Working women are equally entitled to claim maintenance

Working women are equally entitled to claim maintenanceWith the passage of time, the ‘home maker’ status of women in India has undergone considerable changes. A woman is no more tagged as just a housewife. Infact, she has successfully established herself as a working woman. It was only until recent past, that they were not completely aware of their rights like right to work, equal treatment, property, maintenance and many others. However, today they not only recognize their rights but also make sure to claim them.

This is most evident in the cases of “maintenance pursuant to separation or divorce”. The last decade had witnessed a rapid growth in cases of divorce and separation. Indian law contains provisions for maintenance under different laws like Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973; Section 24 of Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 and also under personal laws like the Shariat Law, etc. These laws provide that the benefit can be claimed by women even prior to divorce during separation. Her claim for maintenance is also extendable to her minor children. These laws carry general exemption that a woman will no longer be entitled for any maintenance in instance of remarriage or if they get converted to another religion.

Initially, a misconception existed that a working woman is not entitled to claim maintenance as she is earning and is thus able to maintain herself. Now, based on the judgements in cases like Bhagwan v. Kamla Devi1 and Chaturbhuj v Sita Bai2, it is evident that she can claim maintenance even though she is earning. The SC of India, in this regards, has ruled that an estranged woman can claim maintenance from her husband in spite of her efforts to earn a monthly income if that is not enough for her maintenance. It also clarifies that the expression ‘Unable to maintain herself’ does not require a wife to be absolute destitute before she can apply for maintenance.

The Delhi High Court has further clarified few more matters like, for husband, being jobless does not work as an excuse for not paying maintenance3. Indian law also makes provision under Section 19 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 for claiming interim maintenance expenses for proceedings even during pendency of proceedings4.

Though the judiciary supports women in cases of maintenance, it does not overlook men. Recently, there were instances where the Courts of India had passed reverse orders compelling wives, who earn substantially, to pay maintenance to their husbands if such a woman decides to walk out of a marriage, for whatever reason5,6. Also, there are instances where though a woman was not working but still her professional qualification became a barrier to the quantum of maintenance that she received. This existed, despite the fact that their husbands were well employed and drawing handsome salaries. This reflects to the general contention of the judiciary to the effect that a woman being professionally qualified will get professional assignments or a job with a handsome salary7.

Though, maintenance laws, in current times, treat men and women on equal footing, it is still evident that the disadvantaged working women gain from these provisions.


- Palak Lotiya (views expressed in the article are that of the author)


1. Bhagwan Dutt v. Kamla Devi (1975) 2 SCC 386

2. Chaturbhuj v Sita Bai 2008

3. Being jobless no ground to deny maintenance to wife: Court (2008, Dec. 9)., India edition

4. Mohini Bharat alias Seema Vs V.K.Bharat 2004(2) Civil Court Cases 476

5. Wife to compensate husband (2009, Jan. 27)., India edition

6. Viny Mishra (2005, November 23). Allahabad high court orders maintenance for husband. Times of India

7. Shibu Thomas (2009, May 3). Job prospects count in alimony: Court. Times of India.