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4 Whether This Case Involves A … vs State Of Gujarat & on 5 May, 2017






1 Whether Reporters of Local Papers may be allowed to
see the judgment ? YES

2 To be referred to the Reporter or not ?

3 Whether their Lordships wish to see the fair copy of
the judgment ? NO

4 Whether this case involves a substantial question of
law as to the interpretation of the Constitution of India
or any order made thereunder ?

STATE OF GUJARAT 1….Respondent(s)


MR KIRTIDEV R DAVE, ADVOCATE for the Applicant(s) No. 1
MR VIRENDRA BAHETI, ADVOCATE for the Respondent(s) No. 2
NOTICE NOT RECD BACK for the Respondent(s) No. 2
MS SHRUTI PATHAK, APP for the Respondent(s) No. 1
NOTICE SERVED BY DS for the Respondent(s) No. 2


Date : 05/05/2017

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1 By this application under Article 227 of the Constitution of India, 
the applicant has prayed for the following reliefs:

“13 a.  Your Lordships be pleased to admit this petition.

b. Your Lordships be pleased to issue writ of certiorari or any other  
appropriate writ, direction and/or order of Ld. 2nd  Adnl. Civil Judge and  
JMFC, Surendranagar Dt. 16­02­2016 in Cr.MA No.267 of 2012 and as  
confirmed by the Ld. Session Judge, Surendranagar by order Dt. 06­09­
2016   in  Criminal  Revision  Application  No.20   of  2016   are   bad   in  law,  
without jurisdiction and those be quashed and set aside and the order of  
maintenance of the petitioner wife be restore. 

c. Your  Lordships  be pleased  to grant any other  relief/s  as may be  
deemed fit and just in the facts and circumstances of the case.”

2 It appears from the materials on record that the applicant herein 
got married to the respondent No.2 on 15th  May 2005. Soon after the 
marriage, matrimonial disputes cropped up. The respondent No.2 filed a 
Hindu Marriage Petition No.62 of 2009 for divorce. The learned Senior 
Civil Judge, Anand allowed the Hindu Marriage Petition and passed a 
decree of divorce thereby dissolving the marriage. The husband i.e. the 
respondent No.2 obtained a decree of divorce on the ground that the 
applicant had deserted him and also on the ground of cruelty. It appears 
that the appeal filed by the applicant herein was partly allowed. The first 
Appellate Court did not believe desertion, but affirmed the decree on the 
ground of mental cruelty. 

3 The applicant preferred Second Appeal No.224 of 2013 before this 

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Court, which came to be dismissed vide the judgment and order dated 
24th January 2014. 

4 It appears that after the dismissal of the Second Appeal filed by 
the   applicant   herein   before   this   Court,   the   respondent   No.2   filed   an 
application under Section 127 of the Cr.P.C. for cancellation of the order 
of maintenance. The learned Magistrate allowed the application filed by 
the respondent No.2 and cancelled the order of maintenance passed in 
favour of the applicant herein. 

5 The   applicant,  being   dissatisfied   with   such  order   passed  by   the 
learned Magistrate, preferred the Criminal Revision Application before 
the Sessions Court at Surendranagar. The revision application also came 
to be rejected vide the order dated 6th September 2016. 

6 Being dissatisfied, the applicant has come up with this application, 
invoking the supervisory jurisdiction of this Court under Article 227 of 
the Constitution of India. 

7 Mr. Kirtidev Dave, the learned counsel appearing for the applicant 
submitted   that   his   client   is   entitled   to   receive   maintenance   from   her 
husband i.e. the respondent No.2 despite the fact that the marriage has 
been   dissolved   pursuant   to   the   decree   of   divorce   obtained   by   the 
husband. Mr. Dave submitted that the issue is no longer  res integra  in 
view of the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Rohtash Singh 
vs. Smt. Ramendri [(2000) 3 SCC 180]. 

8 In such circumstances referred to above, Mr. Dave prays that there 
being   merit   in   this   application,   the   impugned   orders   passed   by   the 
Courts below be quashed. 

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9 On the other hand, this application has been vehemently opposed 
by   Mr.   Virendra   Baheti,   the   learned   counsel   appearing   for   the 
respondent No.2. Mr. Baheti submitted that the applicant is not entitled 
to receive maintenance in view of the fact that she treated her husband 
with cruelty and considering the same, a decree of divorce was granted 
by the competent Court under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 
which came to be affirmed right upto this Court in the Second Appeal 
filed by the applicant – wife. He submitted that the term of “wife” under 
Section 125(4) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 would include a 
divorced wife. 

10 In such circumstances referred to above, Mr. Baheti, the learned 
counsel  appearing   for   the  respondent   No.2  prays   that  there  being   no 
merit in this application, the same be rejected. 

11 Having heard the learned counsel appearing for the parties and 
having considered the materials on record, the only question that falls 
for my consideration is whether the Courts below committed any error 
in passing the impugned orders. 

12 The issue raised in this application as regards the right of the wife 
to receive maintenance, even after the dissolution of marriage, has been 
answered by me in the case of  Paresh Chaturbhai Patel vs. Kokilaben 
Manilal Patel [Special Criminal Application No.9318 of 2016 decided 
on 5th May 2017]. I may quote the observations as under:

(i) “Is the divorced wife entitled to claim maintenance under Section  
125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, despite the fact that  
a   decree   of   divorce   was   passed   by   the   competent   Court   at   the  
instance  of the  husband  on  the  ground  of the  wife  deserting  the  

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husband without any justifiable reason?

(ii) Can the statutory compassion in favour of the woman in distress in  
a dissolved marriage and the legislative anxiety and the concern to  
prevent vagrancy against the woman persuade the Courts to bring  
such   a   woman   in   a   dissolved   marriage   within   the   sweep   of   the  
definition of deemed wife in Explanation (b) to Section 125 of the  

(iii)  Whether the term “wife” in Section 125(4) of the Cr.P.C. includes  
a divorced wife?

(iv)  Can the changing norms in a society evidenced by the subsequent  
statutory   instruments   persuade   the   Courts   to   expand   the  
entrenched concepts in society? 

17  Section 125  of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (Act I of 1974),
which is in essence not punitive but preventive rather than remedial, has  
been enacted with the object of enabling the deserted wives, helpless and  
deserted children and destitute parents, to secure the much needed relief,  
so as to prevent vagrancy. The scheme of the section, as far as wives are  
concerned  is  self­contained  and  rests  on  two  primary  concepts,  viz.,  (I)  
that the husband must maintain his wife, and (2) that the wife must be  
virtuous and live with her husband. This section is not intended to be used  
by a wife whose marital tie is in subsistence, to claim maintenance on the  
grounds   other   than   neglect   or   refusal   to   maintain.   The   circumstances  
which   disentitle   a   wife   to   obtain   an   order   for   maintenance,   as  
contemplated under Sub­section (4) of Section 125, notwithstanding the  
existence   of   the   foundation   and   the   conditions   for   the   exercise   of  
jurisdiction, are (1) her living in adultery, (2) her refusal to live with her  
husband without sufficient cause, and (3) the fact that the husband and  
wife   have   been   living   separately   by   mutual   consent.  Subsequent   to   the  
passing of an order awarding maintenance in favour of the wife, as per 
 Sub­section (5) of  Section 125 on proof of any one of the circumstances
mentioned   supra,   the   Magistrate   shall   cancel   the   order   passed   in   her  
favour. Thus, the right of a wife whose marital tie has not been untied, to  
claim maintenance from her husband is subject to the condition that she is  
unable to maintain herself and also subject to the conditions enumerated  
under Sub­sections (4) and (5). It is to be noted that Explanation (b) to  
 Sub­section (1) of Section 125 of the new  Criminal Procedure Code, with
regard to the right to claim maintenance, states that the expression ‘wife’  
includes  a woman  who has been divorced  by or has obtained  a divorce  
from, her husband, and has not remarried. There was no such Explanation  
in the old Code. The effect of the introduction of this Explanation is that  
even a woman who has been divorced from her husband or has obtained a  
divorce   from   him,   is   entitled   to   maintenance   from   him   till   she   gets  
remarried, provided she is not living in adultery till such time. Of course,  

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the other conditions enumerated under Sub­sections (4) and (5) are not  
applicable to such a divorced woman.

18 Section  125  of the Code  of 1973  has to some  extent  altered  the  
scheme of maintenance envisaged in the corresponding Section 488. Under  
the repealed Code it is only the ‘wife’ as the term is generally understood  
the female spouse in a subsisting marriage that could seek maintenance  
from the husband. But Section 125(1) of the new Code obliges a person  
who refuses or neglects to maintain a woman who was his wife and who  
had been divorced to maintain her if she is unable to maintain herself.  
Such obligation is to last until she remarries. The scope of the term wife is  
enlarged to take in the case of such a woman and this is by Explanation  

(b) to Section 125 (1). Explanation (b) to that sub­section reads thus : 

“Explanation­­For the purposes of this Chapter,­­ 

(a) … … … … 

(b)   “wife”   includes   a   woman   who   has   been   divorced   by,   has   or 
obtained a divorce from, her husband and has not remarried.” 

19 The effect of the Explanation is evidently to read the term wife in  
Chapter   IX  of   the   Code   as   meaning   not   only   the   wife   as   generally  
understood  but also a woman  who has been  divorced  but who has not  
remarried. It may be noticed that Section 125(1) deals with the obligation  
of a ‘person’ and not of a husband or of a father or of a son. The scope of  
the Explanation is not to create a jural relationship between the divorced  
woman and the erstwhile husband. No new obligation outside the scope of  
the Code  is sought to be imposed  either  on the divorced  woman  or her  
erstwhile   husband   by   reason   of   the   Explanation.   The   object   of   the  
Explanation   is   only   to   enable   such   a   divorced   woman   to   claim  
maintenance  from her erstwhile husband until her remarriage. The very  
object   of   the   provision   in   Section   125   of   the   Code   is   to   provide   for   a  
minimum   obligation   on   the   part   of   a   person   to   maintain   his   wife,  
children, parents and his divorced wife who is not remarried under certain  
circumstances. In regard to some of his dependants there may be a similar  
obligation under the civil law, but in awarding maintenance in the civil  
proceedings the considerations other than those which arise in the matter  
of a petition under Section 125 of the Code may arise. The quantum of  
maintenance may also differ in such proceedings. The provision in Section  
125 is intended as a measure to prevent vagrancy and the responsibility is  
cast   upon   a  husband   or   a  father  of   a  son   as   the   case   may   be  to   give  
maintenance   to   the   wife   or   to   the   children   or   to   the   parents.   The  
Parliament, in its wisdom, has thought fit to include a woman who has  
been divorced by her husband as also one of those entitled to the benefits  
of  Section 125(1), such benefit to subsist until her remarriage. It is not  
because she has any claim based on her status as a divorced wife. She is  
under no obligation to make any return to her erstwhile husband for the  

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maintenance   provided   to   her   by  Section   125(1)  of   the   Code.   The  
Explanation   does   not   result   in   casting   on   her   any   marital   obligation.  
Naturally  so since  on the  dissolution  of the marriage  the marital tie is  
broken. It is in this background that I may have to consider the scope of  
Section   125(4)   and   in   that   context   I   may   refer   to   Sub­section   (5)   of  
Section 125 also. These sub­sections run as follows: 

“125 (1) … … … … 

(2) … … … … 

(3) … … … … 

(4)   No   wife   shall   be   entitled   to   receive   an   allowance   from   her  
husband under this section if she is living in adultery, or if, without  
any  sufficient  reason,  she refuses  to live  with her husband,  or if  
they are living separately by mutual consent. 
(5)  On   proof   that   any  wife   in  whose   favour   an   order   has   been  
made   under   this   section   is   living   in   adultery,   or   that   without  
sufficient reason she refuses to live with her husband, or that they  
are living separately by mutual consent, the Magistrate shall cancel  
the order.” 

