SC asks states to respond on maintenance amount of a husband

A bench of justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra, in an order, felt that when Parliament had made an amendment in 2001 removing the ceiling limit, it was of prima facie opinion that amendments subsequently carried out to Section 125 CrPC by states were perhaps unconstitutional.

It issued notices to the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh for their response within four weeks.

"We are prima facie of the opinion that in view of 2001 Amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure by Parliament, the maximum maintenance prescribed by the above mentioned state legislatures are no longer valid in view of Article 254 (1) of the Constitution (as law made by Parliament shall prevail). Apart from being unconstitutional, (they) are being violative of Articles 14 (equality) and 21 (liberty) of the Constitution," Justice Katju writing the order observed.

The bench passed the order while dealing with a maintenance dispute between one Manoj Yadav and his wife Pushpa.

Initially under Section 125 CrPC, the maximum maintenance which could be granted by a magistrate was Rs 500 per month.

Subsequently, by the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act of 2001 enacted by Parliament, the words 'not exceeding five hundred rupees in the whole' in Section 125(1) were deleted from September 2001, thus imposing no ceiling. The intention was to ensure that the dependents got adequate maintenance in tune with the cost of living and the earning capacity of the husband.

However, prior to the 2001, the said state legislatures had amended Section 125(1) CrPC enhancing the maximum maintenance to a higher figure than the originally fixed Rs 500 which negated the intent of Parliament not fixing any limit on the amount.

Hence, the apex court issued notices to the states with the rider--"However, this is only our prima facie opinion and subject to the final order passed in this case."

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