Maintanance:Estranged hubby will have to foot wife’s med bills: SC

Maintenance:Estranged hubby will have to foot wife’s med bills: SC

Follows Another Judgment Expanding Meaning Of ‘Maintenance’

Dhananjay Mahapatra | TNN

New Delhi: Cost of estrangement continues to mount for husbands — who are mandated by law to pay the wife maintenance — with the Supreme Court churning out judgments giving a very expansive meaning to the word ‘maintenance’.

Soon after its ruling that maintenance for estranged wife included a house at par with the one in which the husband lived, the court has now said that he also has to reimburse her medical expenses.

These two rulings will surely make men think twice before seeking separation from wives, especially after the SC had made registration of marriages mandatory under Special Marriage Act, 1954, for all couples irrespective of their religion.

The recent judgment came on a petition filed by one Rajesh Burman, who had married Mithul Chatterjee on January 26, 2000, in Kolkata. The couple started living in Mumbai from February 25, 2001. But differences arose between the two within months. It led to a scuffle on June 16, 2001, in which Mithul got injured.

She filed a petition in an Alipore court seeking dissolution of marriage as well as reimbursement of the money spent by her father in the treatment of her injuries, which required two surgeries.

The husband had moved the apex court challenging an order of the Calcutta High Court, which had upheld the trial court decision asking him to reimburse the medical expenses. The husband resisted it, saying he was already paying maintenance to her.

Dismissing his appeal, the apex court said, “Under the Act, it is clear that a wife is entitled to maintenance and support.” Expanding the meaning of the two terms — ‘maintenance’ and ‘support’ — a Bench comprising Justices C K Thakker and D K Jain, in a judgment earlier this month, agreed with the estranged wife’s counsel to say that they included her medical expenses, which was a little over Rs 2 lakh.

“The terms are very wide so as to include medical expenses and both the courts were right in granting medical reimbursement,” the Bench said. “We see no infirmity in the decision or reasoning of the courts below which calls for our interference in exercise of discretionary and equitable jurisdiction under Article 136 of the Constitution. The appeal in our view has no substance and must be dismissed,” it said.

When the husband, after losing the case, pleaded for permission to reimburse her medical expenses in instalments, the apex court agreed and asked him to pay the total sum by December 31, 2008.

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