Madhya Pradesh High Court Affirms Woman's Right to Maintenance in Long-Term Relationship

Madhya Pradesh High Court upheld a woman's right to maintenance in a long-term relationship. The court ruled she's entitled unless proven not legally wedded.

In a recent ruling, the Madhya Pradesh High Court clarified that a woman living with a man for an extended period is entitled to maintenance unless there is a specific finding that she is not legally wedded to him. The decision came from a single-judge bench presided over by Justice Gurpal Singh Ahluwalia, affirming the trial court's decision to grant maintenance to the aggrieved woman.

The court emphasized that since there was no specific finding by the trial court that the woman was not legally wedded to the man, it was appropriate to award her maintenance under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C). Justice Ahluwalia stated, "this Court is of considered opinion that the Trial Court did not commit any mistake by awarding maintenance to the respondent under Section 125 of Cr.P.C."

The judgment drew heavily on Supreme Court precedents, including Chanmuniya v. Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwah & Anr. and Badshah v. Urmila Badshah Godse & Anr. The petitioner husband had not contested the amount of maintenance before the High Court, leading the bench to uphold the lower court's decision by dismissing the petition filed under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C.

Initially, Justice Ahluwalia noted that the trial court had not specifically found the woman to be legally wedded to the petitioner. While the Additional Sessions Judge of Balaghat mentioned the lack of evidence regarding the marriage's rituals, the court concluded that the couple had been living as husband and wife for a substantial period. The respondent wife had even borne a child during this time, prompting the trial court to grant maintenance.

The High Court concurred with the trial court's reasoning, citing the decision in Kamala & Ors. v. M.R. Mohan Kumar (2019), which stated that strict proof of marriage is not required for maintenance claims under Section 125 of the Cr.P.C. Similar views were echoed in the Madhya Pradesh High Court's judgment in Smt. Pushpa Pandey & Anr. v. Suresh Pandey (2016).

Before the High Court, the husband contended that the respondent was not legally married to him and therefore not entitled to maintenance. He also accused her of implicating him in criminal cases and targeting him for his father's wealth.

In 2021, the Magistrate of Gram Nyayalaya in Balaghat ordered the husband to pay monthly maintenance of Rs. 1500 to the respondent wife. This decision was upheld by the First Additional District Judge of Balaghat in 2015, following a criminal revision filed by the husband.

Advocate Priyal Rahangdale represented the husband in the case.