20 Sub­section (4) of Section 125 provides for cases where a wife is to  
be denied maintenance on certain grounds notwithstanding the provisions  
in Section 125(1). Where an order under Section 125(1) has been passed  
subsequent  circumstances   may   disentitle   the   wife   to   continue   to  receive  
such   maintenance.   Those   are   circumstances   akin   to   the   circumstances  
contemplated   under   Section   125   (4).   Provision   is   made   to   meet   this  
situation in Section 125(5). The circumstances which may disentitle a wife  
to receive  maintenance  (1)  wife  living  in adultery  (2) the wife  without  
sufficient reasons, refuses to live with her husband and (3) the spouses are  
living separately by mutual consent. 

21 Now   I   will   come   to   the   question   whether   I   should   read  Section  
125(4)   as   applicable   to   any   person  other   than   the   female   spouse  in  a  
subsisting marriage.  It is true that the Explanation enlarges the scope of  
the term wife for the purpose of Chapter IX. But that, as I have indicated  
earlier, does not create any jural relationship between a divorced woman  
and her erstwhile husband. Evidently the object of the Explanation is to  
obviate  repeated reference  to the wife as well as the wife who has been  
divorced in appropriate places in the relevant sections. The operation of  
the Explanation is only to read the term wife in Chapter IX, as referring to  
wife as well as a divorced woman who has not remarried, if such, reference  
would not be inappropriate, Though a divorced woman may be understood  
by the term wife by reason of the Explanation  the person who was her  
husband   prior   to   such   divorce   will   not   be   comprised   within   the   term  
 ‘husband’.  Section
     125(4)   refers   to   the   right   of   the   wife   to   receive   an   

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allowance from her husband. If the definition has not the effect of treating  
the person who is really: not a husband as the husband, then Sub­section  
(4)  will not  be  applicable  to the  case’  of a divorced  woman.  There  are  
other   indications   in   Sub­section   (4)   which   make   the   sub­section  
inapplicable to a divorced woman. A woman whose marital tie does not  
subsist cannot be guilty of adultery much less can she be said to be living  
in adultery. She may live a promiscuous life. But that would not render  
her   guilty   of   adultery,   for,   adultery   is   a   term   that   denotes   an   offence  
against the institution  of marriage.  The  inclusive  definition  of the  term  
‘wife’  will  not  be  sufficient  to  read  promiscuous  or  immoral  living  of a  
divorced woman as of one living in adultery. There is no obligation on the  
part of a divorced woman to live with her erstwhile husband. In fact, one  
would   not   expect   such   a   woman   to   do   so.   Even   if   she   is   willing   her  
erstwhile husband may not be willing to oblige her. The provisions of the  
Code do not and are not intended to cast an obligation on him to permit  
his divorced wife to live with him. Sub­section (4) of Section 125 conceives  
refusal   to   live   with   the   husband   without   sufficient   reason   as   sufficient  
justification  for  refusing  maintenance.  This  presupposes  a right   and  an 
obligation to live with the husband. Such a right and an obligation cannot  
be   assumed   in   the   case   of   divorced   woman   nor   can   a   corresponding  
obligation in the erstwhile husband to keep the woman in his house be  
assumed.   If   so   such   a   ground   available   for   refusing   allowance  
 contemplated   in  Section
     125(4)   becomes   inapplicable   to   the   case   of   a   
divorced woman. So is the case with the provision that if the husband and  
wife are living separately by mutual consent the wife shall not be entitled  
to receive the allowance. No question of mutual consent would arise in the  
case   of   parties   to   a   marriage   which   is   dissolved.   That   clause   is   also  
evidently inapplicable to the case of a divorced woman. It is agreed that if  
I   construe   the   term   wife   in  Section   125(4)   as   referring   to   a   divorced  
woman  also the  same  construction  must  apply  to Section  125(5).  That  
would yield anomalous results. Assume that the same sub­section applies  
to   a   divorced   woman   who   has   not   remarried.   It   would   mean   that  
provision is made for cancelling the order for maintenance in the case of 
such a woman in that sub­section. But there is a specific provision dealing  
with  that  matter  and  that  is  Section  127(3)  of the  Code.  That  section  
deals   with   the   circumstances   under   which   an   order   for   maintenance  
obtained by a divorced woman could be cancelled. That subsection gives an  
indication  that  Section   125(5)  covers  only   the   case  of  a female  spouse  
under  a subsisting  marriage.  If that be so that should  be the case with  
Section 125(4) also.   The way I have construed  Section 125(4) will only  
promote   the   object   of   the   provisions   in  Section   125.   The   scope   of   the  
obligation of a person to maintain is extended in the new Code to embrace  
cases which were not within its scope under the repealed Code. One of the  
classes of persons brought in additionally within the scope of the section is  
women   who   have   been   divorced.   While   the   legislature   expected   the  
erstwhile husbands to maintain them if the other conditions of the section  
applied,   the   legislature   could   not   have   expected   them   to   perform   any  

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marital obligation for that reason or to keep the vow of chastity or loyalty  
to their erstwhile husbands. That would be unreasonable and unrelated to  
the object of providing for maintenance.

22 In the aforesaid context, this is the right stage for me to refer and  
rely upon the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Rohtash Singh  
(supra).  In  Rohtash Singh (supra), the principal contention raised on  
behalf of the petitioner was that a decree for divorce having been passed  
under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act on the ground of desertion by 
the   husband,  an   order   for   maintenance   could  not   have   been  passed   in 
favour of the respondent on account of Sub­section (4) of Section 125 of  
the   Cr.P.C.   The   Supreme   Court   negatived   such   contention   and   held   as  

“5. Sub­section (4) of Section 125, Cr. P.C. provides as under :­
“(4) No wife shall be entitled to receive an allowance from  
her husband under this section if she is living in adultery, or  
if, without any sufficient reason, she refuses to live with her  
husband, or if they are living separately by mutual consent.”

6. Under this provision, a wife is not entitled to any Maintenance  
Allowance from her husband if she is living in adultery or if she has  
refused to live with her husband without any sufficient reason or if  
they   are   living   separately   by   mutual   consent.   Thus,   all   the  
circumstances contemplated by sub­section (4) of section 125, Cr.  
P.C.   presuppose   the   existence   of   matrimonial   relations.   The  
provision   would   be   applicable   where   the   marriage   between   the  
parties subsists and not where it has come to an end. Taking the  
three   circumstances   individually,   it   will   be   noticed   that   the   first  
circumstance  on account of which a wife is not entitled to claim  
Maintenance  Allowance  from her husband is that she is living in  
adultery. Now,  adultery is the sexual intercourse  of two persons,  
either of whom is married to a third person. This clearly supposes  
the subsistence of marriage between the husband and wife and if  
during the subsistence of marriage, the wife lives in adultery, she  
cannot   claim   Maintenance   Allowance   under   Section   125   of   the  
Code of Criminal Procedure.

7.   The   second   ground   on   which   she   would   not   be   entitled   to  
Maintenance Allowance is the ground of her refusal to live with her  
husband  without any sufficient reason.  This also presupposes  the  
subsistence of marital relations between the parties. If the marriage  
subsists, the wife is under a legal and moral obligation to live with  
her   husband   and   to   fulfil   the   marital   obligations.   She   cannot,  
without   any   sufficient   reason,   refuse   to   live   with   her   husband.  

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“Sufficient  reasons”  have  been  interpreted  differently  by the High  
Courts having regard to the facts of individual cases. We are not  
required to go into that question in the present case as admittedly  
the marriage between the parties came to an end on account of a  
decree   for   divorce   having   been   passed   by   the   Family   Court.  
Existence of sufficient cause on the basis of which the respondent  
could legitimately refuse to live with the petitioner is not relevant  
for   the   present   case.  In   this   situation,   the   only   question   which  
survives for consideration is whether a wife against whom a decree  
for divorce has been passed on account of her deserting the husband  
can claim Maintenance Allowance under Section 125, Cr. P.C. and  
how far can the plea of desertion be treated to be an effective plea  
in   support   of   the   husband’s   refusal   to   pay   her   the   Maintenance  

8. Admittedly, in the instant case, the respondent is a divorced wife.  
The marriage ties between the parties do not subsist. The decree for  
divorce  was passed on 15th of July, 1995  and since  then, she is  
under   no   obligation   to   live   with   the   petitioner.   But   though   the  
marital   relations  came   to  an  end  by the   divorce  granted  by  the  
Family   Court   under   Section   13   of   the   Hindu   Marriage   Act,   the  
respondent   continues  to  be  “wife”  within  the  meaning   of  Section  
125,   Cr.   P.C.   on   account   of   Explanation   (b)   to   sub­section   (1)  
which provides as under :­ 

“Explanation.­ For the purposes of this Chapter­

(a) …………………………………….

(b) “wife” includes woman who has been divorced by, or has  
obtained   a   divorce   from   her   husband   and   has   not  

9. On account of the Explanation quoted above, a woman who has  
been divorced by her husband on account of a decree passed by the  
Family Court under the Hindu Marriage Act, continues to enjoy the  
status of a wife for the limited purpose  of claiming  Maintenance  
Allowance  from her ex­husband. This Court in  Ramesh Chander  
Kaushal v. Mrs. Veena Kaushal, AIR 1978 SC 1807 : (1979 Cri 
LJ 3), observed as under :­ 

“9. This provision is a measure of social justice and specially  
enacted to protect women and children and falls within the  
constitutional sweep of Article 15(3) reinforced by Art. 39.  
We   have   no   doubt   that   sections   of   statutes   calling   for  

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construction  by  Courts   are   not  petrified   print   but  vibrant  
words with social functions to fulfil. The brooding presence  
of the  constitutional  empathy  for  the  weaker  sections  like  
women and children must inform interpretation if it has to  
have social relevance. So viewed it is possible to be selective  
in   picking   out   that   interpretation   out   of   two   alternatives  
which advances the cause ­ the cause of the derelicts.”

10. Claim for maintenance under the first part of Section 125, Cr.  
P.C.   is   based   on   the   subsistence   of   marriage   while   claim   for  
maintenance of a divorced wife is based on the foundation provided  
by Explanation (b) to sub­section (1) of Section 125, Cr. P.C. If the  
divorced   wife   is   unable   to   maintain   herself   and   if   she   has   not  
remarried,   she   will   be   entitled   to   Maintenance   Allowance.   The  
Calcutta   High   Court   had   an   occasion   to   consider   an   identical  
situation where the husband had obtained divorce on the ground of  
desertion   by   wife   but   she   was   held   entitled   to   Maintenance  
Allowance as a divorced wife under Section 125, Cr. P.C. and the  
fact that she had deserted her husband and on that basis a decree  
for divorce was passed against her was not treated as a bar to her  
claim for maintenance as a divorced wife. (See : Sukumar Dhibar  
v. Smt. Anjali Dasi, 1983 Cri LJ 36 (Cal)). The Allahabad High  
Court   also,   in   the   instant   case,   has   taken   a   similar   view.   We  
approve these decisions as they represent the correct legal position.

