Delhi HC Rules It Is ‘The Duty Of The Husband’ To Pay Maintenance to Wife, Child

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Jun 27, 2018

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The Delhi High Court has denied a man’s request, in a domestic violence case, to lessen maintenance payments to his estranged wife and minor son, ruling it is “the duty of the husband” to maintain his family, according to a Press Trust of India report published in The Hindu. The man, who says he earns Rs. 40,000 a month and lives on rent, had requested his combined maintenance payment be reduced from Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 10,000. His wife disputes his financial situation.

The case isn’t a very remarkable one, but the judges’ words strike at the conflicting norms that govern Indian marriage and divorce in the 21st century. On the one hand, in a relationship in which one partner stays at home (usually the woman) and the other partner works (usually the man), there is a tacit agreement as to whose duty it is to support the family financially. This is the reality for many women, who on the whole are not provided with the education, means or encouragement to be breadwinners for either themselves or others. Additionally, in a case of domestic violence, spouse and child maintenance can also be a form of reparation for what ever reprehensible acts were inflicted on the injured party. In such cases, it does appear to be the duty of the earning and/or abusive spouse to support the other.

Therefore, it is heartening to see the court uphold maintenance payments to the disadvantaged spouse. All around the world, and especially in India, too many estranged or divorced spouses — typically women, typically the sole caregiver and supporter of any children from that marriage — struggle to get their and their children’s due.

But the court’s wording of its ruling could have been better. All of India’s systems of family law include provisions for spouse and child maintenance — most, if not all, use such gender-neutral language. The court chose not to. While it’s likely the justices used phrasing specific to this case, court rulings carry weight outside of their context and often move the needle on social issues. Instead of the using gender-neutral language of the law, the justices used phrasing that normalizes the same patriarchal attitudes that keep women from becoming financially independent or escaping abusive marriages — phrasing that reinforces the tacit flipside of husbands’ obligations: that wives have different duties toward their families, duties that include being dependent.

Is it the duty of the husband to provide for his family? It could be; in this case, and in many others, it certainly seems so. But in an egalitarian society, there should be the potential for financial support to be the duty of both or either spouse. If India is truly going to move toward a time when men and women are equal in the workforce, at home, and before the court, justices will need to watch their words and stick, perhaps, to the letter of the law.

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Written By The Swaddle Team

  1. Sukhvinder kaur

    I think indian.law. consider wife as a property of husband too….if an adult husband makes relation with consent of an adlult female outside his marriage wife is helpless in leagaly punshing that lady and it i s accaptable but in reverse case….if a man makes relation with some married lady then “permission of husband” ( seems like owner of wife/property) is required …otherwise tbe husband can sue that man(which a wife can not)
    Only thing which a wife can do is the imotional or some leagal action against husband only which may/or may not lead to seperation with husband(may be desired by husband too if he is now intrested in someone else).
    In most of the cases even now a days expousre of husband is more than wife in outside atmosphere ..inspite of devoting her life physicaly and emotionaly for domestic chores with unpaid salaries…..nurturing the children with his husband surname.. she is always standing at a sord of imotional insecurity …leagaly helpless in the brightness of morden world…does not matter whether working or nonworking…if law consider her husbands’s such ownership over his wife than no one can challange the right of mantenence in case of seperation…..
    You may be right but i think before objecting judges remarks we need to make all laws gender nutral only then statements will become odd in morden world..stay blessed…

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