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May 17, 2024

Maintenance under Section 125 of CrPC

Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) is a crucial provision in India, aiming to ensure financial support for wives, children, and parents from those legally obligated to maintain them. However, the section has its limitations, and the judiciary has played a significant role in interpreting it to better address the needs of women and children.

Strengths of Section 125:

  • Speedy and Inexpensive: Applications for maintenance under Section 125 are heard by magistrates, offering a quicker and less expensive process compared to civil courts.
  • Wider Scope: It covers not just wives but also children and parents, ensuring a broader safety net.
  • Gender Neutral: The provision applies to both men and women who have a legal obligation to maintain dependents.

Weaknesses of Section 125:

  • Limited Quantum of Maintenance: The amount awarded is typically based on the husband’s income, often insufficient for the wife’s and children’s needs, especially in urban areas.
  • Proof of Neglect: The wife needs to prove neglect or refusal of maintenance, which can be challenging in some situations.
  • Limited Grounds for Wife: The wife’s right to maintenance ceases upon remarriage or if she’s living separately without a valid reason. This can be discriminatory.
  • Enforcement Issues: Enforcing maintenance orders can be difficult, especially if the obligated person is evasive.

The Role of the Judiciary:

The judiciary has played a crucial role in interpreting Section 125 progressively to ensure better financial security for women and children:

  • Living Standard: Courts have considered the wife’s standard of living during the marriage when determining maintenance, not just the husband’s income. (e.g., Bachhan Bai v. Mst. Hameeda Beevi, AIR 1984 SC 628)

  • Living Separately: The concept of “justifiable reason” for a wife living separately has been broadened to include mental cruelty. (e.g., Savita vs. Rajesh, AIR 2010 SC 1935)

  • Divorced Wife’s Maintenance: Courts have awarded maintenance to divorced women under Section 125 in exceptional cases, interpreting “neglect” to include not providing for a divorced wife unable to maintain herself. (e.g., Chandraprabha Devi v. Kusum Kumari, AIR 2010 SC 3619)

  • Live-in Partner’s Child: In some cases, courts have extended maintenance rights to children born out of live-in relationships. (e.g., Gita v. Ramesh, AIR 2010 SC 1909)

Conclusion:

While Section 125 offers a valuable tool for financial support, its limitations require continuous judicial interpretation and legislative reforms. Addressing issues like setting minimum maintenance standards, streamlining enforcement mechanisms, and broadening the scope for divorced wives’ maintenance would further strengthen the provision’s effectiveness in ensuring financial security for women and children.


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