It is a utopian ideal to expect that every single educated woman would be capable of entering the job market, would be able to earn sufficient amount of income for herself, and her child, the court said.
The Karnataka High Court has observed that words “unable to maintain herself” in Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure cannot be interpreted to mean that the person has to be “a destitute, or physically so disabled as to be unable to earn a living, or incapable of earning” and capacity of a person to earn would depend on the facts and circumstances of each case.
If a wife, who is also a mother of a young child, is educated enough, does that mean she has “the capacity to be employed” so as to disentitle her from claiming maintenance? This was the question before Justice Raghvendra S Chauhan while considering an appeal preferred by a man against family court order asking him to pay maintenance to his wife.
It was contended before the high court that the wife being an M.Com. graduate, and since she had already worked, both prior and subsequent to her marriage, she is certainly “capable of maintaining” herself. Further, that the words, “unable to maintain herself” in Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code should be interpreted to mean “incapable of earning, or destitute, or physically so disabled as to be unable to earn a living”.
Education does not guarantee a job
Unimpressed with such an interpretation, the court observed that merely because a person is educated does not guarantee a job, considering a large number of unemployed educated youth in this country and there is no presumption in law that merely because a person is educated, therefore, the person is employed.
“Even education does not lead to the inference that a person would be capable of earning,” the court said.
Young mothers can’t be expected to earn herself
The court further observed that there may be other factors which will make a person incapable of earning, such as a young mother saddled with the responsibility of having to look after a young child.
The judge said: “To expect a young mother to rush from home to an office, is to needlessly burden her considering the fact that a separated woman, as a single parent, her social position has become rather ambivalent in the society. It cannot be expected, and it should not be expected, that a young woman saddled with the responsibility of having to look after a young child, would be able to have a full-time job. Therefore, the circumstance that she happens to be a single parent itself may incapacitate her from having a full-time job. Thus, she will be unable to maintain herself. While interpreting the words “unable to maintain herself”, the Court has to be aware of the harsh reality of this country and especially to the social position of the women within our society. It is a utopian ideal to expect that every single educated woman would be capable of entering the job market, would be able to earn sufficient amount of income for herself, and her child.”
Dismissing the husband’s plea, the court said: “Undoubtedly, she is saddled with the responsibility of having to look after her young son. Admittedly, she is not living with her parents. Thus, to expect her to work, and to do the household chores, is to expect too much. It is her circumstance which has forced her to be unable to maintain herself and her child. Therefore, she squarely falls within the category of a wife “unable to maintain” herself.”