A woman who lived like a wife and in the perception she was treated as the wife cannot be deprived of the maintenance, the Tripura High Court has held.
Justice S. Talapatra observed that such a woman also has right to live in society with dignity and Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure must be interpreted in the light of legislative changes which has taken into its embrace the changing reality of the man-woman relationship.
In this case, the contention put forth by the husband was that the woman seeking maintenance against him had 'married' him while his spouse was alive, and thus she was not his wife as there was no marriage legally between them. The Family Court observed that the marriage has been proved by the evidence, even though the husband had his spouse living at the relevant point of time, but the fact was grossly suppressed from the woman at the time of the marriage. The Court had observed that the husband could not be allowed to take advantage of his own wrong.
Before the High Court, it was contended that woman except those are legally married could not be included within the class of "wife‟ for purpose of section 125(1) of the CrPC.
The courttook note of the concept of maintenance as per Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. It said that the court should avoid a construction which would reduce the legislation to futility and should accept the bolder construction based on the view that the parliament would legislate only for purpose of bringing about an effective result. It said:
"A woman who lived like a wife and in the perception she was treated as the wife cannot be deprived of the maintenance. For this purpose a co-terminus provision for granting maintenance may be looked into and a uniformity in the definition may be brought in. The provision of maintenance for the Hindu wife is also available in section 18 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956. But the most recent legislation which according to me has taken into its embrace the changing reality of the man-woman relationship is the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.. ………….. When one statute ensures maintenance for the person to be in the relationship in the nature of marriage, the other statute cannot be interpreted to abrogate the provision relating to grant of maintenance. Thus, a purposive interpretation would be extremely instrumental and evocative for achieving its object. Moreover, such interpretation will be harmonious to the constitutional empathy embedded in Article 21 of the Constitution of India as, such woman has right to live in society with dignity and for not as destitute."
Taking note of the pleading, the Court observed that the woman was not aware that the husband was married but they have lived for more than ten years as husband and wife after a ritual on the day of Dol Purnima. The bench then dismissed the Revision Petition observing that the husband failed to disprove the above aspect.
Case name: Bibhuti Ranjan Das vs. Gouri DasCase no.: CRL.REV.P 81 of 2019Coram: JUSTICE S. TALAPATRACounsel: Advocates R. Chakraborthy, . A. Debbarma, S. Bhattacharjee
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