'No alimony for woman who desert husband'

Upholding a decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, a bench headed by Justice V S Sirpurkar said the law of the land did not allow maintenance in cases where the wife deserted her husband, children and the matrimonial home.

In the case before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Poonam, who was married to Mahender Kumar of Jind on January 23, 1992, left her matrimonial home on March 18, 1998, alleging harassment and dowry demands. She also left her children.

Poonam later moved the family court, seeking divorce on grounds of cruelty. But Mahender Kumar filed an application before the court on February 20, 2002, praying for restoration of conjugal rights under the Hindu Marriage Act.

She did not respond to the application, and Kumar was granted ex parte decree as it was construed that Poonam would not return to her matrimonial home.

Fresh appeal

Two years later, Poonam approached the family court again, seeking divorce — on the ground that she was living separately — and demanding maintenance.

Though the court granted her divorce, her appeal for maintenance was turned down.
The Supreme Court bench said: “You left the matrimonial home on your own, and now you want maintenance. Is this the law of the country? What is the justification for your staying separately?”

No ill-treatment

When the case reached the Supreme Court, Poonam challenged the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s decision, seeking maintenance of Rs 4,000 per month from Mahender.
The high court judgment said she had failed to prove that she was ill-treated by her former husband.

Additionally, the court observed: “Failure of the petitioner-wife to justify her decision to stay away from the respondent-husband and two kids shows that she had left society of the respondent on her own accord.”

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