Earning women can’t get alimony for ‘unjust enrichment’: court

In tune with the modern societal shift where women are increasingly becoming financially independent,a city court has held that alimony cannot be demanded for “unjust enrichment”.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Published:February 20, 2009 12:24 am

In tune with the modern societal shift where women are increasingly becoming financially independent,a city court has held that alimony cannot be demanded for “unjust enrichment”. It further observed that an estranged wife can seek alimony only if she failed to maintain similar standard of living after separation.

Dismissing the maintenance petition of a woman employed with a government school,Additional District Judge Rajender Kumar Shastri said the legal provisions are aimed at providing financial assistance to the indigent spouse,certainly not for enjoyment of an opulent lifestyle.

The petitioner had sought alimony of Rs 1 lakh per month from her estranged husband. Married in April 2008,the couple had severe marital discords after which the man approached the court for divorce.

While the woman has a monthly salary of Rs 19,000,the man is employed as a manager with a Noida-based power company with a monthly pay cheque of Rs 62,000.

According to the petition filed by the woman,she was entitled to the same lifestyle she had before separation and that the court should allow her the maintenance money after comparing her income with that of her husband.

However,the plea failed to cut ice with the court. Taking into account the social changes where women are no longer dependent on their husbands or other family members,the court observed that before passing an order for maintenance,it was imperative to see that she had no independent sources of income,which could adequately maintain her and bear the cost of litigation.

“The provisions cannot be resorted by one of the litigating parties to enrich himself or herself at the cost of the other when they could not live together due to uncertain reasons. A husband or wife can claim maintenance under the said provision of the Hindu Marriage Act only if there is no independent income sufficient for support and necessary expenses of the proceedings,” noted ADJ Shastri.

The court also said the Act obligated a judge to determine the amount of maintenance after taking into consideration the individual incomes of the couple,but it did not mean that their incomes had to be equally divided between the two by applying an “electronic scale.”

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