MUMBAI: A 64-year-old television actor, who is the second wife of an Andheri resident, recently moved the Bombay high court, seeking maintenance from her former husband, after their 17-year relationship ended. However, a division bench of Justice A P Deshpande and Justice R P Sondurbaldota rejected her maintenance plea, saying she was not the “legally wedded wife”.
“As far as Hindus are concerned, marriage laws fall under the Hindu Marriage Act. So, unless the marriage is valid under the provisions of the HMA, those entering into such a marriage cannot describe themselves as a man and wife,” said the bench. Under the HMA, a second marriage between two Hindus is valid only if neither of them has a spouse who is alive. Any violation of this rule means that such a marriage is null and void, said the court, and no maintenance could be claimed.
Interestingly, TOI in its April 28, 2010, edition, had reported about another bench of the HC, which had rejected another second wife’s maintenance claim, but directed her to approach the courts under the recently enacted Domestic Violence Act.
Seema Patil married Nathuram (now 64) in 1983, when the latter was already married. After 17 years, the couple separated in December, 1999 and the next year, Nathuram moved the family court, seeking to declare his marriage with Seema null and void. Seema, in turn, filed a counter claim, alleging that Nathuram had deceived her by saying he was divorced. She also urged the court for alimony.
The family court rejected Nathuram’s plea to annul the marriage saying he wanted to take advantage of a wrong committed by him. But the court also restrained Seema from visiting Nathuram’s home or office and dismissed her plea for maintenance. Seema then moved HC.
A wife can approach the court seeking maintenance under three different laws —the Hindu Marriage Act, Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act and the Criminal Procedure Code. When Seema’s lawyers cited a Delhi HC order awarding maintenance to a second wife, the Bombay HC said it did not agree with that verdict.
“According to the law, a marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act is void ipso jure and the woman entering into such a marriage is not a wife within the meaning of either the HMA or CrPC. The expression, ‘wife’, used in both the statutes means only a ‘legally wed’ wife. The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act cannot be treated differently for the meaning to the word ‘wife’ used therein,” said the judges while dismissing her plea for maintenance. The court also said Seema seemed to have a sufficient source of living—service pension, retirement dues and also her pays from TV serials. She stays in Khar.