Maid lived as wife, should get maintenance: high court

A 65-year-old man will have to pay maintenance of Rs.3,000 per month to his domestic help as she was living with him like a wife, the Delhi High Court has ruled, upholding the order of a family court.

The 30-year-old woman used to live with the petitioner with her three minor children. She stayed with him for three years before he turned her out in December 2009, prompting her to move the family court.

High court judge Hima Kohli said: "The trial court has on a prima facie view of the matter reached the conclusion that as per settled legal principles, in proceedings under Section 125 (order for maintenance of wives, children and parents) CrPC, the standard of proof required to prove the validity of a marriage is not very stringent, and if it can be shown that the parties living as husband and wife, were being treated as married, then the same would be considered a valid marriage, sufficient to award interim maintenance to the dependants."

"This court finds no illegality, arbitrariness or infirmity in the aforesaid finding reached by the trial court. Further, this court is inclined to agree with the trial court that the determination of the validity of a marriage can only be made in the course of the trial, after evidence has been led by both the parties.

"In this view of the matter, the submission of the petitioner that as he is not married to the respondent, he is not liable to pay any maintenance, is turned down," Justice Kohli said in the order last week.

Mahender, who was a widower, filed a petition in the high court Feb 4 against Aarti (name changed), pleading for setting aside the December 2010 order passed by the additional principal judge, Family Courts, Rohini.

The counsel for the petitioner stated that the respondents' petition was not maintainable and should be dismissed, as there exists no valid marriage between the petitioner and respondent.

He said the petitioner was a man of 65 years whereas the respondent was 30 years old, and it seemed improbable that a marriage would have taken place between them.

He said Aarti was a maid servant in the house of the petitioner and she was a widow who had three children from her marriage, "therefore my client allowed her to live in his house".

He said payment of interim maintenance of Rs.3,000 per month was highly onerous as the petitioner was a poor man, with insufficient resources.

As for the contention of the counsel that the petitioner did not have sufficient monthly income to pay maintenance, the court said that could not be accepted, as the sum of Rs.3,000 per month was a paltry amount, especially in light of the fact that the petitioner has allegedly removed the respondents from his house and they had been forced to live with their relatives.

"Having regard to the fact that the petitioner has not been able to place on record any document to show that the respondent is gainfully employed, the finding of the court below - that the respondent has no source of income to support herself and her children - deserves no interference by this court at this stage," said Justice Kohli.

The principal judge, Family Courts, had granted interim maintenance of Rs.3,000 per month to the respondents from the date of the application and had directed the petitioner to clear the arrears of maintenance within a period of six months and pay the monthly maintenance amount regularly by the 10th of each month.

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