11. Learned counsel for the petitioner then submitted that once a  
decree for divorce was passed against the respondent and marital  
relations   between   the   petitioner   and   the   respondent   came   to   an  
end, the mutual rights, duties and obligations should also come to  
an   end.   He   pleaded   that   in   this   situation,   the   obligation   of   the  
petitioner to maintain a woman with whom all relations came to  
an end should also be treated to have come to an end. This plea, as  
we have already indicated above, cannot be accepted as a woman  
has two distinct rights for maintenance. As a wife, she is entitled to  
maintenance unless she suffers from any of the disabilities indicated  
in   Section   125(4).   In   another   capacity,   namely,   as   a   divorced  
woman, she is again entitled to claim maintenance from the person  
of whom she was once the wife. A woman after divorce becomes a  
destitute. If she cannot maintain herself or remains unmarried, the  
man who was, once, her husband continues to be under a statutory  
duty and obligation to provide maintenance to her. 

12.   Learned   counsel   for   the   petitioner   then   contended   that   the  
maintenance has been allowed to the respondent from the date of  
the application. The  application  under  Section 125,  Cr. P.C. was  

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filed   by  the   respondent   during   the  pendency  of   the  civil   suit   for  
divorce under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act. It is contended  
that   since   the   decree   of   divorce   was   passed   on   the   ground   of  
desertion by respondent, she would not be entitled to Maintenance  
for any period prior to the passing of the decree under Section 13 of  
the Hindu Marriage Act. To that extent, learned counsel appears to  
be correct. But for that short period, we would not be inclined to  

23 A three­Judge Bench of the Supreme Court in the case of  Manoj  
Kumar (supra) relied upon the decision of Rohtash Singh (supra) and  
observed as under: 

“1.  We  have  heard  learned  counsel  for  the  rival  parties  at  some  

2. Having perused the impugned order, we are satisfied, that the same  
is   based   on   the   two   decisions   rendered   by   this   Court,   firstly,  
Vanamala (Smt) vs. H.M.Ranganatha Bhatta, (1995) 5 SCC  
299,  and   secondly,  Rohtash   Singh   vs.   Ramendri   (Smt)   and  
others, 2000(3) SCC 952. Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure  
Code, including the explanation under sub­section (1) thereof, has  
been consistently interpreted by this Court, for the last two decades.  
The aforesaid consistent view has been followed by the High Court  
while passing the impugned order.

3. For   the   reasons   recorded   hereinabove,   we   find   no  justification  
whatsoever, to interfere with the impugned order, in exercise of our  
jurisdiction under Article 136 of the Constitution.

4. The special leave petition is accordingly dismissed.”

24 In  Vanamala   (supra),   the   Supreme   Court   answering   the   very  
same issue, which I am called upon to answer, held as under;

“Section   125   of   the   Code   makes   provision   for   the   grant   of  
maintenance   to   wives,   children   and   parents.   Sub­section   (1)   of  
Section   125   inter   alia   says   that   if   any   person   having   sufficient  
means neglects or refuses to maintain his wife unable to maintain  
herself,   a   Magistrate   of   the   first   class   may,   upon   proof   of   such  
neglect or refusal, order such person to make a monthly allowance  
for   the   maintenance   of   his   wife   not   exceeding   Rs.500/­   in   the  
whole, as such magistrate thinks fit, and to pay the same to such  
person as the Magistrate may from time to time direct. Clause (b)  
of the explanation to the sub­section defines the expression ‘wife’ to  
include   a   woman   who   has   been   divorced   by,   or   has   obtained   a  

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divorce from, her husband and has not remarried. In the instant  
case it is not contended by the respondent that the appellant has  
remarried after the decree of divorce was obtained under Section  
13­B of the Hindu Marriage Act. It is also not in dispute that the  
appellant was the legally wedded wife of the respondent prior to the  
passing of the decree of divorce. By virtue of the definition referred  
to  above   she  would,  therefore,  be  entitled  to  maintenance  if  she  
could   show   that   the   respondent   has   neglected   or   refused   to  
maintain   her.   Counsel   for   the   respondent,   however,invited   our  
attention to sub­section (4) of Section 125, which reads as under:­ 

(4) No wife shall be entitled to receive an allowance  
from her husband under this Section if she is living in  
adultery,   or   if,   without   any   sufficient   reason,   she  
refuses to live with her husband, or if they are living  
separately by mutual consent. 

On  a plain  reading  of  this  Section  it seems  fairly  clear  that  the  
expression ‘wife’ in the said sub­section does not have the extended  
meaning of including a woman who has been divorced. This is for  
the obvious reason that unless there is a relationship of husband  
and wife there can be no question of a divorcee woman living in 
adultery   or   without   sufficient   reason   refusing   to   live   with   her  
husband. After divorce where is the occasion for the women to live  
with   her   husband?   Similarly   there   would   be   no   question   of   the  
husband and wife living separately by mutual consent because after  
divorce   there   is   no   need   for   consent   to   live   separately.   In   the  
context, therefore, sub­section (4) of Section 125 does not apply to  
the case of a woman who has been divorced or who has obtained a  
decree for divorce. In our view, therefore, this contention is not well  

25 In the case of  Shamima Farooqui vs. Shahid Khan [AIR 2015  
SC 2025] (Dipak Mishra, J.), in context with the applicability of Section  
125 of the Cr.P.C. to a Muslim woman and the very object of Section 125  
of   the   Cr.P.C.   made   certain   very   important   observations,   which   I   may  
quote as under:

“When centuries old obstructions are removed, age old shackles are  
either   burnt   or   lost   their   force,   the   chains   get   rusted,   and   the  
human endowments  and virtues are not indifferently treated and  
emphasis is laid on “free identity” and not on “annexed identity”,  
and the women of today can gracefully and boldly assert their legal  
rights and refuse  to be tied down to the obscurant conservatism,  
and further determined to ostracize the “principle of commodity”,  

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and the “barter system” to devoutly engage themselves in learning,  
criticizing   and   professing   certain   principles   with   committed  
sensibility and participating in all pertinent and concerned issues,  
there is no warrant or justification or need to pave the innovative  
multi­avenues   which   the   law   does   not   countenance   or   give   its  
stamp  of approval.  Chivalry, a perverse sense of human egotism,  
and clutching of feudal megalomaniac ideas or for that matter, any  
kind of condescending attitude have no room. They are bound to be  
sent to the ancient woods, and in the new horizon people should  
proclaim their own ideas and authority. They should be able to say  
that they are the persons of modern age and they have the ideas of  
today’s “Bharat”. Any other idea floated or any song sung in the  
invocation   of   male   chauvinism   is   the   proposition   of   an   alien,   a  
total stranger ­ an outsider. That is the truth in essentiality.

26 In the case of Smt. Sarojini Sahu vs. Siba Prasad Sahu [(1988)  
66 CLT 490]  (Justice G.B. Patnaik, as His Lordship then was) has been  
pleased to propound that a mere decree for divorce does not stand in the  
way of the wife to receive maintenance under Section 125 of the Code and  
a petition under that section is maintainable even if the husband obtains a  
decree for judicial separation or annulment of the marriage. His Lordship  
further held that “an order of maintenance  to a wife can be made even  
though the husband has obtained a decree for divorce and the wife’s right  
to receive the same is not fettered in any manner so long as she has not  
remarried. In this view of the matter, notwithstanding the  decree obtained  
by the husband  ­ opposite  party,  petitioner  No.  1, would  be entitled  to  
receive maintenance under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code. . .  
. . . . . . . “His Lordship also considered the effect of the Civil Courts decree  
and held that even if the decree of a Civil Court is admissible under Section  
41 of the Evidence Act but such decree for divorce itself does not disentitle  
the wife to receive maintenance and in that connection his Lordship held  
that “the right to receive maintenance under Section 125 of the Code flows  
from the statute and if all the pre­conditions are satisfied then that right  
cannot be taken away in any manner. The pre­conditions under Section  
125 of the Criminal Procedure Code are that if the applicant is the wife  
and the husband neglected or refused to maintain the wife who is unable  
to maintain herself. If all the pre­conditions are satisfied, then the wife’s  
right to receive maintenance under the Criminal Procedure Code remains  
unaffected by any decree of divorce even of a competent Civil Court.” On  
the materials on record, learned Magistrate found that the pre­conditions  
have been satisfied and this finding has not been set aside by the revisional  
Court.  In that  view  of the  matter,  in my opinion,  the  learned  Sessions  
Judge grossly erred in law in disentitling the wife to receive maintenance  
merely because  of a decree  of divorce  obtained  by the husband­opposite  
party. . . . . . . . . .”

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27 I have to my advantage a very lucid and erudite judgment rendered  
by   a   Division   Bench   of   the   Kerala   High   Court   in   the   case   of  T.   K.  
Surendran vs. P. Najima Bindu and Anr. [2012 Cri. L.J. 1960]. The  
Division Bench  has discussed the issue in details observing as under: 

“11.   We   now   rivet   our   attention   on   Sec.   125,   Cr.P.C.   It   is 
unnecessary to extract the Section in detail. The Section deals with  
the   obligation   of   persons   having   sufficient   means   who   refuse   or  
neglect to maintain their wives, legitimate or illegitimate children,  
father or mother. For our purpose in this case we shall pointedly  
refer   to   the   rights/obligations   in   respect   of   the   wife   alone.  
Prevention  of vagrancy is the signature tune of Sec. 125, Cr.P.C.  
Society has to prevent vagrancy. Vagrancy may lead to destitution  
and may have an adverse impact on the law and order situation.  
The concern under Chapter IX of the Cr.P.C. is hence undoubtedly  
the prevention of vagrancy. Legal/moral obligation of the person to  
maintain  his  wife  is only  the  jurisprudential  justification  for  the  
legislative prescription to prevent vagrancy. Whether personal law  
or the moral code in society (or any particular section of society)  
obliges a person to maintain his wife, children, father or mother or  
not, Section 125, Cr.P.C. mandates that he must maintain them if  
he   has   sufficient   means   and   they   are   unable   to   maintain  
themselves. What we would like to emphasise is that the legislative  
mission and purpose is to prevent vagrancy and that is sought to be  
achieved  by placing  on the shoulders  of persons  having  sufficient  
means, the statutory obligation to maintain their wives, children,  
father   or   mother   who   are   unable   to   maintain   themselves.   In   a  
socialist   welfare   State   the   State   has   the   obligation   as   patron  
patriarch to prevent destitution. State which may not now have the  
means   and   schemes   to   discharge   that   duty,   outsources   that  
obligation by legislation to near relatives having sufficient means.  
To   sum   up,   the   yearning   of   the   State   to   prevent   vagrancy   and  
destitution   is   the   plank,   basis   or   bedrock   on   which   the  
right/liability under Sec. 125 rests.

12. The obligation to maintain the wife was stipulated even under  
Sec.   488   of   the   earlier   Code.   In   1973   when   the   Cr.P.C.   was  
exhaustively   amended,   the   legislature   obviously   perceived   the  
unfortunate plight of women in terminated marriages who remain  
unmarried. The legislative concern/compassion flowing in favour of  
such wives of terminated marriages who remain unmarried found  
expression in the expansive inclusion of certain categories of women  
within   the   protective   sweep   of   Sec.   125,   Cr.P.C.   It   is   thus   that  
Explanation (b) was introduced by the Parliament in the Code of  
Criminal Procedure, 1973. This inclusion raised several eye­brows.  

It will be apposite straightaway to extract Explanation (b) which is  

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crucial for the resolution of the controversy before us. Explanation  

(b) to Sec. 125 reads as follows :

Explanation.­ For the purpose of this Chapter.­

(a) xxxxx

(b) “wife” includes a woman who has been divorced by, or  
has   obtained   a   divorce   from,   her   husband   and   has   not  

13. Unilateral divorcees (wives) whose marriages stand terminated  
by acts of their husbands and persons whose marriages have been  
terminated   by   intervention   of   Courts   at   the   instance   of   either  
spouse,   are   certainly   included   within   the   sweep   of   the   inclusive  
definition of “wife”. By the norms prevalent in society such divorced  
women   (or   women   in   terminated   marriages)   are   not   wives   as  
ordinarily  understood  in language  and  law.  The  legislature  by a  
bold   intervention   included   women   of   such   terminated   marriages  
also   within   the   sweep   of   the   expression   “wife”   subject   to   an  
important rider that they should not have re­married.

