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Strict proof of marriage not required for maintenance: Punjab and Haryana High Court

The ruling came on revision petition preferred by a husband against an order passed by family court

Strict proof of marriage not required for maintenance: Punjab and Haryana High Court

Photo for representational purpose only. iStock



Tribune News Service

Saurabh Malik

Chandigarh, April 20

In a significant judgment, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has made it clear that strict proof of marriage is not required for an estranged partner to claim maintenance under Section 125 of the CrPC. “The standard of proof applicable in this regard would be preponderance of probabilities,” Justice Harpreet Singh Brar asserted.

The Bench also ruled that prolonged cohabitation as husband and wife would entitle the partners to relief under Section 125, even if performance of essential ceremonies to solemnize a marriage remained unproven.

The ruling came on a revision petition preferred by a husband against an order passed by a family court, vide which an application filed under Section 125 was allowed before awarding monthly maintenance of Rs 6,000 to the wife.

Appearing before the Bench, the counsel for the petitioner, among other things, contended that the provisions of Section 125 could only be invoked by a legally wedded wife. The petitioner was a Muslim whereas the marriage––as stated by the respondent-wife–– took place in a gurudwara revered by the Sikh community.

The Bench was also told that nothing on the record reflected that the marriage was solemnized and essential ceremonies performed. As such, it was evident that legally valid marriage did not subsist between the petitioner and respondent.

After hearing the rival contentions and going through the documents, the Bench asserted the petitioner was claiming to be a Muslim. But it could be reasonably deduced from the circumstances that the respondent was aware of the same. Two persons belonging to different religions could not get married under Hindu Marriage Act. But the law permitted the same under Special Marriage Act, 1954. As such, the respondent’s maintenance claim could not be dismissed merely on the ground that the marriage was solemnized in a gurudwara in Punjab.

The Bench added the legislative intent behind the provision was to provide speedy assistance and social justice to women, children and infirm parents. The provision was enacted as a measure to further social justice and protect dependent women, children and parents.

“Being alive to the same, this Court is of the considered opinion that strict proof of marriage cannot be made a condition precedent for claiming maintenance under the provision of Section 125 of the CrPC as it would be antithetical to the legislative intent behind the same,” the Bench asserted.

Referring to the issue regarding the performance of essential ceremonies, the Bench asserted it was not required to be proven to file a claim for maintenance. It would be necessary to make out the offence of bigamy. But preponderance of probabilities remained the standard of proof under Section 125.

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