Strict Proof Of Marriage Not Needed For ‘Maintenance’ Proceedings Under Sec. 125 CrPC, Reiterates SC [Read Judgment]

Strict Proof Of Marriage Not Needed For ‘Maintenance’ Proceedings Under Sec. 125 CrPC, Reiterates SC [Read Judgment]

‘The High Court did not keep in view that in the proceedings under Section 125 CrPC, strict proof of marriage is not necessary.’

The Supreme Court, while setting aside a Karnataka High Court order that had dismissed a maintenance petition for want of proof of marriage, has reiterated that in the proceedings under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, such strict proof of marriage is not necessary.

In this case (Kamala vs. MR Mohan Kumar), the Family court had observed that there was a husband-wife relationship between the parties and children are born out of the said wedlock. It had then directed the ‘husband’ to pay maintenance. In revision petition filed by the ‘husband’, the high court held that the petitioner did not produce any evidence to show that the marriage was solemnized as per custom and she, not being the legally wedded wife, is not entitled for any maintenance.

The Supreme Court bench comprising Justice R. Banumathi and Justice Indira Banerjee, referring to the evidence on record, said the oral evidence given by the ‘wife’ coupled with documents raise a strong presumption of a valid marriage. Referring to testimonies of other witnesses, it said that it is established that the parties cohabitated as husband and wife and that the people around them treated them as husband and wife.

The bench said that, unlike matrimonial proceedings where strict proof of marriage is essential, in the proceedings under Section 125 CrPC, such strict standard of proof is not necessary as it is summary in nature meant to prevent vagrancy. Quoting from the apex court judgment in Chanmuniya v. Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha, the bench said a broad and extensive interpretation should be given to the term “wife” under Section 125 CrPC. In the said judgment, it was observed: “We are of the opinion that a broad and expansive interpretation should be given to the term “wife” to include even those cases where a man and woman have been living together as husband and wife for a reasonably long period of time, and strict proof of marriage should not be a precondition for maintenance under Section 125 CrPC, so as to fulfil the true spirit and essence of the beneficial provision of maintenance under Section 125. We also believe that such an interpretation would be a just application of the principles enshrined in the Preamble to our Constitution, namely, social justice and upholding the dignity of the individual.”

Restoring the Family court order granting maintenance, the bench said when the Family court held that there was a valid marriage, the high court, being the revisional court, has no power to reassess the evidence and substitute its views on findings of fact.

Read the Judgment Here