Bombay High Court Upholds Maintenance for Woman Misled About Husband’s Marital Status

The Bombay High Court, in a significant judgment, recently upheld a magistrate’s order requiring monthly maintenance for a woman who had been deceived by her husband regarding his marital status. The court, through a single-judge bench of Justice Rajesh Patil, also permitted the woman to seek an increase in the maintenance amount, highlighting the legal provisions for the support of a wife.

The case stemmed from a plea filed by the woman in 2012, where she claimed that she had been led to believe that her husband had divorced his first wife before marrying her in 1989. She asserted that the reason behind the second marriage was her own inability to conceive a son. The magistrate’s initial decision in 2015, considering the husband’s monthly income, granted her a monthly maintenance amount of Rs 2,500.

However, the husband contested this decision in a sessions court, stating that he had never officially married the woman. In April 2022, the sessions court overturned the magistrate’s order. Undeterred, the woman appealed to the Bombay High Court, revealing evidence of her marriage to the man in 1989 and the birth of their son in 1991. Complicating matters further, it was disclosed that the husband had resumed cohabiting with his first wife, who had given birth to a son as well.

The Bombay High Court, in its judgment, referred to a Supreme Court ruling from 1999 and emphasized that the standard of proof of marriage in a maintenance proceeding is not as rigorous as required for an offence under the Indian Penal Code. The court highlighted the husband’s acknowledgment as the father on their sons’ school documents, dismissing the sessions court’s decision. As a result, the woman was given two months to receive the outstanding maintenance dues for the past nine years. Additionally, she was granted the right to file a fresh plea for an increased maintenance amount.

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