The Kerala High Court has held that the husband does not have any discretion to deny payment of maintenance to the wife if she had voluntarily left the matrimonial home and failed to prove cruelty.

The Bench of Justice A. Badharudeen observed that "when a party seeks divorce on the ground of cruelty, there shall be sufficient pleadings alleging cruelty, and evidence to prove the cruelty, to succeed in the divorce petition. But difference of opinion otherwise, in view of the particular circumstances at the matrimonial home, whereby the wife could not lead a peaceful life time, shall not, always be 'cruelty', but these are also reasonable grounds to deny joint residence. In such cases, it could not be held that there was willful discretion to deny payment of maintenance."

In this case, the revision petitioner (husband) had approached the High Court by filing the revision petition arguing that since the respondent had left his company voluntarily and without any justified reasons, he would not be liable to pay Rs. 4,000/- as maintenance to the respondent (wife) under Section 125(1) of Criminal Procedure Code, as directed by the Family Court.

Advocate M.R. Sarin appearing for the petitioner, contended that the wife was not legally entitled to get maintenance since she had willingly left and started living separately without any justification. It was also submitted that the case filed by the respondent on the ground of cruelty ended in acquittal.

Advocate Bhadra Kumari K.V. appearing for the respondent submitted that acquittal in the case filed against the petitioner on ground of cruelty, nowhere debars the respondent from getting maintenance, she was entitled to get.

The Court confirmed the entitlement of maintenance found by the Family Court and said that "the wife left the matrimonial home since she could not reside there due to the particular circumstances prevailing. In view of the above, there is no reason to hold that the respondent is not entitled to get maintenance."

However, considering the fact that the woman remarried in September 2022, the Court observed that the respondent's entitlement to maintenance ceased from the date of re-marriage.

The Court further, observing that the actual income of the husband was not fully established and the nature of employment of the petitioner was not permanent, modified the maintenance amount to Rs. 3,500/- per month.

Accordingly, the revision petition was allowed.

Cause Title- Arun v. Reshma

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