14. What we intend to note is that the legislative compassion was  
in favour of a woman in a terminated marriage and who has not  
re­married.   We   may   safely   call   it   the   concern   in   favour   of   a  
destitute woman who has no one to depend on after termination of  
the  earlier  marriage  till she re­marries.  It is easy to identify  the  
concern   of   the   legislature   and   the   malady   which   the   legislature  
sought   to   remedy   by   the   enactment   of   Explanation   (b)   to   Sec.  
125(1), Cr.P.C.

15.   Societal   realities   cannot   be   ignored   by   a   Court   trying   to  
ascertain   the   reason   or   reasons   and   the   meaning   of   meanings  
which   prompted   the   legislature   to   introduce   such   an  
unconventional definition for the ‘wife’ under Sec. 125, Cr.P.C. The  
legislature   was   not   evidently   concerned   with   the   emancipated  
Indian women  ­ educated,  employed  and  having  properties.  They  
are excluded by one stroke from the operation of Sec. 125, Cr.P.C.  
as the compassion of the legislature flows only in favour of a wife ­  
actual   or   deemed   who   is   ”   unable   to   maintain   herself   “.   The  
legislative   compassion,   empathy   and   sympathy   was   flowing  
towards that section of feminine humanity in India who following  
the traditional prescription did not deserve any freedom. She had  
to   depend   on   her   father   during   childhood,   her   husband   during  
youth   and   on   her   children   during   old   age.   She   had  no   right   to  
aspire   for   freedom.   She   was   a   ‘sub   person’   always   in   need   of  
support and patronage from another. It is to the unfortunate plight  

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of   such   deprived,   underprivileged   and   marginalised   feminine  
section   of   humanity   that   the   legislature   addressed   itself   and  
conferred   the   right   under   Sec.   125,   Cr.P.C.   by   a   bold   inclusion  
under Explanation (b). Such a woman whose matrimony has been  
terminated ­ divorced unilaterally or by intervention of Courts and  
who has not been able to find the successor to whom she can look  
up for dependence, is the recipient of the legislative compassion by  
the inclusive Explanation (b) to Sec. 125, Cr.P.C. In our mind there  
can   be   no   doubt   or   confusion   on   this   crucial   aspect.   The   target  
group   of   the   legislative   compassion   and   concern   is   thus   clearly  
identifiable.  Ascertainment  of legislature  intention,  though words  
used   ­   often   inadequate,   is   the   mission   of   the  
interpreter/adjudicator.  The  adjudicator/  interpreter  shall  not  be  
unequal to the task. He should have the constitutional vision. He  
must   resonate   to   the   frequency   of   the   legislative   idealism.   So  
viewed, the target group identification is crucial.

16.   The   Indian   State,   the   functionaries   of   the   State   and   even  
citizens   have   the   duty   to   pursue   the   constitutional   idealism  
exemplified   in   the   preamble   to   the   Constitution.   Every   one,   the  
State,   its   functionaries   ­   the   legislature,   the   executive   and   the  
judiciary and the citizen have all got the obligation to be sovereign,  
socialist,   secular   and   democratic.   Constitutional   socialism   is  
certainly not any competing political ideology. If so, the pluralist  
Indian Constitution would  not have  committed itself to any such  
competing political ideology as a fundamental constitutional value.  
The   constitutional   socialism   has   its   foundation   on   humane  
humanism   which   the   fundamental   duty   under   Art.   51A(h)  
commands every Indian citizen to develop. Concern for the weak,  
compassion  for  the  marginalised,  sympathy and  empathy for the  
deprived, helpless and hapless is undoubtedly the signature tune of 
Indian   constitutional   socialism.   We   find   the   compassion   of   the  
socialist   legislature   flowing   in   favour   of   the   deprived   section   of  
feminine humanity who are unable to find a Saviour to give them  
comfort,   protection   and   dignity   of   life   consequent   to   the  
unfortunate termination of their matrimony and their inability to  
get settled in their life thereafter by re­marriage.

17.   How   is   the   legislative   prescription   in   Sec.   125,   Cr.   P.C.  
including  Explanation (b) to Sec. 125, Cr. P.C. to be understood  
and interpreted by an adjudicator with due constitutional moorings  
and values. This is the question that calls for consideration.

18. The legislature is a body. Its concern and vision are reflected in 
the   words   of   the   Statute.   Words   and   semantics   have   their  

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limitation. The language of the legislature is that of the draftsman.  
No legislature can use language which covers all situations and can  
offer   precise   and   specific   resolution   for   the   myriad   and   varied  
situations that may arise before the adjudicator/interpreter when  
law actually operates.  Inadequacies  of language  cannot  interrupt  
the flow of the legislature compassion. That is where the role of the  
interpreter/adjudicator   comes   in.   The   axiom   that   the   legislature  
uses appropriate language and that the intention of the legislature  
is fully expressed in the language used in the Statute is trite. That  
Courts   cannot   legislate   is   equally   trite.   These   are   doctrines   of  
expediency and not invariable truth. But all this cannot persuade  
an   interpreter   to   abdicate   his   jurisdiction   and   obligation   to  
decipher the meaning of meanings and the reason or reasons. An  
interpreter   must   have   the   trained   competence   to   jump   over  
insignificant   fences   and   lead   the   polity   to   the   legislative  
destinations.   An   interpreter   who   succumbs   to   technicality   and  
throws   his   hands   up   too   easily   lacks   the   requisite   constitutional  
commitment.   He   lacks   foresight   and   vision   of   the   promised  
constitutional   and   statutory   destination.   Imperfections   and  
inadequacies   of   language   cannot   deter   an   interpreter   when   the  
legislative intentions and purpose are clearly identifiable.

19.   In   a   situation   like   this,   this   Court   can   certainly   draw  
inspiration   from   the   words   of   Hon’ble   Justice   Krishna   Iyer   in  
paragraph   9   of  Ramesh   Chander   Kaushal,   Captain   v.   Veena 
Kaushal (AIR 1978 Supreme Court 1807).  We extract the said  
passage   below   which   can   perpetually   inspire  
adjudicator/interpreters   struggling   to   find   the   meaning   of  
meanings   and   the   reason   of   reasons.   Dealing   with   the  
interpretation  of Sec. 125, Cr. P.C. Justice Krishna Iyer observed  
thus in paragraph 9 :

“This provision is a measure of social justice and specifically  
enacted to protect women and children and falls within the  
constitutional sweep of Art. 15(3) reinforced by Art. 39. We  
have   no   doubt   that   sections   of   Statutes   calling   for  
construction  by  Courts   are   not  petrified   print   but  vibrant  
words with social functions to fulfil. The brooding presence  
of the  constitutional  empathy  for  the  weaker  sections  like  
women and children must inform interpretation if it has to  
have social relevance. So viewed, it is possible to be selective  
in   picking   out   that   interpretation   out   of   two   alternatives  
which advances the cause ­ the cause of the derelicts.”

(Emphasis supplied)

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20. Arguments have been advanced before us about the manner in  
which   such   a   deemed   inclusive   definition   of   wife   has   to   be  
understood. We have already noted that wife in language and law  
does not include a divorced wife (a wife whose matrimony stands  
terminated either unilaterally or by operation of law and who has  
not   re­married).   Legislature   has   employed   the   technique   of  
including within the sweep of the expression “wife” in Sec. 125(1)

(a) non­wives who do not ordinarily fall within the meaning of the  
expression in law and language. It is artificial inclusion of certain  
persons   within   the   sweep   of   a   definition   not   justified   by   the  
meaning ordinarily assignment to the expression in language and  
law. There is actually a fiction and deeming pressed into service by  
the   legislature.   To   include   certain   categories   of   women   not  
ordinarily   falling   within   the   sweep   of   the   expression   “wife”,   the  
legislature has employed the technique of inclusive fiction. They are  
not   wives   stricto   senso;   but   they   are   included   as   wives   in   the  
definition by the legislature. Can our claimant/wife be included in  
that   target   group   of   deemed   wives,   women   is   distress,   is   the  
burning concern before us.

21. As to how an inclusive definition has to be understood, counsel  
have advanced detailed arguments. Observations in paragraph 10  
in State of Bombay v. Hospital Mazdoor Sabha (AIR 1960 SC  

610) is pressed into service.

“It   is   obvious   that   the   words,   used   in   inclusive   definition  
denote extension and cannot be treated as restricted in any  
sense.   (Vide   :   Stroud’s   “Judicial   Dictionary”,   Vol.   2,   p.  
1415). Where we are dealing with an inclusive definition it 
would   be   inappropriate   to   put   a   restrictive   interpretation  
upon terms of wider denotation”.

22. It is unnecessary to advert to more precedents on this aspect.  
However,   we   remind   ourselves   of   one   subsequent   decision   in   P.  
Kasilingam  v. P.S.G. College  of Technology  (AIR 1995  SC 1395)  
where justice S. C. Agrawal observed that :

“the word “includes” when used enlarges the meaning of the  
expression defined so as to comprehend not only such things  
as they signify according to their natural import; but also  
those   things   which   the   clause   declares   that   they   shall  

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23.   A   literal   reading   of   Explanation   (b)   might   convey   that   a  
woman in order to claim inclusion in the sweep of the expression  
“wife” by the deemed definition must necessarily have been divorced  
or   obtained   a  divorce   from   her   husband   and   must   not   have   re­
married. What is the sweep of the expression “divorced by or has  
obtained   a   divorce   from”.   Can   by   a   process   of   interpretative  
expansion the wives in annulled marriages also be included within  
the sweep of Explanation (b)? This is the challenging controversy  
that is raised before us.

24. It may be apposite in this context to go to the body of Sec. 125  
and the very fundamentals. Liability under Sec. 125 is only on the  
husband to maintain his wife. The liability is not on “the spouse”  
having   sufficient   means   to   maintain   the   other   spouse   unable   to  
maintain himself/herself. Only the man and not the woman can be  
made liable under Sec. 125 to maintain his spouse. It is relevant to  
note that though the legislature had cautiously included legitimate  
as well as illegitimate children within the sweep of Clauses (b) and  

(c)   of   Sec.   125,   the   legislature   did   not   choose   to   include   the  
illegitimate, non­formal or de facto wives within the sweep of Sec.  
125 by specific employment of words. It appears that the expression  
“wife”  used  in Sec.  125  was  intended  to refer  to legitimate/legal  
wives. That undoubtedly is the interpretation of the Supreme Court  
in a line of decisions. We may broadly refer to the three mile stones  
namely Yamunabai Anantrao v. Anantrao Shivaram (1988 (1)  
SCC 530 : (AIR 1988  SC 644));  Vimala v. Veeraswami  (1991  
(2) SCC 375 : (1991 AIR SCW 754)) and  Savitaben Somabhai  
Bhatiya v. State of Gujarat (2005 (3) SCC 636 : (AIR 2005 SC  
1809)). The position appears to be well settled. Under Sec. 125 as  
interpreted   in   these   decisions   proof   of   formal   and   legal  
solemnization is necessary to bring a spouse within the sweep of the  
expression “wife” in Sec. 125(1)(a). Formal entry to the legal and  
valid institution of matrimony is essential as per these precedents.  
Mere   relationships   in   the   nature   of   marriage   have   to   be  
distinguished  from  formal  and  legal  marriages.   As  per  the  three  
decisions referred above the former is not entitled to and the latter  
alone   is   entitled   to   claim   rights   under   Sec.   125,   Cr.   P.C.   At   a 
certain point of time in the development of society certainly such  
insistence on formal solemnization of marriage by performance of  
rituals   became   essential   to   confer   on   the   spouses   the   status   of 
legally wedded spouses. Marriage is the foundation of family and  
the most basic of all human institutions in society. The same has to  
be   distinguished   from   non­formal   relationships   of   expediency.  
Arrangements for carnal satisfaction ­ mere satisfaction of physical  
demand   of   sexuality,   have   to   be   distinguished   from   the   formal  
solemn   relationship   of   marriage.   Intention   to   enter   matrimony  

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should   be   unequivocally   declared   by   formal   solemnization   of  
marriage   in   accordance   with   personal   law.   Intention   to   enter  
matrimony may be inferred from long cohabitation of parties and  
acts of parties. But wherever status is in dispute, proof of formal  
solemnization of marriage in accordance with personal law has to  
be   insisted.   This   is   the   irreducible   desideratum   that   Anatrao,  
Vimala and Savitaben insist.

