Invalid Second Marriage Does Not Entitle Wife to Maintenance, Rules Madhya Pradesh High Court

The Madhya Pradesh High Court, in a recent judgment, declared that a woman entering into a second marriage while her first spouse is still alive cannot claim maintenance under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) if a valid decree of divorce has not been obtained. The court set aside a maintenance order in favor of the respondent, emphasizing that a second marriage under such circumstances does not qualify as a legally valid union, thereby negating any entitlement to financial support.

Justice Rajendra Kumar Verma, presiding over a single-judge bench at the Jabalpur Bench of the High Court, underscored that the purpose of Section 125 of the CrPC is to safeguard wives from destitution and vagrancy. While the section is broad enough to encompass women who have lived with a man for a reasonable duration under the definition of “wife,” it does not apply in cases where the respondent already has a living spouse from a prior marriage and has not obtained a lawful divorce decree.

The court further highlighted that only a court-issued decree of divorce holds legal validity, and divorces obtained through agreements or other means are not recognized by the law. Consequently, it was deduced that the respondent had been married to Sunil Kumar Gupta while allegedly entering into the subsequent marriage, rendering it void.

Advocate J.L. Soni represented the petitioner, while Advocate Arvind Kumar Pathak appeared for the respondent in the case.

The petitioner, who married the respondent in 2017 following Hindu customs, subjected her to dowry demands, harassment, and ultimately expelled her from their shared residence. Subsequently, the respondent filed an application under Section 125 of the CrPC before the Family Court, which ordered the petitioner to pay Rs. 10,000 per month as maintenance. The petitioner contested the order, arguing that the respondent had sufficient means of earning and was still legally married to her first husband, thereby rendering their marriage void and exempting it from the application of Section 125. However, the Family Court disregarded these contentions, leading to the present revision petition.

After careful examination of the submissions, the High Court delved into the scope of Section 125, concluding that the legislative intent behind the provision was to exclude from its purview women who are not lawful wives.

The court further expounded that according to Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act, one of the prerequisites for a valid marriage is that neither party should have a living spouse at the time of the marriage. Moreover, as per Section 11 of the same Act, any marriage solemnized in contravention of the condition specified in clause (i) of Section 5 is considered void.

Citing the Supreme Court case of Pyla Mutyalamma @ Satyavathi Vs. Pyla Suri Demudu & Another [(2011) 12 SCC 189], the bench emphasized that while exercising its revisional jurisdiction, the court cannot reevaluate evidence or determine the status of the parties before recording an order for maintenance.

Consequently, the High Court set aside the maintenance order and allowed the petitioner’s revision petition.

Bhagwandas v. Panpati Shah

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