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Maintenance under the Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955

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Maintenance under the Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955

The Section 24 of Hindu Marriage Act 1955 deals with Maintenance pendente lite and expenses of proceedings. The section provides for the payment of the alimony from the other spouse in condition that the other has no significant or independent means to support themselves. The section also stipulates the payment of such sum on an monthly basis from elapsement of sixty (60) days from the date of service of the notice on the spouse.

The section espouses the need for the spouse to maintain a dignified life even after dismissal of the institution of the marriage and same has been upheld by many judicial dictums that the right to maintain a dignified life top support themselves is an duty to the well-off or financially secure spouse.
Section 24 was interpreted as “court on the application of the wife or husband may order the respondent to pay to the petitioner the expenses of the proceeding and monthly maintenance during the proceeding such sum as it may seem to the court to be reasonable” respectively. Section 24 of the Act starts with the caption “maintenance pendente lite and expenses of proceedings”. From a plain reading of Section 24 of the Act, it also appears that the word used in Section 24 “maintenance pendente lite and expenses of the proceedings” must be read with the word used in the section ‘during the proceeding’ and if the caption ‘maintenance pendente lite and expenses of proceedings’ and “during the proceeding’ are read together can it be said that the petitioner shall still be entitled to the expenses of proceedings when such proceeding was not pending before the court? I would have understood if Section 24 of the Act only dealt with ‘maintenance pendentelite’ and not with ‘maintenance pendente lite’ and “expenses of proceedings”.

The insertion of the word “expenses of the proceedings” in the caption made under Section 24 of the Act makes it clear that the intention of the legislature is to retain the jurisdiction of the Court where a matrimonial proceeding is or was pending and not when the proceeding is over. The word ‘alimony’ has not been defined in the Act. The origin of the word ‘alimony’ has been borrowed from the Latin expression ‘allmonia’ which means sustenance or support of the wife or the husband by the other.

The alimony means the allowances which the husband or the wife by Court order pays to the other spouse for maintenance while they are separated or after their divorce with permanent alimony or temporarily pending a suit for divorce (pendente lite), however, the Court limited its application to during the pendency of theproceedings only”1

To summarise the essentials of the Section 24:

  • Made on an application of the spouse seeking maintenance ;
  • Through the order of the Court ;
  • Must be disposed within 60 days from the service of such notice on the spouse; and
  • Must be paid as “expense of the proceedings” and only till the disposal of the proceedings

    In conclusion the Section 24 of Hindu Marriage Act 1955 can be interpreted to provide payment of maintenance and expenses of proceedings during the pendency of that proceeding. It means that the maintenance pendente lite and expenses of proceedings can be ordered during the proceedings not after that. Therefore, the intention of the Legislature in arming different provisions of Hindu Marriage Act contemplates the healthy maintenance of life of the spouse till the disposal of the proceedings subject to the fulfillment of the conditions as intended.

    The law stands clear and has a limited interpretation.

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