Are Divorcing Women Shylocks?

December 12, 2020

Cursed be the man, the poorest wretch in life,
The crouching vassal, to the tyrant wife,
Who has no will but by her high permission;
Who has not sixpence but in her possession;
Who must to her his dear friend’s secret tell;
Who dreads a certain lecture worse than hell
Were such life had fallen to my part
I’d break her spirit or I would break her heart

Robert Burns (1759-1796) poet, Scotland in The Henpecked Husband.

Shylock, for the uninitiated, is the ruthless Jewish usurer (money-lender at very high interest) in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice who demands a pound of his debtor's flesh as compensation for default upon a loan.

This topic-essay is provoked by a Delhi High Court and a Bombay High Court judgments holding that wife’s capacity to earn is no ground to deny maintenance. First the judgments concerned.

Merely because the wife is capable of earning cannot be a sufficient reason to reduce the maintenance awarded to her by the family court in a case of a matrimonial dispute, the Delhi High Court has held in a recent judgment.

Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri declined a plea by a man from Bengaluru against the award of Rs 50,000 per month as maintenance to the wife.

The man, who used to earn Rs 1.68 lakh per month, claimed his wife was an independent practicing advocate. But the wife, for her part, denied it, saying she was fully dependent on her parents for living, though she was qualified to be an advocate.

The court pointed out the issue, whether the wife can be denied maintenance only on account of the fact that she is capable of earning has come before the court earlier too where it has been held that ‘capable of earning’ and ‘actual earning’ are two different requirements.

"Merely because the wife is capable of earning was held not be a sufficient reason to reduce the maintenance awarded by the family court," the court said.

The court declined to interfere with the trial court's order, saying his admitted salary of Rs1.68 lakh per month has to be divided into three equal shares, keeping two parts for the petitioner and one for the respondent. Therefore, the award of Rs 50,000 per month as interim maintenance to her was "completely justified".

In the case, marriage was solemnised on September 15, 2018. The parties resided together at the matrimonial home at Bengaluru till about October 2018 when the wife left the matrimonial home. She sought Rs one lakh per month as maintenance.

The man questioned the validity of maintenance order, saying the court has overlooked the fact that his wife is enrolled as an advocate and, therefore, must be earning respectably.

In another similar case, Bombay High Court held that wife's capacity to earn is no ground to

Justice NJ Jamadar passed an order in early December, 2020 in response to a petition by a Pune resident, who challenged the February 7, 2019 order of the family court at Pune that ordered him to pay a monthly maintenance of Rs 15,000 to his ex-wife.

In 2016, the woman applied for maintenance, contending she had no source of livelihood and the man, though having resources, had not made any provision for her.

The earning potential or actual earning of a woman is insufficient to deny a claim of maintenance, the Bombay high court said while upholding a family court’s order granting alimony to a woman who runs a beauty parlour.

Justice Jamadar passed the order in response to a petition by a Pune resident, who challenged the February 7, 2019 order of the family court at Pune that ordered him to pay a monthly maintenance of Rs 15,000 to his ex-wife.

The marriage was solemnised in November 1997 and the couple had no children. The 52-year-old businessman claimed his wife suffered from psychological illness and the marriage couldn’t be consummated because of his wife’s mental condition, even after she was treated by a sexologist.

In April 2007, the couple applied for divorce by mutual consent and the family court in Pune dissolved the marriage by issuing a decree of divorce in October the same year. Four years later, the businessman remarried.

In 2016, the woman applied for maintenance, contending she had no source of livelihood and the man, though having resources, had not made any provision for her. The family court accepted her plea and ordered the man to pay her Rs 15,000 a month.

The businessman then approached the high court, challenging the family court’s order on the ground the lower court didn’t consider that his ex-wife was earning by running a beauty parlour.

Justice Jamadar accepted the husband’s contention and said that against the backdrop of material on record, the family court ought to have accepted the woman’s claim that she had no source of income “with a pinch of salt”.

The material on record suggested the woman was carrying on the business of running a beauty parlour.

“However, the fact that the wife carries on some business and earns some money is not the end of the matter,” said the judge, adding her earning potential or actual earning is insufficient to deny her claim of maintenance.

“In this era of inflationary economy, where the prices of commodities and services are increasing day by day, the income from a beauty parlour, which has an element of seasonality, may not be sufficient to support the livelihood of the woman, and afford her to maintain the same standard of living as that of her husband,” said the court, upholding her right to maintenance.

The high court, however, reduced the alimony to Rs 12,000 a month.

It also rejected the business man’s argument that his ex-wife relinquished her right to maintenance and it formed part of the consent terms approved by the family court while dissolving their marriage.