25.   In   a   knowledge   society   such   insistence   on   solemnization   by  
rituals   will   certainly   be   open   to   challenge.   These   rituals   of  
solemnization were earlier insisted traditionally in ancient society  
to distinguish between a real intention to enter formal matrimony  
from   other   non­formal   relationships.   It   may   be   difficult   in   a  
knowledge   society   to   sell   the   idea   that   formal   declarations   in  
documents   including   unquestioned   registered   documents   are  
insufficient   and   want   of   ritualistic   solemnization   would   detract  
against such intention to enter matrimony formally. Solemnization  
used to be insisted only as unmistakable expression of intention to  
formally enter matrimony. Certainly in a knowledge society Courts  
cannot continue with such ritualistic insistence on performance of  
rituals  for solemnization.  For a modern Indian who has imbibed  
the constitutional fundamental duty to be reasonable ­ to develop  
the   scientific   temper,   humanism   and   the   spirit   of   inquiry   and  
reform, as insisted under Art. 51A(h), such insistence may appear  
to be empty and hollow. However, the fact remains that the law as  
it now stands insists on formal ritual solemnization of marriage in  
accordance   with   the   respective   personal   law.   Under   the   secular  
general law, formal verbal and express written declarations have  
been held to be sufficient. A right to be irrational in matters of faith  
cannot   obviously   be   claimed   even   in   our   secular   republic   which  
tolerates all religious faiths. Bold innovations in law must come in  
a knowledge  society where  the citizens  right to enter  matrimony  
cannot depend on the involvement of the pundit, monk or khazi. By  
giving   expression   of   their   unmistakable   intention   to   marry   in  
unquestionable   documents   it   must   be   possible   in   a   knowledge  
society   for   a   young   man   and   woman,   who   do   not   deny   their  
religion,   to   enter   valid   matrimony.   We   can   certainly   foresee   a  
future date where emphasis and accent will not be on performance  
of   empty   rituals   which   may   not   have   relevance   in   the   modern  
society.   The   search   in   future   will   certainly   be   to   unambiguous  
evidence of intention to create and enter such formal relationship of  
marriage. Expressed intention in undisputed documents may have  
to be  given  due  weight  undoubtedly  in the  proof  of marriage  in  

26.   The   learned   counsel   for   the   claimant/wife   and   the   amicus  

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curiae laboriously contend that distinction must be drawn on the  
basis of the purpose  for which proof of marriage  is insisted.  The  
purpose   is   important.   For   the   purpose   of   succession   and   for  
ascertainment of legal status, totally different considerations may  
apply as distinguished from mere claims for maintenance, support  
and   alimony.   The   observations   of   the   Bombay   High   Court   in  
Bhausaheb alias Sandu v. Leela Bai (AIR 2004 Bombay 283)  
cited   by   the   learned   amicus   curiae   does   appear   to   be   crucially  
relevant and perfectly acceptable to us :

“It would not be permissible to include in the term “wife” or  
“widow”, that relationship which is not recognized by law.  
However, there can be class of persons who are “illegitimate  
wives or widows” who can be the subject of benefaction of  
law of maintenance,  notwithstanding  that eventually their  
legal status is annulled . For the purpose of the Succession  
Act  and  the  Maintenance  Act the  terms  “wife  and  widow”  
would   have  a   restricted   articulate   legal   meaning,   that   by  
itself would not be the position when the matter arises for  
the   purpose   of   providing   the   measures   of   sustenance   on  
considerations of justice and fair play involved and basic to  
all human and social relations.”

(Emphasis supplied)

27. We find considerable merit in this approach. Ascertainment of  
legal   status   for   the   purpose   of   succession   etc.   will   have   to   be  
distinguished   certainly   from   the   ascertainment   of   the   legal  
relationship  for  the purpose  of mere  avoidance  of vagrancy.  Sec.  

125,   Cr.   P.C.   is   not   in   any   way   concerned   with   declaration   of  
status. It deals only with the avowed object of preventing vagrancy  
in the polity. Ascertainment of strict legal relationship is not legally  
necessary when we consider the object and purpose of Sec. 125, Cr.  

28.  Winds of change  are blowing  across our judicial system.  The  
concept   that   a   de   facto   wife/illegitimate   wife   so­called   is   also  
entitled for maintenance is being progressively accepted. A perusal  
of   the   relevant   provisions   of   the   Protection   of   Women   from  
Domestic   Violence   Act,   2005   (for   short   ‘the   DVA’)   makes   the  
position   eloquent.   Monetary   relief   including   maintenance   is  
declared to be available to an aggrieved person under Sec. 20 of the  
DVA. An aggrieved person as per Sec. 2(a) is a woman who is or  
has been in a domestic relationship with the respondent. “Domestic  
relationship”   is   defined   under   Sec.   2(f)   of   the   DVA   as   the  

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relationship between two persons who live or have at any point of  
time lived together in a shared household when they are related by  
consanguinity, marriage or through a relationship in the nature of 
marriage or adoption. A shared household is again defined in Sec.  
2(s) of the DVA to mean a household where the aggrieved person  
lives or has lived in a domestic relationship with the respondent.  
We need not delve deeper into the provisions of the DVA. The crux  
of the change brought about by the DVA is that the monetary relief  
of   maintenance   can   be   claimed   not   only   by   wives   in   legal  
matrimony   but   also   by   women   related   to   men   through  
relationships in the nature of marriage also. The law has taken a  
great stride forward to ensure security for and to prevent vagrancy  
in respect of such women who have relationships in the nature of  
marriage  with  the  person  against  whom  the  claim  is made.  Not  
only those living in such relationship; but also those who at any  
point   of   time   had   lived   together   in   such   relationship   are   also  
entitled to the monetary relief of maintenance under Sec. 20 of the  

29.   The   concept   was   well   entrenched   in   our   society   that  
maintenance  can  be claimed  only  by a legitimate  and  legal  wife  
and not by a woman who had shared a relationship in the nature  
of   marriage.   But   changes   have   come   about.   Today   women   who  
share   a   relationship   in   the   nature   of   marriage   can   also   claim  
maintenance.   Meretricious   relationships   are   excluded;   but   other  
relationships   in   the   nature   of   marriage   which   fall   within   the  
definition   of   “domestic   relationship”   in   Sec.   2(f)   of   the   DVA  are  
reckoned as sufficient if those in such relationships live or had lived  
together   in   a   shared   household   to   entitle   them   to   the   relief   of  
maintenance under Sec. 20(1)(d) of the DVA. Entrenched concepts  
are   undergoing   transformation/change.   We   are   conscious   of   the  
decision in D. Velusamy v. D. Patchaimmal (AIR 2011 SC 479)  
in which guidelines are given to ascertain whether a relationship  
not amounting to formal marriage can be reckoned as sufficient to  
bring the relationship within the sweep of “domestic relationship”  
in Sec. 2(f) of the DVA. We need now only observe that proof of the  
formal   relationship   of   marriage   is   no   more   essential   under   the  
Indian   law   to   entitle   a   woman   to   claim   the   monetary   relief   of  
maintenance under Sec. 20(1)(d) of the DVA.

30.   This   change   in   the   law   must   necessarily   get   reflected   in 
understanding the concept of wife under Sec. 125(1)(a), Cr. P.C.  
We take note of submission of the learned amicus curiae that under  
Sec.   26(1)   of   the   DVA   which   we   extract   below,   it   is   open   to   a  
claimant   in   a   petition   under   Sec.   125,   Cr.   P.C.   to   claim   the  
monetary relief of maintenance under Sec. 20(1)(b) :

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“26. Relief in other  suits and legal proceedings  .­ (1) Any  
relief available under Sections 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 may  
also be sought in any legal proceedings, before a civil Court,  
family   Court   or   a  criminal   Court,   affecting   the   aggrieved  
person   and   the   respondent   whether   such   proceedings   was  
initiated before or after the commencement of this Act.
(2) Any relief referred to in sub­section (1) may be sought  
for in addition to and along with any other relief that the  
aggrieved person may seek in such suit or legal proceeding  
before a civil Court or criminal Court.

(3) In case any relief has been obtained  by the  aggrieved  
person  in any   proceedings   other  than  a proceeding  under  
this Act, she shall be bound to inform the Magistrate of the  
grant of such relief.”

We agree with the learned amicus curiae that, in the light of Sec.  
26   of   the   DVA,   the   provisions   of   the   DVA   in   relation   to   the  
monetary relief of maintenance have been brought into Sec. 125,  
Cr.   P.C.   and   it   would   be   idle   to   attempt   to   understand   the  
expression   “wife”   in   Sec.   125   without   reference   to   the   concepts  
which   have   been   accepted   by   the   Indian   legal   system   by   the  
enactment of the DVA. By Sec. 26 we agree that provision to claim  
maintenance by a woman in non­formal relationship of marriage  
with the respondent has also been brought into Sec. 125, Cr. P.C.  
by   incorporation.   If   the   expression   “wife”   can   be   understood   to  
include   a   woman   in   domestic   relationship   entitled   to   claim  
maintenance under Sec. 20(1)(d) of the DVA, there shall thereafter  
be   no   meaning   or   retionale   in   the   insistence   on   proof   of  
formal/legal   relationship   of   wife   to   entitle   her   for   maintenance  
under Sec. 125, Cr. P.C. “Wife” under Sec. 125, Cr. P.C. will then  
have to include a woman in domestic relationship under the DVA.

31.  In the light  of the DVA  and  particularly  Sec.  26 thereof  the  
decision in Anatrao, Vimala and Savitaben may definitely have to  
be re­visited and re­interpreted. We do not think it necessary for us  
to   come   to   any   final   conclusions   on   that   question.   The   same   is  
unnecessary for our purpose in this proceedings where we are only  
trying   to   understand   whether   the   inclusive   definition   under  
Explanation (b) would take in a wife in an annulled marriage. We  
do   note   that   the   Supreme   Court   in  Chanmuniya   v.   Virnedra  
Kumar   Singh   Gushawa  ((2011)   1   SCC   141   :   (AIR   2010   SC  
(Supp) 29)) has already referred the question to a larger Bench for  
decision.   The   Nation   and   the   legal   community   are   anxiously  

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awaiting  the decision in Chanmuniya.  We are informed  that the  
said case has not been decided yet by the Supreme Court.

32.   We   now   come   to   the   immediate   problem   before   us   as   to  
whether   the   wife   in   an   annulled   marriage   can   fall   within   the  
inclusive definition under Explanation (b).

