“Unlike matrimonial proceedings where strict proof of marriage is essential, in the proceedings under Section 125 CrPC, such strict standard of proof is not necessary as it is summary in nature meant to prevent vagrancy. When the parties live together as husband and wife, there is a presumption that they are legally married couple for claim of maintenance of wife under Section 125. It is fairly well settled that the law presumes in favour of marriage and against concubinage when a man and woman have cohabited continuously for a number of years.
Chanmuniya Case referred to divergence of judicial opinion on the interpretation of the word “wife” in Section 125. After referring to the divergence of judicial opinion on the interpretation of the word “wife”, speaking for the Bench, A.K. Ganguly J. held that the Bench is inclined to take a broad view of the definition of “wife”, having regard to the social object of Section 125.
In Chanmuniya Case, this Court formulated three questions and referred the matter to the Larger Bench. However, after discussing various provisions of CrPC, this Court held that a broad and extensive interpretation should be given to the term “wife” and held as under:
We are of the opinion that a broad and expansive interpretation should be given to the term “wife” to include even those cases where a man and woman have been living together as husband and wife for a reasonably long period of time, and strict proof of marriage should not be a precondition for maintenance under Section 125, so as to fulfill the true spirit and essence of the beneficial provision of maintenance under Section 125. We also believe that such an interpretation would be a just application of the principles enshrined in the Preamble to our Constitution, namely, social justice and upholding the dignity of the individual.“
– Hon’ble Justice R. Banumathi, Kamala v. M.R. Mohan Kumar, [Criminal Appeal Nos. 2368-2369 of 2009].