Second wife cannot get maintenance in Hindu marriage: HC

A division bench of Justices A P Deshpande and R P Sondurbaldota held that such a woman cannot claim maintenance under the Hindu Marriage Act, or even the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act (HAMA).

A second marriage (when the first spouse is alive) is null and void in Hindu law, the High Court emphasised.

One Rekha (name changed) had moved the High Court after the family court rejected her demand of maintenance. She had claimed maintenance from her husband under HAMA on the ground that he had another wife.

Under HAMA, a woman can live separately from husband and seek maintenance if he has any other wife living. Her lawyer claimed that Rekha was legally wedded, and her marriage had been registered with the registrar of marriage.

However, the division bench put the finger on the law, and held that her marriage was void from the start, she did not enjoy the status of wife under the Hindu Marriage Act, and was not entitled to maintenance under HAMA too. The court also observed that Rekha was married "with full knowledge that he (husband) was already married and that his first wife is living. In the circumstances, she cannot lay any claim to sympathy."

The high court held that maintenance in the case of husband's bigamous marriage can be claimed under Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act only if both marriages had taken place before the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 came into effect.

Because, before the Act came about, bigamy was permissible in the Hindu customary law. But in this case, Rekha's marriage had taken place in 1987, so it was not a legal marriage, and she can't be said to be a wife, the High Court held.

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