MADURAI:The observations made in a recent judgment by the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court about the need for divorced women to remain sexually disciplined to be eligible for alimony has triggered a debate among women rights activists and members of legal fraternity.
They feel that the judgment is patriarchal and has moral perspectives that may have negative ramifications on other matrimonial cases in future.
Hearing a criminal revision petition filed by a man pleading that he need not pay Rs 1,000 per month as alimony to his wife from whom he had obtained an ex-parte divorce on allegations that she was adulterous, Justice S Nagamuthu had observed, “If the wife wants to retain her right to claim maintenance from her former husband, she is expected to maintain the same discipline as she was expected during her marital ties.”
Invoking Section 125 (4) of the CrPC that states that a wife involved in adultery or one who refuses to live with husband without sufficient reasons is not entitled for alimony, Justice Nagamuthu said, “Since the man carries the obligation to maintain his divorced wife, the woman also carries the obligation not to live in a relationship with another man.”
Though the Supreme Court in Rohtash Singh vs Ramendri case in 2000 has ruled that Section 125 (4) is applicable only if the marriage is in subsistence, Justice Nagamuthu said that “in my considered view, the above judgment cannot be made applicable (in this case), because even after the decree of divorce.”
Reacting to the judgment, Madras High Court advocate Sudha Ramalingam said that the obligation for maintenance is based on the principle that the divorced woman needs economic support to sustain herself and this principle should be the primary criterion to decide on alimony.
“It may be agreeable that if a woman enters into another permanent relationship, she need not be provided alimony. But coupling that with chastity and morality is unwarranted,” Sudha said.
Claiming that the judgment can be viewed as patriarchal, advocate K Ilangovan said that even if a divorced woman is found to be involved in an adulterous relationship, that cannot be a reason to deny her alimony.