What is Meaning of Alimony Laws in India?
The term alimony meaning is derived from ‘alimonia’ Latin word, meaning “sustenance”. Alimony is a subject of personal law, each stratum of the society is governed by their own set of regulation. The reference to alimony comes into light when there is a divorce petition which is being litigated. As the name of suggests, Alimony is the monetary expense which is paid by one spouse to the other for their survival and sustenance.
Alimony is not an absolute right. It is a right claimed after the divorce by either spouse which is decided on the basis of the facts and the circumstances and the Financial status. Alimony can be claimed as either a lump-sum amount paid at once or monthly, quarterly or annual instalments. Alimony is granted by the court on the basis of the application of the party to grant either party (Husband or wife) to pay the other party maintenance or gross support either monthly or for a period not exceeding the life of the applicant.
Amount of Alimony
In India, there is no fixed ruling on the basis of which the amount of Alimony could be fixed. There are various parameters on the basis of which the amount of alimony is decided including but not limited to:
- The income of both the spouses
- Standard of living
- Financial Status
- Conduct of parties and other facts and circumstances
- The number of children and number of years the couple is married, etc.
Alimony is not taxable: The amount received as alimony is not taxable as capital receipt. If any investment is made of the money received as alimony and gains interest, such amount of interest is chargeable to tax.
Kalyan Dey Chowdhury vs. Rita Dey Chowdhury: A landmark judgment by the Apex Court which set a benchmark for the amount of maintenance which is just, and fair is 25 per cent of the net salary of the husband.
Alimony under Hindu law
For Hindus, Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 is the governing act i.e. section 25 of the Act. It is not subjected to limitations under section 10 (Judicial Separation) or section 13 (divorce) or section 9 (Restitution of conjugal rights).
A woman also has a right to alimony under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 if the woman is living separately. She will be granted maintenance or alimony if the husband is
- Guilty of desertion,
- Has treated the wife with cruelty (where it became injurious for her to live in the same place.)
- If the husband is suffering from a virulent form of leprosy;
- If the husband has any other wife living;
- Conversion to any other religion by Husband
She will not be granted maintenance if she is not living separately or if she is unchaste or undertakes conversion to some other religion. Section 125 of Cr.P.C, talks about alimony and interim maintenance of the wife granted by the husband.
Alimony under Muslim law
Alimony for Muslims is governed by the Code of Criminal Procedure or Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Divorce Act, 1986. The name of the act clearly suggests the gender-centric right of women to claim alimony in this case. The provision under this act are as follows:
- An amount (fair and reasonable in nature) shall be paid to the wife through her Iddat period;
- An amount which is equivalent to mehr or dower, which was decided during the commencement of marriage;
- All the properties which were given to her before, at or after marriage by any of the relatives of friends and family of the husband.
- After the completion of the Iddat period, if the wife has not remarried and is not unable to maintain herself, she is entitled to maintenance.
- If the wife has children and is not able to maintain them;
Alimony under Christian law
The Indian Divorce Act, 1969 governs the alimony laws for Christians in India. Section 36 of the Act talks about the right of women to maintenance or alimony, which is similar to Muslim law i.e. the husband will be entitled to give relief to the wife.
Alimony laws under the Hindu Marriage Act are gender-neutral. However under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, Code of Criminal Procedure and Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Divorce Act, 1986 grants alimony only to women. The laws under all personal laws should be made uniform clearly stating the grounds on which either party can claim alimony, however, since the circumstances in each case differ, the list cannot be exhaustive in nature. Alimony is for the maintenance of the individual and it’s upon the discretion of the court to grant the quantum of alimony.
 Civil Appeal Number 5369/2017