Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1975 are the two main provisions under Indian laws, both, civil and criminal, for maintenance of the spouse. Alimony is one of the two kinds of maintenance, that a divorced, dependent wife can claim form the other, dependent spouse.
For example, if a woman, residing in Indore, gets a divorce from her husband, will she be allowed to both Streedhan and alimony? She will probably have to consult one of the best divorce lawyers in Indore.
Both, alimony and Streedhan, are either monetary amounts or things having substantial value in money terms.
Alimony differs from maintenance in that while alimony can only be demanded post the divorce (even though the basic objective behind the concept of alimony is to ensure maintenance of life of dignity for the entitled spouse; maintenance under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure can even be claimed when the marriage is in a perfectly sound condition.
While alimony is almost always calculated in monetary terms (except in certain exceptional cases), Streedhan may or may not be money. In fact, in most cases, it is not money. It constitutes the presents, jewelry and other items, gifted to the woman during the marriage or at a time afterwards, by a friend or relative, either from the bride’s own family or that of her in-laws. The reasons for giving Streedhan could be either out of sheer love and affection, the daughter leaving her maiden home, the new bride’s entry into the matrimonial home, the bride and groom getting into nuptial ties etc. While there exists no legal definition of Streedhan, these are the various reasons for giving Streedhan, as enumerated by Yagnavalkya, upon whose writings, most of the Hindu personal laws are based. Likewise, there doesn’t exist a definition for ‘alimony’ in the books of statute, but the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 does use the phrase, ‘lump sum payment’, which in effect is alimony.
Additionally, while alimony can be claimed by either spouse, Streedhan is the exclusive right of the wife in a marriage.
Lastly, alimony and Streedhan differ in that, while the concept of alimony is known to the personal laws of almost all religions. This blog seeks to highlight the status of the woman, with respect to entitlement of each of these, post the divorce.
As far as alimony is concerned, the Supreme Court has set a maximum limit of 25% of the net salary of the husband to be just and proper, while it also emphasized upon the fact that the amount could be adjusted (lowered) having regard to the financial abilities of the husband and other factors such as the number of people dependent on him etc. For example, the Apex Court also lowered the monthly maintenance from Rupees 23,000 to Rs 20,000 keeping in mind that he married again and had a child from the second marriage, to look after.
Also, alimony is not something the spouse can claim as a matter of right. It is only if the court is satisfied that it will grant him/her with alimony from the other spouse. In many cases, the courts in India have also denied alimony to women who were unemployed, but, qualified. It observed that since the wife was qualified, she cannot be allowed to sit idle and be a ‘parasite’ or burden on the husband.
Lastly, a woman is only allowed maintenance till the time she remains single. If she marries again or, even if unmarried, is proved to be in a relationship with another man, the first husband no longer has an obligation to maintain her.
On the other hand, Streedhan is the absolute right of the woman. There is no restriction on the form of Streedhan. It could be money, property or jewelry. Also, she could have gotten it before marriage, during or even after marriage. It could have been given to her by mother, father, brother, friends, in-laws or even total strangers. Also, she could have earned it based on her own skills as well. A divorced woman cannot be asked to return Streedhan during divorce as it is settled law that is the absolute owner of it and can exercise full rights over the same.