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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 193
November 06, 2010

This week's issue:
Law alter views
Human rights advocacy
Your advocate
Human rights monitor
Rights corner
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Your Advocate

This week your advocate is Barrister Omar Khan Joy of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh and Head of 'The Legal Counsel'. His professional interests include commercial law, corporate law, family law, land law, constitutional law, banking law, arbitration and intellectual property laws. Our civil and criminal law experts from reputed law chambers will provide the legal summary advice.

Reader's query

As a citizen, I want to know the procedure with regards to how I can get maintenance cost from my husband. Please also inform names of the organisations who provide these kinds of support or help distressed women. I am describing my case in brief:

I live in Dhaka and also work in an NGO. I started my career in December 2007. We were married on May 2006. June 2008, I conceived. Due to some family related problems and security issues, I went to my own home in Chittagong on February 2009 (with the concern of my husband and my mother in law) for delivery. My delivery was on March 2010. After delivery, a girl child was born but the she died after 3 hours of delivery (due to congenital heart disease). My in-laws' and my husband blamed me for this death. Before my release from the clinic, my husband departed from Chittagong and came to Dhaka.

I came to Dhaka alone after maternity leave from Chittagong on May 2009 and stayed with my maternal uncle. After my return, I communicated with my husband and tried to solve the problem as I was determined that I was unable to live together with his family as living with them would be mental torture for me. I told him that I will take separate home near my uncle and we will live there. But he refused and even didn't come to my uncle's house to meet me. My uncle tried to communicate with them but failed. Since then I have been living with my maternal uncle till date.

My husband is not communicating with me now and he did not provide my maintenance cost or living cost from April 2009 to till date. Now I want to take my maintenance cost from him. But I don't want to divorce him. If he wished, he can. My husband is the chief executive of his own organisation.

So, please provide me assistance. I need your advice. What should I do to get my maintenance cost from him. Thanking you in anticipation and looking forward to hearing from you.

Thanks for your query. From the given queries it appears that you are desirous to know about the laws regarding maintenance. It is noteworthy that in Bangladesh family matters are governed by the personal laws of the religious community to which an individual belongs to. Accordingly, the issues like Marriage, Divorce and Maintenance of Muslims are dealt by the Islamic Law along with pertinent statutory laws of the land.

As far as your query regarding right to get maintenance is concerned, your husband is bound to provide maintenance during the validity of the marriage. Therefore, you are also entitled to receive it as the marriage is still in existence albeit you and your husband are now living separately. But, your husband would not be so bound if you have left him without any reasonable excuse like cruelty. From the fact it appears that your in laws inflicted severe mental torture on you. Hence, it is unlikely that your husband could deny providing maintenance showing the cause of your leaving his home. Although you are not interested to divorce your husband but it is worth mentioning that maintenance is available even after divorce following the period of Iddat. In addition, the failure by the husband to provide maintenance may also be one of the valid grounds for obtaining a decree for dissolution of marriage under the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act 1939.

If your husband denies providing maintenance, you may have the following options: Firstly, it goes without saying that you should communicate with your husband to settle the matter amicably. Although, your husband is no longer in touch with you but you should give reasonable effort to settle with him first. You may also decide to take the help of the elder members of both the families to settle the matter. After reasonable efforts, if you cannot settle it in the above mentioned process, you may serve him a Legal Notice before resorting to litigation. Filing a case in a continuing marital relationship may not always be the best thing to do. If no satisfactory response is made to the Legal Notice, you may only then decide to recourse to the Family Court by way of filing a suit for maintenance. Maintenance is within the jurisdiction of the Family Court as per Section 5 of the Family Courts Ordinance 1985.

Besides, Section 9 of the Muslim Family Law Ordinance 1961 contains provision for Maintenance. Accordingly, if your husband fails to provide you with maintenance, in addition to seeking any other legal remedy, you may apply to the Chairman of Union Parishad/Paurashava or Mayor of the City Corporation, as the case may be, who will constitute an Arbitration Council to determine the matter and specifying the amount to be paid as maintenance. The amount has to be equitable and adequate. The financial position of the husband along with the standard of living to which the wife is accustomed shall also be considered.

Further, from the fact it appears that you are not being provided maintenance since April 2009. This may be termed as 'past maintenance'. Although the Muslim Family Law Ordinance 1961 and the Family Courts Ordinance 1985 contain no specific provision in this regard but case law suggests that the Court may allow past maintenance in appropriate cases. Hence, whenever you are going for a judicial solution to the problem, you may recover that past maintenance as well.

There are quite a few organisations providing assistance to distressed woman. The One Stop Crisis Centre may be noteworthy. It has been established in the Dhaka Medical College Hospital. The Centre provides counseling in relation to crisis resulting from domestic violence and family matters. Besides, some groups of Women Lawyers like Bangladesh Mahila Ainjibi Samity are also working for the welfare of distressed women. You may also take advice from a Lawyer dealing with family matters.

I hope that the above shall clarify your query. I advise you to act with a positive mindset to resolve the problem amicably so that the need for going to the Court can wither away. However, even after giving reasonable efforts, the things do not change or the problem remains, you should go for the aforesaid legal remedies.

For detailed query contact omar@legalcounselbd.com





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