“The object of the provisions contained in section 125 of the CrPC cannot be lost sight of. Indisputably the provision is a measure of social justice and its object is to prevent destitution and vagrancy,” said the judge.

“The statutory right of wife of maintenance cannot be permitted to be bartered away or infringed by setting up an agreement not to claim maintenance. Such a clause in the agreement would be void under section 23 of the Indian Contract Act, being opposed to public policy,” the court said.

Both the judgments may encourage married women to goad their husbands to ask for divorce with the hope of snatching attractive maintenance. This could encourage some scheming women to garner multiple maintenances through serial marriages and divorces.

But, there have been, and are, husbands who swear by their wives as vouched by Shakespeare.

I will be the master of what is my own;
She is my goods, my chattels, she is my house
My household stuff, my field, my barn,
My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything;
And here she stands, touch her whoever dare.

-William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatic poet in Taming the Shrew.

But, this is not to suggest that men are saints without any taint. We will focus on them in times ahead.

The subject is open to many views. What are yours? Your response is welcome in the format given below. Please stroll down.

Tale-piece

I read a Kannada daily which has money-minting obituary page. First I check if my name is there. Then I check the age of the departed to determine my chances of making or postponing my place on the obituary page.

One thing I irritatingly observe is that in these obituary announcements the use of ‘grand son’ and ‘grand daughter’ with reference to the relationship of the departed.

‘Grand son’, with space between the two word means that the son is grand like Taj Mahal is grand. I suspect the practice might have started when ads were charged by the count of words and a cunning clerk might have broken the words to increase the word count and the cost – to earn his bonus.

Now ad space is mainly charged on the basis of space consumed in terms of column centimetres. So, advertisers would benefit by the compound words – like grandson.

 

Also read:

 

 

 

 

By John B Monteiro
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Comment on this article

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel Mangalore

    Wed, Dec 16 2020

    Ambrose Pereira, Bajpe: Thank you for your positive spin. The 99% marriages which survive, some however precariously, is a welcome and is a expected feature and nothing to write home about.

    Your own mixed marriage record is laudable and readers will wish its happy survival to the end. The credit is due to your mother, mother-in-law and the support system. Also, you both can take credit for the success and values of your kids. Way to go!

  • Ambrose Pereira, Bajpe

    Tue, Dec 15 2020

    John,
    With the lowest divorce rate (1% compared to 46% in USA), we Indians are still a great society compared to the world with our values still intact . We may be poor, but we know to live with dignity. So why not write about the 99% non divorcees living in dignity amidst the 1% divorcees and promote a life of marriage & encourage the kids to fight out and succeed in marriage. We know it is difficult but achievable. Please teach the kids this.
    We are married for 40+years. My wife is Hindu, I am Catholic and we still are. She comes to church with me on Sunday and I go to Temple when she visits one.
    My mother-in-laws last words to my wife when she left home to church were "you are leaving now, so make it a success and don't come back", As she entered our home my mother said "I have cooked to-night's meal dear, tomorrow's breakfast is yours". But she held her hand in everything from cooking and living
    I was told by my mother "you will bring her home, so you must take care of her and I will be watching over you". Watching she did, for seven years, till she died. I was in Gulf then, earning bread and butter while my mother stood guard at home like a Great Sphynx, in harmony, till mom died when my wife was the only one to shed tears at the cemetery
    We were taught to put our head down and focus on our family and we did. Kids are now grown up, well educated, settled and both are in top one percent earners bracket in the country they live and are successful. We gave them the same values our parents gave us; to be God fearing, responsible and ethically honest.
    Was it difficult, no, because we were surrounded by all-around support to whom we listened/obeyed/conformed.
    Please pass this message to persevere and succeed

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel Mangalore

    Mon, Dec 14 2020

    Rohan, Mangalore: I didn’t think about my topic-essay driving dames to the divorce court to claim maintenance booty. Thank you for wishing me more years of writing. I am ready with no baggage to carry – I would be carried in a hearse.
    Mangalorian, Mangalore: Your first sentence is loaded with implied invitation to the dames to the divorce court. Your observation about poor man’s marriage lasting and by implication rich man’s marriage risky is well-taken. “Woman’s mind is on the wealth” seems a bit sweeping.
    Mohan Prabhu, Mangalore (Kankanady)/ Ottava,Canada: Pampering wife with “yes mam, no mam” whichever pleases her is a good recipe. In this context, your claim that hen-pecked husbands are often called in Konkani “ganDoo” is new to me, though I have heard the word in Hindi. Readers would be reassured that in happy marriages “woman is worth her weight in gold”. Will this tempt husbands to over-feed and have fat, weighty wives?
    Incidentally, Mohan Prabhu is our senior-most respondents – and from longest distance from Mangalore – for which he has a sustained longing.
    Prescilla Fernandes, Mangalore: Your comments on “Tale-piece” reassure me that I am not an odd one. Thank you for your consistent well-thought-out comments.