33. What is the legal effect of a decree for nullity under Sec. 12 of  
the   Hindu   Marriage   Act   ?   Does   it   altogether   obliterate   and  
annihilate the duly solemnized marriage? What is the distinction  
between void marriages and voidable marriages? Is that distinction  
in any way relevant while considering the claim for inclusion of the  
wife in an annulled marriage also within the sweep of Explanation  

(b) to Sec. 125(1), Cr. P.C.

34. According to the Hindu Marriage Act, the marriage can be void  
or voidable. A valid marriage can be ordered to be dissolved also.  
Under  Sec.   11  of the  Hindu  Marriage   Act  certain  marriages  are  
declared to be null and void. Such null and void marriages can be  
treated   as   nonest   by   the   parties   and   others.   However,   such  
marriage   can   be   declared   to   be   null   and   void   by   the   Court   by  
issuing a decree of nullity. A marriage will be null and void and can  
be declared to be null and void under Sec. 11 only if the marriage  
contravenes the conditions specified in Clauses (i), (iv) and (v) of  
Sec. 5. This is clear from Sec. 11.

35.  Under  Sec.  12 of the Hindu Marriage  Act,  certain  marriages  
shall be voidable and may be annulled by a decree of nullity on any  
one of the four specified grounds under Sec. 12(1)(a) to (d). Such  
marriages,  it  is trite,  are  valid  in accordance  with  law   and  will  
continue   to   be   valid   until   the   Court   by   a   decree   annuls   the  
marriage on any one of the specific grounds. In short, the marriage  
is valid in law and will continue to be valid until it is annulled by a  
decree of nullity under Sec. 12. Precedents galore to suggest that  
such marriages are valid and even assuming that Grounds (a) to  

(d) of Sec. 11 exist to vitiate the marriage, parties by their conduct  
can   accept   such   marriage   and   in   the   absence   of   a   decree   for  
annulment such marriage will continue to be valid for all purposes.  
It   is   crucial   to   note   that   severance   of   a   solemnized   voidable  
marriage   can  be   done  only   at  the   instance   of  the   spouses.   Such  
severance is only on their volition. This is crucial while considering  
the ply of Explanation (b) to Sec. 125(1), Cr. P.C.

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36.  Sec.  13  of  the  Hindu  Marriage  Act  deals  with  divorce.  By a  
decree for divorce, on grounds specified under Sec. 13, the marriage  
can be dissolved by the Court. The grounds are specified in Sec. 13.  
The effect of a decree under Secs. 11, 12 and 13 therefore appears  
to be different. The first under Sec. 11 is null and void. It can be  
treated as null and void by the parties and others. If necessary, the  
parties can seek the assistance of the Court for declaration of such  
nullity. In the eye of law such a marriage does not exist.

37. A decree of annulment brings to termination a marriage which  
in   fact   has   been   solemnized.   But   for   such   decree   by   which   such  
marriage is brought to an end, the marriage would have continued  
to be valid. Parties have the option to reckon the marriage as valid.  
They have the option to seek severance by a decree for annulment.

38.   The   third   category   of   terminated   marriages   are   valid  
marriages. They continue to be valid. Their validity is accepted and  
conceded by the Court when it grants a decree for dissolution. The  
decree   for   divorce   terminates   the   marital   tie   which   is   valid   and  
accepted to be valid.

39. What are the consequences of a decree passed under any one of  
these three Sections ­ Secs. 11, 12 and 13. This question assumes  
importance   when   we   undertake   the   specific   task   of   ascertaining  
whether a decree of annulment under Sec. 12 would enable the wife  
in such marriage to claim maintenance under Sec. 125, Cr. P.C.

40. For the purpose of the dispute before us it is not necessary to  
consider whether the wife whose marriage is or has been declared  
to be null and void under Sec. 11 of the Hindu Marriage Act would  
be   entitled   to   claim   maintenance   under   Sec.   125,   Cr.   P.C.   The  
decisions in Anatrao, Vimala and Savitaben appear to clearly lay  
down   that   such   a   woman   will   not   be   a   wife   and   would  
consequently not be entitled for maintenance  under Sec. 125, Cr.  
P.C. We await the decision in  Chanmuniya v. Virnedra Kumar  
Singh Gushawa ((2011) 1 SCC 141 : (AIR 2010 SC (Supp) 29))  
and it is not necessary for us to express any opinion on the claim of  
such a woman for maintenance under Sec. 125, Cr. P.C.

41. About the claim of a woman whose marriage has been dissolved  
by a decree for divorce under Sec. 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act,  
there is no dispute. She will certainly be included within the sweep  
of Explanation (b) to Sec. 125(1), Cr. P.C.

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42.   The   precise   question   to   be   considered   is   whether   a   woman  
whose marriage is annulled under Sec. 12 of the Hindu Marriage  
Act  can  be included  within the sweep  of Explanation  (b) to Sec.  
125(1), Cr. P.C. A reference to the language of Sec. 12 may be of 
relevance. A marriage attracting Grounds (a) to (d) of Sec. 12(1)  
“shall be voidable and may be annulled by a decree of nullity.” This  
is all that is mentioned in Sec. 12. The effect or consequence of a  
marriage annulled under Sec. 12 is not declared by the legislature  
in any provision of the Hindu Marriage Act. The marriage is said to  
be voidable and may be annulled by a decree of nullity. This is all  
that is stated.  We note again that such a marriage shall remain  
and continue to be valid for all purposes unless it is annulled by a 
decree under Sec. 12 of the Hindu Marriage Act. Parties have the  
option to treat the marriage as valid. If they do not go to Court and  
seek a decree annulling the marriage under Sec. 12 the same shall  
continue to be valid for all intents and purposes. A marriage duly  
solemnized gets annulled only if parties in their volition approach  
the   Court   to   get   the   same   terminated   in   accordance   with   the  
provisions of Sec. 12 of the Hindu Marriage Act. The consequence of  
such annulment is not specifically declared.

43. What are the consequences in fact and in law? This has to be  
considered.   The   learned   counsel   for   the   respondent/husband  
contends   that   once   a   marriage   is   annulled   under   Sec.   12   as   a  
voidable marriage, it ceases to exist in the eye of law. Thereafter it  
is impermissible to reckon such voidable marriage as valid for any  
purpose. A decree of annulment under Sec. 12 will have the effect of  
obliterating and annihilating the marriage solemnized. Therefore it 
is not a case of a marriage being terminated as in the case of a  
decree for divorce/dissolution under Sec. 13. It is a case of there  
being   no   marriage   at   all.   No   rights   or   liabilities   can   stem   or  
emanate from such a marriage which is annulled under Sec. 12 of  
the Hindu Marriage Act, contends counsel.

44.   We   find   it   difficult   to   persuade   ourselves   to   accept   this  
contention. The learned counsel for the claimant/wife contends that  
a decree of annulment cannot certainly restore the parties to their  
position prior to marriage, in fact. The solemnized marriage is a  
reality. Law cannot close its eyes to such solemnized marriage. Law  
cannot ignore the fact that the spouses had lived as husband and  
wife in such matrimony for some period of time. Law cannot afford  
to ignore the fact that it is the volition of the parties which had led  
to   the   annulment   of   the   marriage   under   Sec.   12   of   the   Hindu  
Marriage   Act.   They   could   have   treated   the   same   to   be   valid.  

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Conduct of parties has a crucial bearing in a decree of annulment  
under Sec. 12.

45.  We find force in this submission. In the Indian context where  
the virginity of a woman is given utmost importance, she can never,  
in fact,  re­claim  her  status  as a spinster  after  annulment  of her  
marriage under Sec. 12 of the Hindu Marriage Act. She has lost her  
maidenhood.   In   the   eye   of   society   she   has   lost   her   virginity.  
Whatever be the law, on declaration of nullity or voidness of the  
marriage,   in   fact,   she   will   continue   to   be   the   woman   in   a  
terminated marriage. Her maidenhood is lost. If she wants to enter  
matrimony   again,   society   will   reckon   the   same   only   as   a   re­
marriage with all its inadequacies and inconveniences. One cannot  
wish away a solemnized  marriage  merely because  such marriage  
has been annulled at the volition of parties by a Court by passing a  
decree   under   Sec.   12.   What   we   intend   to   note   is   that   there   is  
undoubted transformation of the status of a woman from a maiden  
to the woman in a terminated marriage. In fact, consistent with the  
societal   norms   she   ceases   to   be   a   maiden.   Her   re­marriage   will  
ordinarily be a difficult and uphill task. She would be left in the  
lurch without any one to support until her re­marriage takes place.  
We are only attempting to satisfy and convince ourselves that such  
a   woman   certainly   falls   within   the   target   group   of   unfortunate  
women   in  whose   favour   the   legislative   compassion   gets  eloquent  
expression  by the enactment  of Explanation  (b) to Sec.  125,  Cr.  

46.   It   is   not   as   though   the   law   assumes   that   such   an   annulled  
marriage can be ignored, overlooked or forgotten for all purposes.  
We shall now look into the eventualities pointed out by the learned  
amicus curiae and the learned counsel for the claimant/wife where  
the   law   realistically   takes   into   account   the   different   status   of  
spouses in an annulled marriage. The law also does not reckon or  
accept that because of a decree for annulment, such marriage can  
be ignored, overlooked or forgotten for all purposes.

47.   Before   considering   the   specific   instances   under   the   Hindu  
Marriage   Act,   we   take   note   of   the   submissions   of   Dr.   Sebastian  
Champappilly,   the   learned   amicus   curiae   on   how   other  
jurisprudential   systems   have   considered   the   issue.   The   learned  
amicus   curiae   points   out   that   in   England   under   Sec.   23   of  
Matrimonial   Causes   Act,   1973   it   has   been   made   clear   that   in 
respect  of financial provisions  orders, a decree  for divorce  and  a  
decree for nullity stand on the same footing. The learned counsel  
points  out that in  White v. White (2000) the House of Lords  

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(decision dated 26­10­2000) has instructed Courts to assume an  
equal split of matrimonial assets on divorce or nullity. All systems  
are realistically accepting progressively the need to have identical  
proprietory consequences following a decree for nullity and divorce,  
argues counsel. We take note of these submissions, though we do  
not want to found any conclusions on such submissions.

48. We now take into consideration Sec. 16 of the Hindu Marriage  
Act.  We extract Sec.  16(2)  which deals  with the fate of children  
begotten in a marriage annulled under Sec. 12. Sec. 16(2) reads as  
follows :

“16.   Legitimacy   of   children   of   void   and   voidable 
marriages .­ (1) xxx xxx
(2)   Where   a   decree   of   nullity   is   granted   in   respect   of   a  
voidable marriage under Section 12, any child begotten or  
conceived before the decree is made, who would have been  
the legitimate child of the parties to the marriage if at the  
date   of   the   decree   it   had   been   dissolved   instead   of   being  
annulled,   shall   be   deemed   to   be   their   legitimate   child  
notwithstanding the decree of nullity.”

A child born in such marriage annulled under Sec. 12 is equated  
with   a   child   born   in   a   marriage   dissolved   by   a   decree   for  
dissolution under Sec. 13. All that we intend to take note is that  
the   legislature   itself   has   equated   the   consequences   of   a   decree  
annulling   marriage   under   Sec.   12   to   a   decree   for   dissolution  
(divorce) under Sec. 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act for a specified  
purpose.   Depending   on   the   purpose   to   be   served/achieved   it   is  
possible, it is evident that the annulled marriage can be reckoned to  
have   the   same   effect   as   a   dissolved   marriage.   So   far   as   the  
legitimacy  of children  born,  Sec.  16(2)  declares  that  there  is  no  
distinction   between   a   marriage   annulled   under   Sec.   12   and   a  
marriage dissolved under Sec. 13. That to our mind is of crucial  

49. Another instance is pointed out in Sec. 25. Even the wife of a  
marriage annulled under Sec. 12 is entitled for permanent alimony  
and maintenance. We extract Sec. 25(1) below :

“25.   Permanent   alimony   and   maintenance   .­  (1)   Any  
Court exercising jurisdiction under this Act may, at the time  
of passing any decree or at any time subsequent thereto, on  

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application made to it for the purpose by either the wife or  
the husband, as the case may be, order that the respondent  
shall pay to the applicant for her or his maintenance and  
support such gross sum or such monthly or periodical sum  
for a term not exceeding the life of the applicant as, having  
regard to the respondent’s own income and other property,  
if any, the income and other property of the applicant, the  
conduct of the parties and other circumstances of the case, it  
may seem to the Court to be just, and any such payment  
may be secured, if necessary, by a charge on the immovable  
property of the respondent.”

