India has a lot of welfare legislations in order to safeguard the interest of women and to avoid their destitution and vagrancy. Maintenance in India can be sought under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence, 2005, etc. These laws are readily available to women who are unable to maintain herself. But, a question worth pondering is if maintenance will be available to a woman whose marriage is in the process of annulment? (To know what annulment implies,click here

Since we are aware that annulment of marriage makes a marriage non-existent, therefore, when the status of being ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ is put into question then how can maintenance, which is awarded to a ‘wife’ by her ‘husband’, be awarded in such a situation? We will look into this question closely in the coming paragraphs in context of the three laws mentioned above.

The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

Maintenance under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, can be claimed under Section 24 and Section 25 of the said Act.

Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, talks about the payment of interim-maintenance when a proceeding under this Act has been initiated by a spouse against the other. Interim maintenance implies that the maintenance will only be granted till the time the proceedings do not come to an end. The language of Section 24 is gender-neutral, i.e. it is available to either spouses and the husband can too file an application for interim-maintenance.

Can a woman get maintenance under Section 24 in an annulment proceeding?

The answer is yes. What one needs to understand is that Section 24 talks about interim-maintenance, therefore, when an annulment proceeding is initiated against the wife by the husband under Section 12 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the woman is still very much a wife of the man because the marriage has not yet been annulled. Since, the marriage is subsisting till the finality of the case, the woman can seek maintenance under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

Section 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, talks about the payment of alimony/maintenance after the proceedings under the Act have attained finality and a decree has been passed by the Court. Under this Section, either the husband or the wife can ask for permanent maintenance.

Can a woman get maintenance under Section 25 in an annulment proceeding?

The expression ‘decree’ in Section 25 is broad enough to cover any decree of divorce or nullity or of judicial separation or for restitution of conjugal rights. Further, the High Court for the states of Punjab and Haryana also has held that a woman would be entitled to permanent alimony from her former husband, even after the marriage has been annulled under Section 11 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

Section 25 is an enabling provision and it allows the Court adjudicating a matrimonial case to consider facts and circumstances of the spouse applying for maintenance and decide whether or not to grant permanent alimony or maintenance.

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