Section 125 Of The Code Of Criminal Procedure

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Index 

  1. Introduction 
  2. Purpose Of Section 125 CrPC
  3. Features Of Section 125 Of CrPC
  4. Entitlement Of Wife For Maintenance 
  5. Entitlement Of Daughter For Maintenance
  6. Entitlement Of Parents For Maintenance
  7. Scope And Revision Proceedings Under Section 125 CrPC
  8. Popular Court Judgments
  9. Recent Judgements 
  10. Conclusion

Introduction 

Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure mandates that individuals with sufficient means must provide maintenance to their wife, children, and parents if these dependents cannot support themselves. However, husbands who are dissatisfied with a maintenance order from a lower court need a platform to voice their grievances. Section 397 of the Code provides them the right to file a revision application. Recently, the scope of such revision applications has expanded due to greater awareness and the judiciary’s improved approach to ensuring justice.

Purpose Of Section 125 CrPC

The primary objective of Section 125 of the 1973 CrPC is to provide support to abandoned and impoverished wives, neglected and abandoned children, and vulnerable, elderly, and disabled parents. Consequently, this provision promotes social welfare and service.

The Magistrate’s power under this section is mainly to prevent issues, not to punish.

To avoid the time-consuming process of civil litigation, Section 125 offers a simple, quick, and limited form of relief. This compels individuals to fulfil their duty of supporting dependents who cannot support themselves. 

No wife, child, or parent should be left destitute, forced to beg, or driven to commit or fall victim to crimes. Any contract that attempts to waive the responsibility of supporting one’s wife and young children is not legally valid.

Features Of Section 125 Of CrPC

A person cannot be ordered to pay maintenance to another unless they have adequate resources to support the claimant and have neglected or refused to do so. The burden of proof lies on the individual claiming insufficient means. Unemployment does not exempt one from this responsibility. In Hardev Singh v. State (1974), the Apex Court held that if a person cannot pay maintenance because he is a monk, it is his duty to cast off his monastic robe and work. High courts have interpreted this requirement strictly, emphasising social justice and the protection of society’s weaker members, such as women, children, and the elderly.

The term ‘neglect’ refers to a disregard of responsibility, which can be either unintentional or deliberate, and applies even when no demand for maintenance has been made. ‘Refusal’ to maintain occurs when there is a clear intention not to fulfil this responsibility, which can be expressed or implied through behaviour. The claimant must prove neglect or refusal. While a wife typically needs to live with her husband to claim maintenance, a Magistrate may waive this requirement if there are valid reasons, such as the husband taking another wife, as allowed by their personal law.

Before the Amendment Act No. 50 of 2001, magistrates could not grant maintenance exceeding Rs. 500. Currently, there is no maximum limit, and the Magistrate can determine the monthly rate based on the case’s circumstances. Hence, an additional feature of the rate can be adjusted under Section 127 but must remain fixed and predictable, not gradually increasing. If both a wife and child sue the same individual, they cannot be paid jointly, each has a distinct claim that should be addressed separately.

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Likewise, a woman must be unable to support herself to claim maintenance under Section 125. She is not required to explicitly state that she cannot take care of herself to be eligible for maintenance.

 

Entitlement Of Wife For Maintenance 

Entitled For Maintenance:

  1. Inadequate Means: If the wife does not have sufficient means to maintain herself.
  2. Neglect or Refusal: If the husband neglects or refuses to maintain her without any sufficient reason.
  3. Legitimate Reasons:If she has a valid reason for living separately, such as cruelty or abuse by the husband.

Not Entitled For Maintenance:

  1. Adultery: If the wife is living in adultery, she is not entitled to maintenance.
  2. Mutual Separation Agreement: If both spouses have mutually agreed to live separately and the wife is receiving adequate financial support through this agreement.
  3. Unjustified Separation: If the wife is living separately without any sufficient reason.

Entitlement Of Daughter For Maintenance

Entitled For Maintenance:

  1. Minor Daughter: A daughter who is a minor (under 18 years of age).
  2. Unmarried Daughter: An unmarried daughter despite her age or religion, who is unable to maintain herself.
  3. Physical or Mental Disability: A daughter who is mentally or physically unable to maintain herself, regardless of her age or marital status.

Not Entitled For Maintenance:

  1. Married Daughter: A daughter who is married and whose husband can maintain her.
  2. Self-Sufficient: An unmarried daughter who has sufficient means or income to support herself. To be precise a daughter who is a major. 

Entitlement Of Parents For Maintenance

Entitled For Maintenance:

  1. Inability to Maintain Themselves: Parents who are unable to maintain themselves with their own income or property.
  2. Neglect or Refusal by Children: If the children neglect or refuse to maintain their parents without any sufficient reason.

Not Entitled For Maintenance:

  1. Self-Sufficient Parents: Parents who have sufficient means to support themselves.
  2. Undeserving Circumstances: If parents have been abusive or neglectful towards the children, which can be a reason for the children to refuse maintenance (this is rare and requires proof).

 

Scope And Revision Proceedings Under Section 125 CrPC

Under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the court determines the quantum of maintenance to be paid by the husband after considering the circumstances of the case. While the maintenance order may satisfy the petitioners, the husband may not be content with the court’s decision. Since an appeal under Section 125 is not maintainable, the husband’s legal recourse is to pursue revision proceedings. However, the right to file for revision depends on the merits of the case, and the higher courts’ jurisdiction is limited. They must consider certain aspects before proceeding with the revision, one of which is that they cannot interfere with the evidence presented by both parties. The power of revision is available under Section 397 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The High Court or a sessions judge can call for an examination of the record of any proceeding before a lower court. However, this power does not apply to preliminary orders passed during trial proceedings. In Ashu Dhiman v. Jyoti Dhiman, the Uttarakhand High Court ruled that an order by a trial court rejecting or allowing a maintenance application during pending proceedings is not an preliminary order, thus subject to review by a higher court. Similarly, in Sunil Kumar Sabharwal v. Neelam Sabharwal, it was held that an order granting interim maintenance under Section 125 is not an interlocutory order and can be reviewed under Section 397(2).

