Recommending major changes to Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code relating to maintenance, the National Commission for Women (NCW) suggested that the word “illegitimate” used for a minor should be removed and the scope of maintenance expanded to include adopted and step-children, step-parents and grandparents.

The NCW added that the definition of wife should be expanded to include cases where a woman has lived with the man in a relationship in nature of marriage or is a wife under irregular or voidable marriage, and if she has borne a child.

The Commission also said that it was the duty of a man to maintain his wives, children and parents irrespective of his “sufficient means,” and suggested that the term “sufficient means” be removed from Section 125 (I). At present, the woman is entitled to maintenance if she has been divorced but has not remarried.

‘Simplify procedures’

Addressing reporters here on Tuesday to give out details of the recommendations drawn up at a seminar organised by the NCW and the National Law School University, Bangalore, Commission chairperson Girija Vyas said the procedures for filing claims should be simplified and made time-bound, with a cap on disposing claims within five hearings. Also, alternative methods of serving of summons through electronic means and private courier services should be explored.

In cases where a default in payment of maintenance takes place, there should be a steep rate of interest component and the jurisdiction for maintenance should be conferred upon the Gram Nyayalayas as against the present First Class Magistrate, Ms. Vyas said.

Under Section 125 (V), living in adultery is one of the grounds for denial of maintenance and cancellation of any order for maintenance. It was generally agreed upon that this provision was frequently adopted to deny maintenance to women. However, it was suggested that this should be examined and a consensus developed as to whether the term could be deleted or replaced by another suitable term, Ms. Vyas said.

The NCW also said maintenance should be provided to all unmarried daughters even after they have attained majority and are unable to fend for themselves. Ms. Vyas said this was to prevent the vagary and destitution of the girl child. At present, this provision is available only to children who are physically or mentally challenged.

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