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By Mayank Aggarwal | July 01, 2020

The Bombay High Court recently in a matter titled Sanjay Damodar Kale vs Kalyani Sanjay Kale CRIMINAL REVISION APPLICATION NO.164 OF 2019 decided on 26.05.2020 reiterated the legal position that having an independent source of income does not disentitle the wife from claiming maintenance from her husband. Merely because the wife was earning some money can not be a ground to reject her claim for maintenance.

Key Takeaway :-

Relying upon previous Supreme Court judgments inter alia in Sunita Kachwa vs. Anil Kachwa III 2014 (DMC) 878 S.C. , the Court held that the crucial question is – Whether the wife has sufficient income from independent sources to sustain the lifestyle she was maintaining while she was living in the matrimonial home and not just enough for mere survival.

The Bombay High Court rejecting the averments made by the Husband regarding the wife being capable of making a living and being sufficiently qualified to take care of her financial well-being observed:-

The tenor of the evidence and the material on the record suggests that the Applicant was carrying on the said business of Kalyani Beauty Parlor and Training Institute to sustain her livelihood. However, the fact that the wife carries on some business and earns some money is not the end of the matter. Neither the mere potential to earn nor the actual earning, howsoever meager it may be, is sufficient to deny the claim of maintenance.

This is in line with the dicta of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Sunil Kachwa (supra) where the Court allowed the application for maintenance of the wife and made it clear that wife being qualified to earn or earning some amount can not be a ground to reject her Application. Court held:-

The learned counsel for the respondent submitted that the appellant-wife is well qualified, having post graduate degree in Geography and working as a teacher in Jabalpur and also working in Health Department. Therefore, she has income of her own and needs no financial support from respondent. In our considered view, merely because the appellant wife is a qualified post graduate, it would not be sufficient to hold that she is in a position to maintain herself. Insofar as her employment as a teacher in Jabalpur, nothing was placed on record before the Family Court or in the High Court to prove her employment and her earnings. In any event, merely because the wife was earning something, it would not be a ground to reject her claim for maintenance.

The Supreme Court expressed similar view in Jasbir Kaur Sehegal vs District Judge, Dehradun 1997(7) SCC 7 where the Court was considering the issue of quantification of maintenance amount and discussed the various factors to be kept in mind by the Court while adjudicating this issue: –

Court has to consider the status of the parties, their respective needs, capacity of the husband to pay having regard to his reasonable expenses for his own maintenance and those; he is obliged under the law and statutory but involuntary payments or deductions. Amount of maintenance fixed for the wife should be such as she can live in reasonable comfort considering her status and the mode of life she was used to when she lived with her husband and also that she does not feel handicapped in the prosecution of her case. At the same time, the amount so fixed cannot be excessive or extortionate.”

The Court also referred to the decision in Shamina Faruqi vs. Shahin Khan 2015 (5) SCC 705 where the Apex Court explained in some detail the rationale and idea behind grant of maintenance and also expounded on the meaning of the term “sustenance” in the context of maintenance u/s 125 Cr.P.C and observed:-

It can never be forgotten that the inherent and fundamental principle behind Section 125 CrPC is for amelioration of the financial state of affairs as well as mental agony and anguish that woman suffers when she is compelled to leave her matrimonial home. The statute commands there has to be some acceptable arrangements so that she can sustain herself. The principle of sustenance gets more heightened when the children are with her. Be it clarified that sustenance does not mean and can never allow to mean a mere survival. A woman, who is constrained to leave the marital home, should not be allowed to feel that she has fallen from grace and move hither and thither arranging for sustenance. As per law, she is entitled to lead a life in the similar manner as she would have lived in the house of her husband. And that is where the status and strata of the husband comes into play and that is where the legal obligation of the husband becomes a prominent one.”

Conclusion #

This decision of the Bombay High Court follows a line of judgments wherein Courts have refused to set aside order granting maintenance to wife in cases where wife was qualified, capable and earning her livelihood through some independent source of income. Courts have employed the test of sufficiency of income and not existence of income which is in consonance with the principle expounded by the Supreme Court that phrase “unable to maintain herself” should not be construed as sufficiency of income for bare survival. The judgment in Sanjay Damodar Kale vs Kalyani Sanjay Kale CRIMINAL REVISION APPLICATION NO.164 OF 2019 decided on 26.05.2020 by Bombay High Court can be accessed here.