The Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled that a woman will be entitled to permanent alimony from her former husband even if their marriage has been held to be legally void under the Hindu Marriage Act even on a ground like subsistence of previous marriage.
“The appellant would be entitled to permanent alimony under Section 25 of the Act dehors the fact that the decree has been passed under Section 11 of the Act,” the division bench of Justices Rakesh Kumar Jain and Harnaresh Singh Gill has said in the verdict in which the husband’s plea for divorce was allowed in 2015 on the ground that his wife was already having a spouse of previous marriage when their marriage was solemnised in June 2012.
Section 25 of the Act provides courts the power to order permanent alimony or maintenance under the Act and Section 11 of the Act allows the courts to declare any marriage null and void in case it is found that any of the spouses was already married at time of marriage or are blood relatives in direct line of descent.
In the case filed by an Amritsar woman related to the trial court decision of granting the decree of divorce under Section 11 of the Act to her husband, the wife sought the High Court’s intervention only in deciding the question of permanent alimony. The husband in reply told the court there is no question of alimony as the marriage has been declared null and void. The couple had married as per Hindu Sikh Rites in June 2012 – the husband was a widower and the wife had claimed to be a spinster. No child was born out of the wedlock.
In 2014, the husband filed for divorce on the ground that his wife had not disclosed to him that she was already married. The trial court in 2015 held their marriage to be legally void after ruling that the wife’s ‘panchayti talaknama’ of the previous marriage is not sustainable in the eyes of law and as such she already had a spouse at the time of her second marriage in June 2012.
The division bench in the appeal was faced with a number of Supreme Court judgments presented by both sides to defend their case. The court in the verdict while referring to the apex court verdict in ‘Savitaben Somabhai Bhatiya’ case said that it has been held when a marriage has been declared null and void then there can be no benefit under Section 125 CrPC for maintenance or under the Hindu Marriage Act.
However, the division bench also said the Supreme court in ‘Ramesh Chandra’s case’ – where the apex court was dealing with a similar plea for maintenance but the marriage had been declared void under Section 12 of the Act – has held that the court would have the jurisdiction to award maintenance under Section 25 of the Act “at the passing of any decree” and added that then it has been also held that the expression ‘all kinds of decrees’ would also include a decree like one passed under the Section 11 of the Act.
Directing the couple to appear before the trial court on May 21, the division bench further in the order said that the amount to be paid to the woman by her former husband under Section 25 of the Act has to be decided by the trial court while considering the facts and circumstances which will come on record after the evidence is led by both the parties.