Delhi High Court Rules Against Interim Maintenance for Wife When Both Spouses Earn Equally

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Delhi High Court Rules Against Interim Maintenance for Wife When Both Spouses Earn Equally: The Delhi High Court has ruled that under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, a wife is not entitled to interim maintenance when both spouses are equally qualified and earning equally. The purpose of this section is to ensure that neither party is financially handicapped during matrimonial proceedings, allowing them to litigate without being hindered by financial constraints.

In a case where both spouses were equally qualified and earning equally, the Court upheld the Family Court’s decision to deny the wife interim maintenance after considering the income and expenses of both parties. However, in recognition of the shared responsibility for the child’s expenses, the Court reduced the child’s interim maintenance from Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 25,000 per month.

Here’s a breakdown of the background and analysis

Background

In this case, the couple married in 2014 and had a son in 2016. However, they separated in February 2020 due to differences. The wife, who held a B.Sc and MBA degree in Banking and Finance, was working and earning a monthly salary of Rs. 2.5 lakhs. She claimed that she was paying monthly installments of Rs. 92,940 and Rs. 25,137 for a loan taken for a flat and car, respectively. She asserted that her income barely covered her expenses, and she was struggling to provide for her child’s education and other expenses, as her husband had stopped contributing since November 2021. She sought maintenance of Rs. 2 lakhs for herself, Rs. 60,000 for the child, and Rs. 50,000 for litigation expenses.

The husband, who was also highly qualified with B.Tech and M.Tech degrees, was earning an equivalent of Rs. 5,60,000 per month in Indian Rupees. He argued that his income was barely sufficient to cover his own expenses and had ceased payments because of the wife’s withdrawal from the matrimonial relationship.

Analysis, Law, and Decision

The Court noted that both spouses were highly qualified, with the wife earning Rs. 2.5 lakhs per month and the husband earns USD 7134, which, when converted to Indian Rupees, amounts to Rs. 1,65,651 per month using the Purchase Power Parity Index or Rs. 5,60,000 using the simple exchange rate. The Court considered the husband’s dollar earnings but also acknowledged that his expenses were in dollars, leaving little for savings.

The Court referred to a previous case (K.N. v. R.G., 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7704), which stated that Section 24 of the Act was not intended to equalize the income of both spouses or provide interim maintenance to maintain a similar lifestyle as the other spouse. Instead, its purpose was to ensure that neither party faced financial difficulties during matrimonial proceedings. Interim maintenance was designed to assist both spouses in meeting litigation expenses and ensuring they could live comfortably.

Therefore, the Court concluded that in this case, where both spouses were equally qualified and earned equally, the wife could not be granted interim maintenance under Section 24 of the Act. The Court agreed with the Family Court’s decision to deny maintenance to the wife based on the income and expenses of both parties. However, considering the shared responsibility for the child, the Court reduced the child’s interim maintenance from Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 25,000.

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