The Section comes into operation “at the time of passing any decree  
or at any time subsequent thereto”.  A question arose whether for  
the purpose of grant of permanent alimony and maintenance wife  
of a marriage annulled under Sec. 12 can be reckoned as identical  
to a wife in a marriage dissolved under Sec. 13. It is now trite after  
the decision in  Rameshchandra v. Rameshwari (AIR 2005 SC  

422)  that   the   wife   in   an   annulled   marriage   is   also   entitled   for  
permanent alimony and maintenance under Sec. 25 of the Hindu  
Marriage   Act.   A   reference   to   the   following   observations   in  
paragraph 17 of Rameshchandra does appear to us to be crucially  

“17. In the present case, on the husband’s petition, a decree  
declaring   the   second   marriage   as   null   and   void   has   been  
granted.   The   learned   counsel   has   argued   that   where   the  
marriage is found to be null and void­meaning non­existent  
in eye of law or non est, the present respondent cannot lay a  
claim   as   wife   for   grant   of   permanent   alimony   or  
maintenance. We have critically examined the provisions of  
Section 25 in the light of conflicting decisions of the High  
Court cited before us. In our considered opinion, as has been  
held  by  this  Court  in  Chand  Dhawan’s case (1993  AIR  
SCW  2548)  (supra),  the   expression   used   in   the   opening  
part of Section 25 enabling the ‘Court exercising jurisdiction  
under the Act’ ‘at the time of passing any decree or at any  
time subsequent thereto’ to grant alimony or maintenance  
cannot be restricted only to, as contended, decree of judicial  
separation  under  Section  10  or divorce  under  Section  13.  

When  the legislature  has used  such wide expression  as ‘at  
the time of passing of any decree’, it encompasses within the  
expression all kinds of decrees such as restitution of conjugal  
rights under Section 9, judicial separation under Section 10,  
declaring   marriage   as   null   and   void   under   Section   11,  
annulment  of marriage  as voidable  under  Section  12  and  

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Divorce under Section 13.”

The   learned   Judges   proceeded   to   consider   the   purpose   and   the  
rationale   underlying   the   statutory   stipulations   and   proceeded   to 
hold in paragraph­19 as follows :

“It   is   with   the   purpose   of   not   rendering   a   financially  
dependent spouse destitute that S. 25 enables the Court to  
award maintenance at the time of passing any type of decree  
resulting in breach in marriage relationship.”

50. Rameshchandra (as also the earlier decisions on which reliance  
is placed in that decision) is reckoned  by us as authority for the  
proposition that an annulled marriage does not altogether deprive  
a   financially   dependent   destitute   wife   of   her   right   to   claim  
maintenance/alimony on the basis of such annulled relationship of  
marriage. For the purpose of Sec. 25, it is crucial that the wife in  
an annulled marriage under Sec. 12 is reckoned as identical to a 
wife   whose   marriage   is   dissolved   by   a   decree   for   dissolution   of  
marriage under Sec. 13. Under the civil (personal law) the woman  
in an annulled  marriage  is entitled  to claim  permanent  alimony  
and   maintenance.   That   must   carry   us   far   in   the   journey   to 
ascertain   whether   such   a   woman   in   an   annulled   marriage   is  
entitled   to   claim   maintenance   under   the   secular   law   (Code   of  
Criminal Procedure) where the accent is to prevent destitution and  
vagrancy.   If   she   can   claim   such   permanent   alimony   and  
maintenance under the personal law under certain conditions, we  
can   locate  no   valid   reason   to   deny   such   maintenance   under   the  
secular law if she satisfies the conditions specified in such law.

51.   It   of   course   true   that   Sec.   25   permits   even   the   wife   whose  
marriage is declared to be null and void by a Court under a decree  
passed under Sec. 11 to be eligible to claim maintenance. We need  
not delve deeper into the claim of a wife whose marriage is declared  
null and void by a decree under Sec. 11. What we need note is only  
that no such right is seen conceded to a woman in respect of whose  
marriage   no   decree   whatsoever   is   claimed   and   the   marriage   is  
reckoned to be null and void and ab initio by the declaration under  
Sec.   11.   We   take   note   of   Sec.   25   only   to   satisfy   ourselves   that  
annulment   of   marriage   under   Sec.   12   does   not   obliterate   or  
annihilate   the   solemnized   marriage   for   the   purpose   of   granting  
permanent maintenance/alimony under Sec. 25. For the purpose of  
Sec.   25,   there   is   equation   of   the   wife   in   an   annulled   marriage  
under Sec. 12 with the wife in a dissolved marriage under Sec. 13.

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52. Our attention has now been brought to Sec. 15 of the Hindu  
Marriage Act. We extract Sec. 15 below :

“15. Divorced person when may marry again .­ When a  
marriage   has   been   dissolved   by   a   decree   of   divorce   and  
either  there is no right of appeal against the decree  or, if 
there is such a right of appeal, the time for appealing has  
expired   without   an   appeal   having   been   presented,   or   an  
appeal has been presented but has been dismissed, it shall be  
lawful for either party to the marriage to marry again.”

(Emphasis supplied)

This section deals with the right of a spouse in a marriage dissolved  
by a decree for divorce to marry again. By the plain language of  
Sec. 15 of Act can apply only “when a marriage has been dissolved  
by   a   decree   for   divorce”.  Even   though   the   Hindu   Marriage   Act  
speaks of declaration of nullity of a void marriage under Sec. 11,  
annulment   of   a   voidable   marriage   under   Sec.   12   and   the  
dissolution of a valid marriage by a decree for divorce under Sec.  

13, Sec. 15 specifically refers only to an instance when a marriage  
has   been   dissolved   by   a   decree   for   divorce.  The   question   arose  
whether the spouse in an annulled marriage under Sec. 12 is also  
subject to the same restriction/disability in respect of re­marriage.  
Going by the plain and express words of Sec. 15, it was possible to  
contend that it applies only to a person whose marriage has been  
dissolved by a decree for divorce under Sec. 13. The Supreme Court  
in  Smt.   Lata   Kamat   v.   Vilas   (AIR   1989   SC   1477)  
unambiguously came to the conclusion that spouses in an annulled  
marriage under Sec. 12 or in a dissolved marriage under Sec. 13  
would  all fall within  the sweep  of the expression  “dissolved  by a  
decree for divorce”.  The following  observations  in paragraph­7 of  
Smt. Lata Kamat does appear to us to be crucial:

“It is no doubt true  that these two sections  have  different  
phraseology.   In   Sec.   12   it   is   said   that   the   marriage   be  
annulled   by   a   decree   of   nullity   whereas   in   S.   13,   the  
phraseology used is “dissolved by decree of divorce”  but in  
substance the meaning of the two may be different under the  
circumstances  and  on  the  facts  of each  case  but the  legal  
meaning or the effect is that by intervention of the Court the  
relationship between two spouses has been severed either in  
accordance   with   the   provisions   of   S.   12   or   in   accordance  
with the provisions of S. 13. Probably it is because of this  

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reason   that   the   phrase   ‘decree   of   nullity’   and   ‘decree   of  
divorce’ have not been defined.”

(Emphasis supplied)

53. Later in the same judgment in paragraph­7 the learned Judges  
proceeded to make the following observations:

“This   phrase   ‘marriage   has   been   dissolved   by   a   decree   of  
divorce’ will only mean where the relationship of marriage  
has been brought to an end  by the process  of Court by a  

The   above   observations   in   paragraph­7   of   Smt.   Lata   Kamat   do  
appear to us to be crucially relevant as we are considering these  
issues for the purpose of deciding whether the expression “a woman  
who   has   been   divorced   by,   or   has   obtained   a   divorce   from   her  
husband” in Explanation (b) to Sec. 125(1) would include the wife  
in an annulled marriage under Sec. 12. The dictum in Smt. Lata  
Kamat supports the claimant/wife.

54.  We may straightway refer  to the provisions of the DVA.  The  
wife in the annulled marriage was certainly living in a relationship  
with her spouse in a shared household  through a relationship in  
the nature of marriage. The marriage may have been voidable. It  
may have been annulled by a decree under Sec. 12. That does not  
take   away   or   detract   from   the   fact   that   the   spouses   had   lived  
together in a shared household in a relationship ”  in the nature of  
marriage”   though that relationship, on account of volition of the  
parties has subsequently been declared to be voidable and annulled.  
The   spouses   have   gone   through   a   ceremony   of   marriage.   Their  
marriage   has   been   duly   solemnized.   Consequent   to   such  
relationship created by such solemnization, they have lived together  
as   husband   and   wife   for   some   period   of   time.   They   did   so   live  
together   in   a   shared   household   also.   The   mere   fact   that   such  
relationship has subsequently been annulled by a decree under Sec.  
12   cannot  militate   against   the   status   of   parties   as  persons   in   a  
domestic   relationship   and   of   their   having   lived   in   a   shared  
household. In these circumstances, notwithstanding the subsequent  
decree under Sec. 12 annulling the marriage, the wife must be held  
to be entitled for monetary relief of maintenance under Sec. 20(1)

(d) of the DVA. We are conscious of an earlier reported decision by  
a   learned   single   Judge   in  Surendran   T.   K.   v.   State   of   Kerala  
(2009   (3)   KHC   569   :   2009   (3)   KLT   967)  between   the   same  
parties   where   it   has   been   held   that   such   a  wife   in   an   annulled  
marriage cannot be held to have shared a domestic relationship. As  

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rightly pointed out by the learned amicus curiae , the said decision  
cannot any more be held to be valid in the light of the decision in 
D.   Velusamy   v.   D.   Patchaimmal   (AIR   2011   SC   479). 

Considering   the   social   purpose   which   the   DVA   has   to   serve   and  
considering the specific language employed in the definition of Sec.  
2(f) (“domestic relationship”) and Sec. 2(s) (“shared household”),  
it has got to be held that a woman who lives with the spouse in a  
solemnized   marriage   or   had   so   lived   with   him   after   such  
solemnized marriage must be held to be an aggrieved person under  
Sec. 2(a) and she can claim against her spouse who falls within the  
sweep of the definition “respondent” in Sec. 2(q). Notwithstanding  
the subsequent annulment of marriage by a decree under Sec. 12 of  
the   Hindu   Marriage   Act,   the   status   of   the   parties   as   aggrieved  
person and the respondent is not affected and their past residence  
(prior to annulment) in the shared household on the strength of  
such   solemnized   marriage   must   certainly   be   held   to   entitle   the  
wife/woman   to   the   monetary   relief   of   maintenance   under   Sec.  
20(1)(d) of the DVA. Annulment of marriage under Sec. 12 of the  
Hindu Marriage Act cannot altogether obliterate or annihilate the  
solemnized marriage. Secs. 16, 25 and 15 as interpreted in binding  
precedents  accept  this  position.  Even  if  the  marriage  is  annulled  
under Sec. 12 of the Hindu Marriage Act, the decree of annulment  
cannot militate against this fact ­ that the man and woman had  
lived together in a shared household and were related to each other  
though a relationship in the nature of marriage. The marriage may  
have   been   voidable.   It   may   have   been   annulled   as   a   voidable  
marriage   by a decree  of annulment   under  Sec.   12  of the  Hindu  
Marriage  Act.  But all these  cannot  militate  against  the fact that  
their   relationship   was   (at   least)  in  the   nature   of   marriage.  The  
spouses who lived together for sometime in an annulled marriage  
can   certainly   be   held   to   have   shared   a   domestic   relationship   as 
defined under Sec. 2(f) of DVA. In this view of the matter, we are  
unable   to   agree   with   the   dictum   in  Surendran   (supra).   It   has  
hence got to be held to be not valid. We do specifically overrule the  
said decision in  Surendran T. K. v. State of Kerala (2009 (3)  
KHC 569).

