Treat second wife as legally wedded for maintenance claims: SC
The Supreme Court Friday ruled that a woman, duped into marrying a person who was already having a subsisting marriage, would not be affected by the Hindu Marriage Act and would be treated as a legally wedded wife for the purpose of claiming maintenance.
"At least for the purpose of claiming maintenance under Section 125 of Cr.P.C. (Criminal Procedure Code), such a woman is to be treated as the legally wedded wife," said a bench of Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Justice A.K. Sikri in their judgment.
"Thus, while interpreting a statute, the court may not only take into consideration the purpose for which the statute was enacted, but also the mischief it seeks to suppress," Justice Sikri said rejecting the contention that the second wife had no claim to maintenance as her marriage was not legal in the wake of the subsisting first marriage of her husband.
In this case, Badshah married Shobha Feb 17, 1979 and had a daughter and son from his first marriage. On Feb 10, 2005, he married Urmila Badshah Godse and had a daughter from the wedlock on Nov 28, 2005.
Badshah's relationship with Urmila, however, got strained when the fact of his marriage surfaced.
Rejecting Badshah's plea challenging the grant of maintenance of Rs.1,000 to Urmila and Rs.500 to their daughter by the trial court which was upheld by the Aurangabad bench of Bombay High court, the apex court said: "Where alternative constructions are possible, the court must give effect to that which will be responsible for the smooth working of the system for which the statute has been enacted rather than one which will put a road block in its way."
"If the choice is between two interpretations, the narrower of which would fail to achieve the manifest purpose of the legislation should be avoided," the judgment said.
"We should avoid a construction which would reduce the legislation to futility and should accept the bolder construction based on the view that parliament would legislate only for the purpose of bringing about an effective result."
"If this interpretation is not accepted, it would amount to giving a premium to the husband for defrauding the wife," Justice Sikri said holding that "therefore, at least for the purpose of claiming maintenance under Section 125 of Cr.P.C., such a woman is to be treated as the legally wedded wife".
"Provision of maintenance would definitely fall in this (social justice adjudication) category which aims at empowering the destitute and achieving social justice or equality and dignity of the individual.
"While dealing with cases under this provision, drift in the approach from 'adversarial' litigation to social context adjudication is the need of the hour," said the bench.
(Posted on 18-10-2013)