Strict Proof Of Marriage Not Needed For Maintenance Under Section 125 CrPC: Supreme Court while setting aside Karnataka High Court Order

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The Supreme Court sets aside a Karnataka High Court order that had dismissed a petition of maintenance for the proof of marriage, has reiterated that for the proceedings under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure any sort of such strict proof of marriage is not necessary.

Facts

In this case (Kamala vs.MR Mohan Kumar) there was a husband and wife relation between the parties and children were born out of this marriage. The husband was ordered to pay maintenance, the husband filed a revision petition in the Karnataka High Court, and the High Court stated that the petitioner did not give any evidence to show that the marriage was solemnized according to the customs i.e. she is not a legally wedded wife and is not entitled to maintenance.

The Supreme Court bench consisting of Justice R. Banumathi and Justice Indira Banerjee stated by referring to the evidence on record that the oral evidence given by the ‘wife’ and the documents shows a strong presumption of a valid marriage. Referring to other witnesses, the bench said that the parties’ cohabitated as husband and wife and that the people around them treated them as husband and wife.

Issue

Whether for proceeding under the section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure 1974, a strict proof of marriage is necessary.

Judgment

The bench stated, that not like in the cases of matrimonial proceedings where strict proof of marriage is essentially required in the proceedings (Section 125 CrPC), such strict qualification of proof is not necessary as it is summary in nature meant to prevent homelessness or vagrancy.

Quoting from the apex court judgment in Chanmuniya v.Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha, the bench said that an extensive interpretation should be given to the term “wife” under Section 125 CrPC. In the said judgment, it was observed: “We are of the opinion that a broad and expansive interpretation should be given to the term “wife” to include even those cases where a man and woman have been living together as husband and wife for a reasonably long period of time, and strict proof of marriage should not be a precondition for maintenance under Section 125 CrPC, so as to fulfil the true spirit and essence of the beneficial provision of maintenance under Section 125 CrPC, so as to fulfil the true spirit and essence of the beneficial provision of maintenance under Section 125. We also believe that such an interpretation would be a just application of the principles enshrined in the Preamble to our Constitution, namely, social justice and upholding the dignity of the individual.” Reverting to the order given by the Family court of granting maintenance, the bench said when the Family court stated that there was a valid marriage, the high court being the revisional court, has no power to reassess the evidence and substitute its views on its findings.

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