Maintenance Case- Strict Proof of Marriage not required u/Section 125 CrPC- Supreme Court

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October 26, 2018

The Supreme Court in the case has reiterated the settled principle of law that unlike other matrimonial proceedings, a strict proof of marriage is not essential in claim of maintenance under Section 125 of CrPC and that when the parties live together as husband and wife, there is a presumption that they are legally married couple for claim of maintenance under Section 125 CrPC.

Case name: Kamala and ors. v. M.R. Mohan Kumar

In the case, the Appellant was aggrieved by High Court of Karnataka’s order, whereby the High Court has set aside Family Court’s order wherein the Family Court had directed the Respondent to pay maintenance to the appellants i.e. wife and children. The ground on which the Respondent refused to pay maintenance under Section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) was that there was no valid marriage between the parties and hence petition for maintenance under Section 125 CrPC could not be maintained.

Bench’s Verdict

The Two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court in view of the evidence and material available on record allowed the appeal holding that there was a valid marriage between the parties and moreover a strict proof of marriage was not a pre-requisite for claiming maintenance under Section 125 of CrPC. The other observations made by the Apex Court in the case are as under:

  • That the evidence of witness coupled with the documents raised a strong presumption of a valid marriage.
  • That unlike matrimonial proceedings where strict proof of marriage is essential, in the proceedings under Section 125 CrPC, such strict standard of proof is not necessary as it is summary in nature meant to prevent vagrancy.
  • The Supreme Court also made reference to it’s judgment in the case of Dwarika Prasad Satpathy v. Bidyut Prava Dixit[1], wherein it was held that the standard of proof of marriage in a Section 125 proceeding is not as strict as is required in a trial for an offence under Section 494 IPC. It was also noted in the case that an application under Section 125 does not really determine the rights and obligations of the parties as the section is enacted with a view to provide a summary remedy to neglected wives to obtain maintenance.
  • That when the parties live together as husband and wife, there is a presumption that they are legally married couple for claim of maintenance of wife under Section 125 CrPC.
  • That it is fairly well settled that the law presumes in favour of marriage and against concubinage when a man and woman have cohabited continuously for a number of years.
  • 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.

The entire case can be accessed here.

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[1] (1999) 7 SCC 675