1. This is a revision petition which has been preferred against an order made by the learned Second Presidency Magistrate, G. T. Madras, to M. C. No. 1 of 1956.
2. The facts are: The petitioner in the lower court Saraswathi had been married by the respondent, Ponnambalam, in 1953. This Ponnambalam is a postman drawing a salary of Rs. 90 per month. Husband and wife lived happily for some time after the marriage. But as it often happens in Hindu households, the presence of the step mother of the husband had been a disturbing factor in this household and husband and wife have fallen out and the wife says that she had had to go and live with her parents and on account of the fact that this Ponnambalam has not made any provision for her maintenance and has refusing and neglecting to maintain her, this Saraswathi has filed this petition under Section 488 Crl. P. C. On the appearance of the parties in the court, apparently they have not desired to go into the box and give evidence. There is nothing on record to show that they desired to go into the box and give evidence and that no opportunity was given to them by the Second Presidency Magistrate.
3. In fact, the parties seem to have had a discussion in the presence of the learned Presidency Magistrate and the substance of it is to be found in the order made by him.
4. The gist of what the parties informed the Magistrate was that the wife was willing to go and live with her husband but at the same time seems to have insisted upon her being not exposed to the unpleasantness of the presence of the husband's relative, viz., the step-mother, and prevision being made for her to live without this unpleasantness. On the other hand, the husband who seems to have been attached to his step-mother seems to have been insisting that she should live with him and his step-mother. Therefore notwithstanding the willing-ness of the wife to live with her husband, the parties could not amicably settle the matter, and therefore an order had lo be made by the Presidency Magistrate for the maintenance of the wife under the provisions of Section 488 Crl. P. C.
5. Two points were taken before me, viz., that the wife was bound to live with her husband and that there is no case at all made out that he has refused to maintain her or neglected to maintain her and that he would do so readily if she comes and lives with him along with his stepmother, and secondly that the statements from the parties have not been recorded in the case by the Presidency Magistrate.
6. In regard to the first point, it is now settled law in England, America and India, that a wife is entitled to insist that she should not be exposed to the unpleasantness of the relatives of her husband and that suitable provisions should be made for her to live with her husband in privacy. The husband no doubt has got the right to choose the domicile for the wife and she should follow him when that domicile is one which is not legitimately repugnant to her and injurious to her health etc. In all these matters as pointed in Simon's Edition of Halsbury's Laws of England, the casting vote is not with the husband or the wife but it is a matter which has got to be decided amicably between them; at times the husband may have to choose between his parents, mother or his wife.
He must come to his own conclusion In his ownmind and must not insist upon incompatible partieslike his own wife and mother living together andmaking life a hell for them. In this case, thereseems to be no ground for grouse against the wifeby the husband excepting that she could nottolerate this step-mother. Nobody can blame herwhen probably this step-mother is a virago who ismaking the life of this young woman a great hardship by insisting upon several requirements whichthis wife may not be able to fulfil. In fact thisseems to be a case of tyranny of mother-in-lawover daughter-in-law the proverbial theme' of discordin Hindu households. Therefore I cannot say thatthe wife has disentitled herself to separate maintenance by saying that she would live only with thehusband and not with the step-mother added to thebargain.
I need not say that it would have been betterif tin's wife had been able to do so especially whenthe husband says that his step-father's service hadsecured a job for him. But times have changed,Hardships which wives were prepared to endurein the past they are not prepared to endure now andI cannot impose upon them ante-diluvian require-ments of domestic Hindu households at the presenttime.
7. Then turning to the second question of statements not being recorded, normally, this senior Presidency Magistrate would have recorded the statements if the parties had expressed the slightest inclination to get into the box and give evidence, I find what appears to have happened Was after the petition was filed it was forwarded to the Probation Officer, and after receiving the report of the Probation Officer, the Magistrate seems to have asked the parties whether they would examine themselves and they did not show the slightest inclination to examine themselves. It is possible they did so because examination would be followed by cross-examination and cross-examination means washing of dirty linen in open court and which would put future reconciliation out of question.
8. Finally, the question of quantum of maintenance is also a matter for the discretion, of the trial Magistrate, because he has to take into consi-deration several factors, like the status of the family, the earnings and the commitments and what is required by the wife to maintain herself. In regard to determining what is required by the wife to maintain herself, we have to steer clear of two extremes, viz., we must not give maintenance which would keep her in luxury and would make judicial separation profitable and also impede any future reconciliation.
We must also steer clear of the other extreme, viz., penuriousness, which, used to be the case with our elderly Sub Judges in civil suits and which used to be on such a scale as would be fitting only in the case of an imchaste Hindu widow. Steering clear of these two extremes we must see whether Rs. 25 out of the Rs. 90 is liberal or illiberal.
In my opinion, it is just the amount as would support the wife not in any comfort but as would enable to keep her body and soul together, because in all conscience Rs. 25 can hardly be described as la liberal maintenance in these days of high prices and rising prices. In fact this woman would not be able to live on the Rs. 25 unless she supplements it by money given to her by her parents or earns by doing work. This woman belongs to a class who do not go out for work for earning their livelihood.
9. Therefore there are no grounds for me to interfere with the order of the lower court. But I hope that the couple will see the error of their ways and get reconciled and lead a happy domestic life.