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When a court either rejects or allows proceedings, the parties have the right to seek a review. Numerous judgments affirm that a wife capable of earning, or already earning, cannot be denied maintenance by the husband. However, it is crucial that the husband has greater earning capacity than the wife. In such cases, he may approach higher courts for a revision. Courts have allowed revision applications when the wife is at fault, such as leaving the matrimonial home without sufficient reason or with ill motives to claim maintenance from the husband.

Popular Court Judgments 

In Shamima Farooqui v. Shahid Khan (2015), the Supreme Court upheld the applicability of Section 125 CrPC to Muslim women who have been divorced. The Court ruled that as long as the wife is entitled to maintenance under Section 125, the amount must be adequate for her to live with dignity as she would have in her matrimonial home. The husband cannot compel her to become penniless, and his plea of insufficient means is unacceptable unless proven.

In Badshah v. Urmila Badshah Godse (2014), the Supreme Court emphasised that Section 125 CrPC is a social justice legislation that requires a distinct approach. The Court stated that a drift from “adversarial” litigation to social context adjudication is needed when dealing with maintenance cases.

In Chanmuniya v. Virender Kumar Singh Kushwaha (2010), the Supreme Court held that a broad and expansive interpretation should be given to the term “wife” under Section 125 to include even those cases where a man and woman have been living together as husband and wife for a reasonably long period. Strict proof of marriage should not be a pre-condition for maintenance in such cases.

Recent Judgements 

  1. In the recent case of Sandeep Walia v. Monika Uppal (2022), the Delhi High Court highlighted a common issue in matrimonial disputes. Parties often conceal their true income to evade maintenance responsibilities. The Court emphasised that maintenance decisions should consider the parties’ status and standard of living. This was taken in response to a case where the husband challenged a family court’s decision to partially grant his wife’s motion under Section 125 of the CrPC, awarding her Rs. 10,000 per month in maintenance. The husband argued that his well-qualified wife, who was earning a good living while he was unemployed, did not deserve maintenance.

The couple married on October 25, 2015, but due to family disagreements, they began living separately shortly after their wedding. The wife, Monika Uppal, approached the family court under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, claiming that her husband had harassed her, causing her severe mental pain. In her counter statement, she detailed numerous instances of harassment and asserted that her husband, Sandeep Walia, worked as a graphic designer for NIIT in Gurugram, earning Rs. 40,000 a month. She also claimed that he received an additional Rs. 40,000 monthly from rental income, had no debts, and was the only son of a mother who received a Rs. 25,000 monthly pension. She sought Rs. 40,000 per month for maintenance and Rs. 25,000 for court costs.

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Sandeep Walia, on the other hand, contended that Monika had mentally tortured and abused him. He alleged that she left their marital home without any valid reason, falsely reported their situation to the CAW cell, and subsequently avoided counselling sessions. Despite his claims, the Court’s decision took into account the concealed incomes and aimed to ensure a fair standard of living for both parties.

The High Court emphasised that, until legally determined otherwise, a husband has a sacred responsibility to financially support his wife. Hence, the husband claimed to maintain a three-bedroom apartment with a monthly rent of Rs. 12,000, excluding about Rs. 2,000 in energy costs. The Court noted his monthly expenses were around Rs. 35,210 and that he received regular dividends from mutual fund investments. Despite his assertion of having no income, the Court found this claim insufficient to absolve him of his duty to support his wife, given the circumstances.

  1. In the case of Pradeep Kumar v. Smt Bhawana and Anr (2022), Justice Asha Menon of the Delhi High Court made a significant observation, stating that “to deny maintenance to an estranged wife and child is the worst offence, even from a humanitarian perspective.” This remark came while dismissing a petition filed by a husband contesting a Trial Court’s decision. Justice Menon directed the husband to pay a consolidated amount of Rs. 20,000 as interim maintenance to his wife and child until their matrimonial dispute is resolved.

The facts of the case revealed that the husband’s attorney claimed Rs. 1,000,000 had been deposited with the Court Registry to address the discrepancy in maintenance payments. The husband also asserted his willingness to provide Rs. 4,000 per month to his wife and child, in line with his monthly earnings of Rs. 28,000, as previously declared in his affidavit of income and expenditure. Additionally, he expressed his readiness to either accommodate his wife and child or rent a separate place for them.

However, the court noted discrepancies in the husband’s claims. While he stated that payments had been made through February 2022, the wife and child indicated they had only received payments up until September 2021, covering just seven months. The Court expressed concern that husbands were forcing their wives to file execution petitions to halt payments, despite court orders entitling them to maintenance, even if temporarily.

On April 20, 2022, the High Court instructed the husband to deposit the difference between the amount determined by the Trial Court and the Rs. 4,000 he claimed to have paid up to February 2022. With these observations, the court dismissed the petition, directing the husband to pay Rs. 20,000 in fees at the Family Court during the next scheduled hearing.

Conclusion 

 Although Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure ensures that wives and parents receive equitable maintenance from husbands or children, it is essential to prevent misuse of this provision. Recently, the scope for revision against orders passed under Section 125 has expanded, with higher courts increasingly accepting revision applications under Section 397 to provide appropriate relief to the opposing party. There is no fixed rule for allowing or rejecting revision applications, decisions are based on the specific facts and circumstances of each case.

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