Unemployed man can't be forced to pay alimony: HC

An unemployed man cannot be forced to pay maintenance to his estranged wife, the Delhi High Court today ruled saying a person cannot be compelled to maintain others if spouses are on an equal footing.

"Under prevalant 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 separately from him, irrespective of the fact whether he earns or not," Justice S N Dhingra said.

The court passed the order while setting aside another 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.

"The 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 the equality of sexes. The Constitution provides equal treatment to be given irrespective of sex, caste and creed. An unemployed husband with an MBA degree cannot be treated differently to an unemployed wife who also has 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.

Filing a petition challenging the family court's February 2008 order, NRI Sanjay Bhardwaj said he was working as a sales manager in Luanda, the capital of Angola.

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