CUTTACK: The Odisha High Court has ruled that a wife cannot be denied interim maintenance even after her marriage is declared null and void.
The court gave the ruling in a case filed by Bipasa Sahoo, who had sought the alimony while challenging the decree of a Family Court that had declared her marriage null and void two years ago.
Bipasa had invoked Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for interim maintenance. This was opposed by her husband Amitava Basu with the argument that she was not entitled to interim maintenance under Section 24 of the Act as the marriage had already been declared null and void on the grounds of suppression of material fact.
Allowing Bipasa’s plea on January 29, a division bench of Justice S K Mishra and Justice A K Mishra said, “Maintenance is not charity, which is given by the husband to the wife. It is the duty of the husband to see that the wife does not starve and thereby become incapable to prosecute the appeal.”
“Subsistence is a bare need and the husband during pendency of the appeal cannot escape from that responsibility,” the bench observed, adding, the object of Section 24 of the Act is to ensure that a party to a proceeding does not suffer during pendency of the proceeding by reason of poverty.
The bench further said the court exercises a wide discretion guided by sound principles in the matter of granting alimony to wife when her petition is pending disposal.
“Having arrived at such conclusion, we feel it reasonable regards being had to the requirement of the wife and ability of the husband to allow a sum of Rs 3,000 per month as maintenance during pending of the case to be paid from date of filing of this petition (March 23, 2016),” the bench said in the order.
Bipasa had married Amitava on March 11, 2011 as per Hindu rituals. However, the marriage was not consummated as Amitava detected burn injury on his wife from belly region down to the knee.
On March 28, 2011, Bipasa was left to stay in her father’s house. Both of them have since been staying separately.
Amitava then moved the Family Court, Rourkela to declare the marriage nullity on the grounds that his consent was obtained by fraud taking into consideration the burn injury of his wife. Bipasa also moved the Family Court for restitution of conjugal rights.
On January 28, 2016, the Family Court allowed Amitava’s plea and the marriage was declared null and void. Bipasa then filed an appeal in the High Court seeking interim maintenance.