55.  We do, in these circumstances, have no hesitation to come to  
the conclusion that the expression “woman who has been divorced  
by or has obtained a divorce from her husband” in Sec. 125(1)(b),  
Cr.   P.C.   must   receive   a   liberal   and   expansive   interpretation   to 
include   a   destitute   woman   in   distress   whose   marriage   has   been  
annulled by a decree under Sec. 12 of the Hindu Marriage Act. To  
us,   the   core   or   the   crux   of   the   ingredients   specified   under  
Explanation (b) is that the woman must be one whose matrimonial  
relationship   stands   severed   by   acts   of   spouses   ­   including  

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intervention   of   Court   at   their   instance,   and   who   has   not   re­
married. Going by the object, purpose and rationale of the deemed  
inclusion   of   certain   non­wives   in   the   category   of   wives   by  
Explanation (b) it would be impermissible to deny the benefit of the  
legislative   compassion   to   wives   whose   marriages   have   been  
annulled by Court at the volition of parties, on grounds available  
under Sec. 12. 

56.   A   contention   has   been   advanced   with   great   fervor   by   the  
learned   counsel   for   the   respondent/husband   that   such  
interpretative expansion would make innocent husbands also liable  
under   Sec.   125,   Cr.   P.C.   A   husband   whose   marriage   has   been  
annulled  on account  of contumacious  conduct  on the part of his  
wife offering a ground under Sec. 12(1)(a) to (d) will also be made  
liable to pay maintenance to his wife under Sec. 125, Cr. P.C. This  
is   not   justified.   Such   a   consequence   must   be   alertly   avoided,  
contends the learned counsel for the respondent/husband.

57.   We   have   taken   note   of   this   contention   anxiously.   Sec.   125,  
according to us, has nothing to do with contumaciousness ­ except  
perhaps   in   the   refusal   or   neglect   to   pay   maintenance.   If   the  
relationship specified under Sec. 125, Cr. P.C. exists and a husband  
having   sufficient   means   is   refusing   and   neglecting   to   pay  
maintenance   to   his   wife   unable   to   maintain   herself,   Sec.   125  
mandates  payment  of maintenance  and  the  purpose  simply  is to  
avoid   vagrancy   and   destitution.   Moral   contumaciousness   is  
evidently irrelevant. It is more so in respect of a deemed wife under  
Explanation (b) to Sec. 125(1), Cr. P.C.

58. That it is not so is evident. We quote one example. A wife in  
matrimony who is living in adultery may not be entitled to claim  
maintenance under Sec. 125, Cr. P.C. But the moment her husband  
secures divorce on the ground of adultery, he becomes liable to pay  
maintenance  to her in her capacity as a divorced  wife. It is trite  
that the mere fact that divorce has been obtained by the husband  
on   account   of   matrimonial   contumaciousness   of   the   wife   is   no  
reason   for   the   divorced   husband   to   claim   absolution   from   the  
liability to pay maintenance  to his divorced wife under Sec. 125,  
Cr.   P.C.   A  husband   who   has  obtained   divorce   on   the  ground   of  
moral   contumaciousness   of   his   wife   is   also   liable   to   pay  
maintenance   to   his   divorced   wife   if   she   is   unable   to   maintain  
herself and he has sufficient means. In this view of the matter, we  
are   unable   to   attach   any   crucial   significance   to   the   arguments  
advanced on the basis of moral contumaciousness of the wife which  
may have led to the passing of a decree for annulment under Sec.  

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12 of the Hindu Marriage Act. As in the case of marriage dissolved  
under Sec. 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, whatever be the ground  
of   annulment,   the   wife   continues   to   be   a   deemed   wife   under  
Explanation (b).

59. The contention is laboriously raised that under Sec. 25 of the  
Hindu  Marriage  Act  (we  have  already  extracted  Sec.  25(1))   the  
Court   can   take   note   of   ”  the   conduct   of   the   parties   and   other  
circumstances of the case “. But when it comes to a claim under Sec.  
125, Cr. P.C. of the wife in an annulled marriage, the Court will  
not be able to take note of the contumacious conduct of the parties.  
This would work out injustice, it is impassionately contended by the  
learned counsel for the respondent/husband.

60. We had adverted to Sec. 25 only to satisfy ourselves that the  
liability to pay permanent alimony and maintenance to the wife in  
an annulled marriage is recognized by law as per the personal law  
applicable   to   the   parties.   Under   the   personal   law   certain  
circumstances   have   to   be   taken   into   consideration.   Under   the  
secular law ­ Sec. 125, Cr. P.C. the right to claim maintenance can  
be   enforced   if   the   circumstances   mentioned   under   Sec.   125   are  
satisfied. The mere fact that while granting relief under Sec. 25 of  
the Hindu Marriage Act, the Court may be entitled to take note of  
certain  other  circumstances  also  (i.e.  the  conduct  of the  parties)  
cannot in any way entitle the respondent/husband to contend that  
such wife in an annulled marriage should not be included in the  
expansive interpretation of “wife” under Sec. 125(1)(b), Cr. P.C.”

“68.  We   must   note   in   this   context   that   all   the   precedents   cited  
above relate to the pre­DVA era.  Revolutionary changes have been  
brought about and  entrenched  concepts  prevalent  in society have  
been  shaken  by the  enactment  of the  DVA.  Subsequent  statutory  
instruments   must   certainly   persuade   the   Courts   to   understand  
contemporary   meaning   of   expressions   in   Statutes   enacted   in   a  
bygone   era.   It   would   be   myopic   for   a   Court   to   attempt   to  
understand  the  meaning  of the  expression  “wife”  in the  inclusive  
definition under Sec. 125(1)(b), Cr. P.C. today without imbibing  
the current legal norms prevalent in society in respect of the claim  
of maintenance by a woman sharing a domestic relationship with  
the respondent. The endeavour of all Courts at all times must be to  
innovate and understand the language of legislations in tune with  
the norms currently prevalent in society, ushered in and accepted  
by subsequent pieces of legislations. In this view of the matter, we  
are satisfied that in the post DVA era attempt cannot be made to  
understand  Explanation (b) to Sec. 125, Cr. P.C. divorced of the  

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current context in societal and legal development. 

69. To conclude, we hold that Explanation (b) to Sec. 125(1), Cr.  
P.C.   must   receive   an   interpretation   consistent   with   the   laudable  
legislative purpose, object and rationale ­ to prevent vagrancy and  
avoid   destitution.   We   take   the   view   that   “the   wife”   under  
Explanation (b) must include any woman whose marriage has been  
brought to severance by acts of spouses ­ including a decree passed  
by Court at their instance under Sec. 12 or Section 13 of the Hindu  
Marriage   Act.   The   accent   is   that   such   wife   in   a   terminated  
marriage ­ unilaterally or by intervention  of Court, must remain  
unmarried   to   claim   inclusion   within   the   ambit   of   deemed   wife  
under Explanation (b). The realistic acceptance of the fact that the  
wife in an annulled marriage cannot, in fact, be placed by law to  
her   position   of   maidenhood/spinstership   prior   to   marriage  
demands   and   warrants   such   an   expansive   interpretation   of   the  
expression “wife” in Explanation (b). The fact that consequences of  
an   annulment   are   not   declared   in   the   Hindu   Marriage   Act  
specifically and the fact that for the purpose of Secs. 16, 25 and 15  
the law realistically accepts that such marriage cannot be ignored,  
overlooked   or   forgotten   and   has   to   be   equated   to   a   marriage  
dissolved   under   Sec.   13   does   also   help   us   to   accept   the   wider  
meaning for the expression “wife” in Explanation (b). The fact that  
under the personal law applicable to the parties, there is a liability  
for   the   husband   in   an   annulled   marriage   to   pay   permanent  
alimony and maintenance to the wife under certain circumstances  
does also embolden us to include the wife in an annulled marriage  
also within the ambit of a deemed wife under Explanation (b). We  
take   the   view   that   such   a   woman   falls   within   the   sweep   of   the  
definition of “wife” under Explanation (b). 

70.  Needless   to   say   that   wives   belonging   to   other   religious  
denominations whose voidable marriages have been annulled by a  
decree for nullity passed by Court at the instance of either spouse  
shall all fall within the inclusive definition of “wife” in Explanation  

(b) to Sec. 125(1). However, so far as wives whose marriages are  
expressly declared by law to be null and void without intervention  
of   Courts   as   in   Sec.   11   of   the   Hindu   Marriage   Act,   we   do   not  
express any final opinion in the light of the decisions in Anatrao,  
Vimala   and   Savitaben   (supra),   though   we   are   certainly   of   the  
opinion that in view of Sec. 20 and Sec. 26 of the DVA they also  
deserve   to   be   included.   We   do   also   await   the   decision   in  
 Chanmuniya (AIR 2010 SC (Supp) 29) (supra)  on that aspect.”    

28 It thus emerges from reference to the series of citations referred to  

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above   that   the   Apex   Court   has   not   only   disapproved   the   theory   of  
debarring a divorcee to get maintenance on the ground of disentitlement  
under Section 125(4)  of the Code, but also their Lordships have clearly  
and   categorically   explained   that   after   divorce,   the   concept   of   living  
together being not enforceable in law, custom or practice, the factum of  
separate   living   does   not   by   itself   disentitle   the   divorcee   to   claim   for  
maintenance under Section 125 of the Code. 

29 In view of the aforesaid discussion, I find it extremely difficult to  
accept   the   submissions   of   Mr.   Nanavati,   the   learned   senior   counsel  
appearing for the applicant that the term “wife” under Section 125(4) of  
the Cr.P.C. would include a divorced wife. So far as the case on hand is  
concerned,   although   the   applicant   obtained   a   decree   of   divorce   under  
Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act on the ground that his wife i.e. the  
respondent No.1 deserted him for no good reason or any legally justifiable  
cause,   yet   in   such   circumstances   also,   the   wife   is   entitled   to   claim  
maintenance under Section 125 of the Cr.P.C. 

13 In view of the above, I hold that both the Courts below committed 
an error in passing the impugned orders. 

14 In the result, this application is allowed. The order passed by the 
learned Sessions Judge, Surendranagar dated 6th September 2016 in the 
Criminal Revision Application No.20 of 2016 is hereby quashed and set 
aside. The consequential order passed by the learned 2nd Additional Civil 
Judge   and   J.M.F.C.,   Surendranagar   dated   16th  February   2016   in   the 
Criminal Miscellaneous Application No.267 of 2012 is also quashed and 
set   aside.   It   is   declared   that   the   applicant   is   entitled   to   receive 
maintenance from the respondent No.2, as earlier ordered by the Court 



At this stage, Mr. Baheti, the learned counsel appearing for the husband 
makes a request to stay the operation of the judgment and order pronounced 
today. In view of the settled position of law, I see no good reason to stay the 
operation of this judgment. The request is rejected.

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