If you're a divorced woman seeking alimony from her husband, you better be ready to kiss your sex life goodbye. At least that's what the Madras High Court appears to be telling women.
“Since a man carries an obligation to maintain his divorced wife, the woman also carries the obligation not to live in relationship with another man," said Justice S. Nagamuthu in a recent judgment. "If she commits breach… she will suffer disqualification from claiming maintenance… If she wants to live in relationship with another man, she may be entitled for maintenance from him and not from the former husband.”
The judge's remarks came while the bench was allowing a criminal revision case challenging a sessions court order that directed the husband to pay maintenance after he divorced his wife on grounds of adultery. The bench held that not only should the woman refrain from remarrying but also “maintain discipline as she was expected to maintain during the subsistence of her marriage” by not becoming intimate with another man.
The ruling not only treads dangerously into the territory of curtailing women's sexual lives post divorce, it also seems to suggest that the responsibility for a woman's upkeep passes from one man to another.
Justice Nagamuthu also said that the law takes care of a divorced woman so that she doesn't become destitute. But if she has sexual relations with another man, she should claim alimony from him instead.
“The very object of introducing Chapter IX in the Code of Criminal Procedure for maintenance of wife, children and parents is to rescue them from destitution by extending monetary assistance. Even after divorce, the law takes care that a woman does not end up in destitution and that is the reason why she is entitled for maintenance from her erstwhile husband," he said.
“Since a man carries an obligation to maintain his divorced wife, the woman also carries the obligation not to live in relationship with another man. If she commits breach… she will suffer disqualification from claiming maintenance… If she wants to live in relationship with another man, she may be entitled for maintenance from him and not from the former husband."
The high court was hearing a criminal revision case filed by a government employee, who had been asked by Ramanathapuram Principal District and Sessions Court in 2012 to pay Rs 1,000 every month as maintenance amount to his former wife. The couple had split as the woman was cheating on her husband.
The bench, while ruling that an adulterous wife couldn't claim alimony from her husband, expanded the definition of "wife" under the CrPC to include a divorced wife. Section 125 (4) of the CrPC says that a wife is not entitled to maintenance if she was living in adultery.