  • Prescilla Fernandes, Mangalore

    Sun, Dec 13 2020

    Dear Monteiro Sir, your article is interesting as well as informative. Now-a-days there are plenty of reasons to get divorce if the husband is wealthy. I wonder how fast you are doing your homework such as collecting the information on subjects, facts and findings. I always look forward to your articles.
    The Tale pieces are really worth reading. You are not the only one who is looking for your photo in the obituary columns. There are plenty of people who search for their photo s as well and I am also one among them!

  • Mohan Prabhu,, Mangalore (Kankanady)/Ottawa, Canada

    Sun, Dec 13 2020

    A very interesting, witty and true-to-life description of some marriages. I have heard people saying that if a man wants his marriage to last a long time he better minister to every need and fancy of his wife and say "yes mam, no mam" whichever pleases her. They are often called “ganDoo” in Konkani. I have known a few of those are they claim to be "happy" to the outside world. But, increasingly, there are others where the wife is a "gold digger", and there was a film run in our local television about a “black widow” who picked wealthy men and they “mysteriously” disappeared – quite unlike the story in the bible where a woman marries several brothers of a man after his death and all of them die one by one. In Christian marriages, some get "annulment" and in less than a year or so marry another; but they don’t last long.

    But many couples are happy in their marriage, where a virtuous woman is worth her weight in gold, and the above examples are exceptions. All this shows that money is the root of all evil, a great temptation, and where money dazzles, the devil is not far away.
    BTW, I guess the judges who awarded alimony simply because they deserve it must have consulted their wives before making the ordr.

  • JAIRAM MENON, MUMBAI

    Sun, Dec 13 2020

    A piece with a wealth of interesting detail, and a humorous twist at the end. I can't imagine how you unearth such fascinating information, time and time again. Really liked that bit of the checking if your own name featured in the Obit columns!
    Keep them coming, John !

  • Mangalurian, Mangaluru

    Sun, Dec 13 2020

    Thank you Mr Monteiro for a great article.

    My limited thinking says that there is a correlation between the wealth a man possesses and the wife's interest in divorce.

    A poor man may be a drunkard and might have a 100 other bad things about him, but his wife will stand by him all his life. That is how the marriages lasted in the past.

    A man with some wealth cannot hope for a lasting marriage. The woman's mind is on the wealth.

    The moral of the story (my story): a man must either accumulate wealth and remain unmarried, or marry and remain poor.

    PS: No lawyer, even a religious one, helps a woman get ideas if she has no money to pay him.

  • John, Mangalore

    Sat, Dec 12 2020

    First of all, divorces are bad for society need to be avoided including the blame games for it as much as possible, except for certain genuine cases. Also,

    Jesus on marriage, divorces and how to avoid certain lifestyle issues specially in the west, root cause for it in a message to John Leary dated Friday, December 30, 2016: (Feast of the Holy Family)

    Jesus said: “My people, you are seeing the greatest example to follow in My Holy Family of Me, My Blessed Mother, and St. Joseph. Your society today is destroying the family which should be the basic unit for bringing up children in love. You have listened and tolerated the devil’s call for same sex marriage, divorce, and couples living together in fornication without marriage. You know it is a mortal sin against the Sixth Commandment to commit homosexual acts and for having sex outside of true marriage in fornication. Yet by society tolerating these sinful actions with no shame, you are accepting the tearing down of marriage as an institution. If you wanted to destroy America in its love of God, love of country, and love of family, like the communists planned, you would destroy the family. The communists have planned to use sex exploitation in pornography, hard rock music, liberal teaching without God in the colleges, and drugs to destroy your country. You are seeing it happen before your eyes. Your country needs a spiritual renewal to put Me back into your society by coming to church every week, repenting of your sins, and praying more. You need to see sin and call it for what it is, without any ‘political correctness’. By restoring your morals, you can save America. If you do not change, America will leave the face of the earth as you know it.”

    Ref:
    http://www.johnleary.com/index.php/2017/01/?cat=3&order=ASC

  • Rohan, Mangalore

    Sat, Dec 12 2020

    Dear Mr. Monteiro,
    My grandmother in her 90s used to always say now the times have changed and its not what it used to be. Changing for better or worse anything is possible. Many of my friends say its kaliyug. People live immoral and unethical lives. Its the order of the day. Your article of today is an eye opener and informative to all, may also be giving ideas. All said and done we are at heavens mercy is true of today...
    Regarding the obituary space it can be anyone's anyday. We should all be ready. You have a long way ahead of sharing knowledge through your articles. Would like to add English is indeed a funny language but grand too!


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