A husband must remember that “it is better to wear out than rust out”, the High Court of Karnataka observed while rejecting the plea of a man who had sought maintenance of ₹2 lakh from his wife on the ground that he had lost his job due to COVID-19.
“Merely because he has lost his job on the onset of COVID-19, it cannot be held that he is incapable of earning. Therefore, it can be irrefutably concluded that the husband by his own conduct has decided to lead a leisurely life by seeking maintenance from the hands of the wife,” the court observed.
Justice M. Nagaprasanna made these observations while rejecting an appeal filed by a 28-year-old man questioning the Family Court’s October 2022 order directing him to pay ₹10,000 per month as maintenance to his wife.
The petitioner had also sought a direction from the High Court that his 25-year-old wife should pay him ₹2 lakh monthly maintenance and ₹30,000 as litigation charges as he had lost his job due to the pandemic and remained jobless for the past two years.
However, the court said that though Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act is gender neutral for grant of maintenance during the pendency of the divorce petition, it would be promoting idleness notwithstanding the fact that the husband has no impediment or handicap to earn.
In arriving at this conclusion, the High Court cited the judgement of the apex court, which had held that “if the husband is an able-bodied man, he cannot project the plea that he has no means to pay. It is necessary for any husband to earn by legitimate means and maintain the wife, and the children if any.”
“The husband cannot afford to incapacitate himself and sustain an application under Section 24 of the Act to claim maintenance from the hand’s wife. This would be an anathema to the spirit of Section 24 of the Act ...”, the High Court said on the basis of apex court’s judgements.
The couple got married in February 2017, and the husband initiated a plea for divorce in 2021 before the Family Court after the wife allegedly left the matrimonial home. Subsequently, the wife filed a plea for restitution of conjugal rights.
Later, in November 2021, she sought interim monthly maintenance of ₹25,000 and ₹1 lakh for litigation expenses from him, and the husband vehemently opposed her plea. However, in August 2022, the husband came up with a counter plea before the Family Court seeking maintenance from her.
While the husband had claimed that his wife’s parents are rich, the wife had claimed that he was employed and earning at least ₹50,000 per month salary apart from earning rental income up to ₹75,000 per month. However, both of them had not provided any documents in support of these claims, following this, the Family Court, while applying the apex court’s judgement on the duty of the able-bodied husband to pay maintenance to wife, had ordered payment of interim maintenance amount to wife.