Observing that “a solitary act of adultery or an isolated lapse of wife will not disentitle the wife to claim maintenance”, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has dismissed the plea of a man seeking to set aside an order of a family court in Rewari.
The Rewari family court in October 2021 had declined his (petitioner’s) application for additional evidence to prove the alleged writing of his wife through a handwriting expert as she admitted about her “adulterous relationship” in writing in 2005.
As per the case, the respondent-wife had filed a case under Section 125 of the CrPC for self and on behalf of her three minor children saying that her marriage was solemnised with the petitioner in April 2004. But the petitioner (husband) has neglected and refused to maintain her and the three children.
The petitioner resisted the case of his wife on the ground that she had an adulterous relationship and had admitted it in writing in May 2005. He even sought to dispute the paternity of the children. After the conclusion of the evidence of the petitioner, he had moved an application for additional evidence for examining the aforesaid writing through a handwriting expert.
The application was resisted by the respondents, and it has been alleged that the document was well within the knowledge of the petitioner and in his custody. He has been given sufficient opportunity to produce evidence and has intentionally moved the present application at a belated stage to fill up the lacuna in the case.
The respondent-wife submitted that even subsequent to the said alleged writing, she and the petitioner (husband) had co-habited and three children were born in 2003, 2006 and 2017. The allegations with regard to adultery are stale and the subsequent events indicate that the said alleged act has been condoned by the petitioner.
The bench of Justice Vivek Puri after hearing the arguments said that the petitioner was well aware of the case, which he was required to prove and establish to dispute the claim of the respondents for maintenance. It shall not be out of place to mention here that in his zeal to dispute the claim of the respondents for maintenance, he has gone to the extent of disputing the paternity of the three children, who were born in wedlock during the period of cohabitation.
Justice Puri said, “Section 125 of the CrPC is meant to achieve a social purpose. It is a piece of social legislation, which provides for summary and speedy relief by way of maintenance to the wife, who is unable to maintain herself and her children.”
Justice Puri added, “The maintenance can be declined in the event it is proved and established that the wife is living in adultery. ‘Living in adultery’ means a continued adulterous conduct and not a single or occasional lapse. Solitary act of adultery or an isolated lapse of wife will not disentitle the wife to claim the maintenance. The burden of proof of unchastity is on the husband. Unless it is found that at the relevant point of time, the wife was actually living in adultery, she is not disentitled to claim maintenance. The material on record must indicate that the wife was living in adultery shortly before or after the petition of maintenance has been instituted.”
The HC said that the course of adulterous conduct must not be a matter of past, but must be continuing at the time of presentation of the petition. The stale alleged act of adultery is indicative of the fact that such act has been condoned and consequently, the allegation that the respondent (wife) was living in adultery way back in 2005 cannot be termed to be a circumstance which may be significant enough to dispute the claim of the respondents to claim maintenance from the petitioner. This is also a significant circumstance which indicates that the proposed evidence is not essential to decide the controversy.
Thus, finding no illegality or irregularity in the impugned order passed by the family court, the HC dismissed the petition.