Saturday, May 19, 2007

Indian man seeking maintenance money from wife

A tale of good intentions going amuck. We all know that India is a male dominated society, and the rights and obligations of women depend on geographic location and the societal norms in that area. As per all the reports and news that we read, the condition of women is our society in general is nowhere near a condition of equity. The number of dowry deaths, pressures due to dowry (seen as an entitlement), lower status as compared to males, etc all point to a point where conditions need to improve. These pressures are put on them by both males and other females (example of a mother-in-law putting pressure on daughter-in-law to fall in line, to get dowry, etc).
Now, there are a number of measures that are required to bring about an improvement in this status, some of them being social pressures through movements by NGO's, by the pressure brought forward by sections of enlightened people of both sexes, by people having religious and social stature, and by the government through advertisements, and through passing of measures designed to give opressed women a judicial protection. I have no doubt that there are large sections of women who need all the protection that they can get.
So, there are laws dealing with ensuring women are protected against dowry seeking money grabbing leechs (in-laws), with ensuring that women that are subject to domestic violence can fight back legally (and there are enough cases of women being subject to domestic violence), and with ensuring that women who are left high and dry by their partners don't have to suffer economically (through provision of a monthly maintenance (alimony) in the case of separation).
However, laws passed by the government (and the legislature) are blunt weapons, use them right and they can greatly improve the lot of opressed women, and use them in the case when both the men and women are roughly equal, and they give women a mightly tool that can wreak untold havoc on the lives of their male partners and their families. So let me present a case where a man is fighting back, petitioning the highest court in the land to give him justice, and to bring about true equality. One of the biggest drawbacks with the current laws is that they automatically favour the women (even if the judicial system does try to give a chance to bring families together), and in the case when the male is really not at fault, wreaks disaster on him, and violates the canons of justice, violating the cardinal concept of 'innocent until proven guilty', as well as the 'no discrimination test'.
Here is this man seeking the highest court in the land to get him alimony (maintenance) from his wife, who is placed better than him, and has apparently used the law to try to break him:

Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code has frequently been used by courts to ask men to pay maintenance to wives, children or parents dumped by them.
A petition in the Supreme Court seeks a role reversal — a man wants maintenance from his doctor wife who allegedly deserted him at a time when he was jobless. The Hindu Marriage Act does allow for the payment of maintenance to separated and divorced males who have no means to support themselves and whose estranged partners are better off. But Section 125 of has seldom been used for the purpose.
It was in 2002 that a Rajkot court directed Nagrecha to pay a monthly maintenance of Rs 1,000 to his wife and daughter even though she is working as a doctor. This order was upheld by the high court and the apex court, his counsel H A Raichura said. He said the petitioner was sacked by Reliance in 2002, as he had to take frequent leave to attend as many as 15 court cases in three cities filed against him by his wife.

This could be a test case where, if the facts of the reported case are right, the man deserves to get maintenance. After all, if the argument is that the law entitles the spouse in a weaker position to get maintenance, then the husband in this case (and every case like this) is equally entitled to alimony.
This is part of a larger question whereby misuse of the stringent laws by women who are actually in an equal position weakens the concept of justice; there needs to be amendments in the law made so that an automatic blaming of the husband and his family does not happen; I am sure that in a significant number of cases, they will be to blame, but incidences of misuse are becoming more apparent as women get more enlightened, and as lawyers see such misuse working without any control.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 7:25 AM