse but to ensure that the dependent spouse is not reduced to destitution or vagrancy due to the failure of the marriage. The court went on to point out that under Section 127(1) of CrPC, a provision has been made to increase or reduce the maintenance amount if there is a “change in the circumstances of the parties at the time of the application for alteration of the original order of maintenance”. The provision further states that the change in circumstances of the husband or the wife must be shown. In the order, the Delhi High Court stated that the maintenance fixed under 125(1) CrPC is subject to variation on both sides and can be increased or decreased as per altered circumstances.

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The Delhi High Court made these observations while hearing a revision petition by a woman seeking enhancement of the maintenance paid to her by her husband as per the trial court order. The petitioner had sought a monthly maintenance of Rs 35,000 and stated that the Rs. 3,000 awarded by the trial court was not adequate for the to sustain while adding that the husband was earning a salary of Rs. 82,000 per month and had actually hid his earnings from the court. The husband on the other hand claimed that he was earning Rs. 15,000 per month by working as a cab driver and living in a rented place and had old and ailing parents to take care of.

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In order to arrive at the appropriate maintenance, the financial capacity of the husband needs to be noted including his actual income and his own maintenance as well as dependent family members and liabilities also need to be taken into consideration along with the standard of living the spouse seeking maintenance was accustomed to in her matrimonial home. Dismissing the plea, the court stated that it did not find any reason to interfere with the trial court’s order. It went on to add that no documents were placed on record by the petitioner to furnish the changes in the respondent’s income and that there were no changes in the circumstances.

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