New Delhi: An unemployed man cannot be
forced to pay maintenance to his estranged wife, the Delhi
High Court on Friday ruled saying that in an era of equality of
sexes a person cannot be compelled to maintain others if
spouses are on an equal footing.
"Under prevelant laws, a husband is supposed to maintain
his unearning spouse out of the income he earns. No law
provides that a husband has to maintain his wife, living
seperately from him, irrespective of the fact whether he earns
or not," Justice S N Dhingra said.
The court passed the order while setting aside the order
of a family court which had directed the husband, who was
unemployed, to pay a maintenance of Rs 5,000 to his wife.
The court said the wife, who was equally qualified as her
husband and was working in an MNC, cannot ask for maintenance
from her husband who lost his job.
"Court cannot tell the husband that he should beg, borrow
or steal but give maintenance to his wife, more so when the
husband and wife are almost qualified and capable of earning
and both of them claimed to be gainfully employed before
marriage," the court said while granting relief to the husband
who was an NRI working in Angola in Africa.
"We are living in an era of equality of sexes. The
Constitution provides equal treatment to be given irrespective
of sex, caste and creed. An unemployed husband who is holding
an MBA degree cannot be treated differently to an unemployed
wife who is also holding an MBA degree.
"Since both are on equal footing, one cannot be asked to
maintain the other unless one is unemployed and the other is
employed," the court said.