Hon’ble Apex Court has held the following that Section 488 under Old Code and Section 125 under new CrPC
Section 488 does not confer an absolute right on a neglected wife to get an order of maintenance against the husband nor does it impose an absolute liability on the husband to support her in all circumstances. The use of the word “may” in Section 488(1) indicates that the power conferred on the Magistrate is discretionary. A neglected wife, therefore, cannot, under this Section, claim, as of right, an order of maintenance against the husband. of course, the Magistrate has to exercise his discretion in a judicial manner consistently with the language of the statute with the regard to other relevant circumstances of the case. Nevertheless, the Magistrate has to exercise his discretion primarily towards the end which the Legislature had in view in enacting the provision.
The mere fact that the language of s.488(1) does not expressly make the inability of a wife to
maintain herself a condition precedent to the maintainability of her petition, does not imply that while determining her claim and fixing the amount of maintenance, the Magistrate is debarred from taking into consideration the wife’s own separate income or means of support. There is a clear distinction between a wife’s locus standi, to file a petition under s. 488 and her being entitled, on merits, to a particular amount of maintenance thereunder. This distinction appears to have been overlooked in Major Joginder Singh’s case (supra). Proof of the preliminary condition attached to a neglected child will establish only his competence to file the petition but his entitlement to maintenance, particularly the fixation of its amount, will still depend upon the discretion of the Magistrate. As the Magistrate is required to exercise that discretion in a just manner, the income of the wife, also, must be put in the scales of justice as against the means of the husband.
Bhagwan Dutt Vs Kamla Devi And Anr on 17 October, 1974
There is nothing in these provisions to show that in determining the maintenance and its rate, the Magistrate has to inquire into the means of the husband alone, and exclude the means of the wife altogether from consideration. Rather, there is a definite indication in the language of the associate s. 489(1) that the financial resources of the wife are also a relevant consideration in making such a determination. Section 489(1) provides inter alia, that “on proof of a change in the circumstances of any person receiving under s. 488 a monthly allowance, the Magistrate, may make such alteration in the allowance as he thinks fit”. The “circumstances” contemplated by s. 489(1) must include financial circumstances and in that view,the inquiry as to the change in the circumstances must extend to a change in the financial circumstances of the wife.