The Supreme Court has set a limit on the alimony paid by a husband to his estranged wife to 25% of his net salary, stating that this amount is “just and proper”.
The decision was made by a bench of Justices R Banumathi and M M Santanagoudar while directing a resident of West Bengal’s Hoogly to set aside Rs 20,000 from his monthly earning of Rs 95,527 as maintenance for his former wife and their son. The man pled that the amount was excessive, however, the court said the amount of maintenance or permanent alimony must be adequate for the woman to live with dignity after separation from her husband.
“Twenty-five percent of the husband’s net salary would be just and proper to be awarded as maintenance to the (former) wife. The amount of permanent alimony awarded to her must be befitting the status of the parties and the capacity of the spouse to pay maintenance, which is always dependent on the factual situation of the case… and the court would be justified in moulding the claim for maintenance passed on various factors,” the bench said, according to The Times of India.
The apex court’s order came as the man challenged a Calcutta High Court judgment which directed him to pay his former wife Rs 23,000 per month. While the court believed that there was nothing wrong with the HC’s order, it reduced the amount by Rs 3000 as the man had remarried and would require to provide for his new family.
The SC bench noted, “However, since the appellant has also got married a second time and has a child from the second marriage, we think it proper to reduce the amount of maintenance of Rs 23,000 to Rs 20,000 per month as maintenance to his (former) wife and son,” the court said.
The couple’s legal battle of over 10 years came to end with the SC’s order. In 2003, the district court had set the alimony amount at Rs 4,500, which was increased by the High Court to Rs 16,000 a month in 2015. As the husband’s salary increased from Rs 63,842 to Rs 95,527, the HC enhanced the alimony amount to Rs 23,000 in 2016.
The Supreme Court’s ruling is in tandem with its inclination to protect the rights of women in matrimonial disputes that adversely affect their financial standing:
“A Hindu woman’s right to maintenance is a personal obligation so far as the husband is concerned, and it is his duty to maintain her even if he has no property…It is well settled that under the Hindu Law, the husband has got a personal obligation to maintain his wife and if he is possessed of properties then his wife is entitled to a right to be maintained out of such properties.”