Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code(Cr.PC) provides for order for maintenance of wives, children and parents. The proceedings under this section are not punitive. The object is not to punish a person for neglect to maintain those whom he is bound to maintain. The section provides only a speedy remedy by a summary procedure to enforce liability in order to avoid vagrancy. The provisions of Chapter IX Cr.P.C. should be liberally construed as the primary object is to give social justice to women and children and to prevent destitution distribution and vagrancy by compelling those who can support those who are unable to support themselves. These provisions provide a speedy remedy to those who are in distress. They are intended to achieve this social purpose. This section gives effect to the natural and fundamental duty of a man to maintain his wife, children and parents so long as they are unable to maintain themselves. Its provisions apply and are enforceable whatever may be the personal law by which the persons concerned are governed.
Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is an economic umbrella that makes provisions for maintenance to be provided to divorced wives to help them to maintain and support themselves both during and at the conclusion of Divorce Proceedings.
The essential object of the provision of law is to help improve the economic condition and alleviate the status of divorced and neglected wives who are unable to support themselves. Section 125 is a secular provision governing maintenance laws across all personal laws. No conflict may arise between the provisions in any personal laws and the CrPC since the provision works parallel to all personal laws. The Supreme Court has held that the maintenance rights of a wife cannot be limited by personal laws. Maintenance provision under Section 125 is not treated as a means to punish the husband but as a means to ensure support for the estranged woman who is unable to support herself.
Section 125 also makes provision for such circumstances in which the wife is no longer eligible to receive the maintenance amount:
Section 125 of the CrPC provides for the man to pay maintenance to parties other than the wife as well. This includes children (both legitimate and illegitimate) and parents who are unable to support and maintain themselves. Maintenance may be provided to minor children as well as major children who are unable to support themselves on account of certain injury or physical or mental abnormality. Both the father and the mother (natural or adoptive), may also claim maintenance from any of their children including daughters. Section 125 also extends to step-mothers only when she doesn’t have any naturally born children and she has been divorced.
The condition that should be satisfied for the maintenance to be granted by the Court are:
In the case of Yamunabai Anantrao Adhav vs. Anantrao Shivram Adhay & Anr. it was held that a Hindu lady who married after coming into force Hindu Marriage Act, with a person who had a living lawfully wedded wife cannot be treated to be “legally wedded wife” and consequently her claim for maintenance under Section 125, Cr.P.C. is not maintainable.
In the case of Dwarika Prasad Satpathy vs. Bidyut Prava Dixit & Anr. (1999) 7 SCC 675 it was held that “The validity of the marriage for the purpose of summary proceeding under s.125 Cr.P.C. is to be determined on the basis of the evidence brought on record by the parties. The standard of proof of marriage in such proceeding is not as strict as is required in a trial of offence under section 494 of the IPC. If the claimant in proceedings under s.125 of the Code succeeds in showing that she and the respondent have lived together as husband and wife, the court can presume that they are legally wedded spouse, and in such a situation, the party who denies the marital status can rebut the presumption. Once it is admitted that the marriage procedure was followed then it is not necessary to further probe into whether the said procedure was complete as per the Hindu Rites in the proceedings under S.125, Cr.P.C. From the evidence which is led if the Magistrate is prima facie satisfied with regard to the performance of marriage in proceedings under S.125, Cr.P.C. which are of summary nature strict proof of performance of essential rites is not required.”
In the case of Chanmuniya vs. Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha & Anr. (2011) 1 SCC 141, it was held that the term “wife” occurring in Section 125, Cr.P.C. is to be given very wide interpretation. This is so stated in the following manner: “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 reasonably long period of time, and strict proof of marriage should not be a pre-condition for maintenance under Section 125 of the Cr.P.C. so as to fulfill the true spirit and essence of the beneficial provision of maintenance under Section 125.”
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