Maintenance Provision Under Hindu Marriage Act Is Gender Neutral: Delhi High Court


Chambers of Ishaan Garg
Ch. No. 217, Western Wing, District & Sessions Court, Tis Hazari, New Delhi, Delhi 110054
+91 8851742417, +91 8800386163

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday said that the provision for grant of maintenance pendente lite and litigation expenses to a spouse under the Hindu Marriage Act is gender neutral.

A division bench of Justice V Kameswar Rao and Justice Anoop Kumar Mendiratta said that the spouse having a reasonable capacity of earning but who chooses to remain unemployed and idle without any sufficient explanation or indicating sincere efforts to gain employment should not be permitted to saddle the other party with one sided responsibility of meeting out the expenses.

“The equivalence does not have to be with mathematical precision but with the objective to provide relief to the spouse by way of maintenance pendente lite and litigation expenses, who is unable to maintain and support during the pendency of proceedings and to ensure that party should not suffer due to paucity of source of income,” the court said.

It added: “The provision is gender neutral and the provisions of Section 24 & 25 of HMA provide for the rights, liabilities and obligations arising from marriage between the parties under HMA.”

The court was dealing with an appeal moved by a husband challenging a family court order directing him to pay Rs. 30,000 per month to the wife towards maintenance pendente lite, from the date of filing of the divorce petition till its disposal along with litigation expenses of Rs. 51,000.

While modifying the impugned order, the court noted that though the wife claimed having no independent source of income but she had the reasonable educational background being a graduate from Delhi University.

The court said that the wife appeared to have voluntarily undertaken social work as claimed despite there being no impediment for undertaking a meaningful employment.

“We are of the considered opinion that maintenance pendente lite at the rate of ₹21,000/- per month to the respondent, as paid in the proceedings under PWDV Act from the date of filing of the petition before the learned Family Court till its disposal would be reasonable. The same shall be paid along with litigation expenses/arrears in terms of impugned order passed by the learned Judge, Family Court,” the court said.

Furthermore, considering the “inflation and rising prices”, the court said that the maintenance pendente lite during the pendency of divorce proceedings shall be enhanced at Rs. 1,500 per month for each succeeding year (i.e. Rs. 22,500 per month w.e.f. January 01, 2024; Rs. 24,000 per month w.e.f. January 01, 2025 and so on till disposal of the petition).

Title: X v. Y