Chanmuniya V. Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha
CITATION – (2011) 1 SCC 141
One Sarju Singh Kushwaha had two sons, Ram Saran and Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha.
Out of the two sons, Ram Saran was married to Chanmuniya, and had daughters-Asha and Usha,
out of that wedlock. Ram Saran died on 7.03.1992.
Thereafter, the appellant that is Chanmuniya contended that she was married off to the first
respondent that is Virendra Kumar the young brother of her deceased husband as per the customs
and usages prevalent in the Kushwaha community in 1996. The custom allegedly was that after
the death of the husband, the widow was married off to the younger brother of the husband.
The appellant contended that she and the first respondent were living together as husband and
wife and had discharged all marital obligations towards each other. The appellant further
contended that after some time the first respondent started harassing and torturing the appellant,
stopped her maintenance, and also refused to discharge his marital obligations towards her.
As a result, she initiated proceedings under Section 125 of the Cr.P.C. for maintenance before
and also restitution of conjugal rights under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 in the
Court. The Trial Court decreed the suit for restitution of conjugal rights in favor of the appellant.
Hence, the first respondent filed an appeal under Section 28 of the Hindu Marriage Act with the
issue in appeal whether there was any evidence on record to prove that the appellant was the
legally wedded wife of the first respondent.
The High Court reversed the findings of the Trial Court and held that the essentials of a valid
Hindu marriage, as required under Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act, had not been performed
between the first respondent and the appellant and held that the first respondent was not the
husband of the appellant. Hence, the appellant approached the Supreme Court by way of a
special leave petition.
The object is to prevent vagrancy and destitution. It provides a speedy remedy for the supply of
food, clothing, and shelter to the deserted wife. When an attempt is made by the husband to
negative the claim of the neglected wife depicting her as a kept-mistress on the specious plea that
he was already married, the court would insist on strict proof of the earlier marriage. The term
`wife’ in Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, includes a woman who has been
divorced by a husband or who has obtained a divorce from her husband and has not remarried.
The woman not having the legal status of a wife is thus brought within the inclusive definition of
the term `wife’ consistent with the objective
Thus, in those cases where a man, who lived with a woman for a long time and even though they
may not have undergone legal necessities of a valid marriage, should be made liable to pay the
woman maintenance if he deserts her. The man should not be allowed to benefit from the legal
loopholes by enjoying the advantages of a de facto marriage without undertaking the duties and
obligations. Any other interpretation would lead the woman to vagrancy and destitution, in
which the provision of maintenance in Section 125 is meant to prevent.
The court said that a broad and expansive interpretation should be given to the term `wife’ to
include even those cases where a man and woman have been living together as husband and wife
for a reasonably long period of time.