A Delhi court has said that interim maintenance cannot be denied to a woman by her estranged husband on the ground that she is capable of sustaining herself.
The sessions court made the observation while allowing a woman's appeal against a magisterial court order that had refused her interim maintenance from her husband in a domestic violence case.
"In the view of this court, the capability of a wife to earn livelihood ipso facto cannot be made a ground to reject the claim of maintenance," Additional Sessions Judge Vivek Kumar Gulia said, adding it is not required in law that a wife must be a destitute if she applies for monetary relief.
"It is not the requirement of law that the wife must be absolutely destitute before she applies for maintenance. The test is whether the wife is in position to maintain herself the way she was used to in her husband's home.
"Thus, the Court is required to see what are the means available to the deserted wife while she was living with her husband and the efforts made by the wife after the desertion to survive somehow need not be considered to ascertain whether she is capable of maintaining herself," the judge said.
The court, while directing the man to pay Rs 3,000 as monthly interim maintenance to his estranged wife, rejected his claim that the woman was qualified and could easily find a job to maintain herself but she chose to quit.
"First of all, it is noteworthy that there is nothing on record to counter the claim of the appellant (woman) that she is only a graduate and does not have any professional qualification and thus, it is not the case that she can get a job without much efforts and has opted to sit idle at home.
"Even professional qualification of wife is not a bar to grant her maintenance," it said.
It further noted that the husband mentioned in the court that his wife did not opt for a job as she wanted to take care of her inlaws. "Hence, now when she is residing at her parents' house, she cannot be expected to search for job while ignoring her parents."
"When the man and his family had accepted the woman's alleged decision to remain at home to look after her in-laws, no other standard can be applied to ascertain her capability to earn while staying at her parental home," it said.
According to the woman who got married in January 2015, she was harassed by her husband and in-laws for bringing insufficient dowry. She left her matrimonial house within five months of the wedding.
Denying the allegations, her estranged husband had said that the woman's behaviour towards his parents was not good and she had chosen to leave the job.
She had moved the magisterial court for maintenance, but her plea was dismissed on the ground that it was her choice not to work but she was able-bodied and could earn a living.