Madras HC| “Delay in disposal of maintenance petitions is human (woman) suffering”

Madras High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of P. Devadass, J. directed Family Court Chennai to dispose of the interim petition of maintenance by throwing light on the sufferings that women and children have to undergo during such proceedings and due to the unnecessary delay in disposal.

In the present case, petitioner and respondent were married and had later separated due to an unhappy married life. Initially, the husband had sought divorce on grounds of cruelty in the subordinate court, Dindigul which was transferred to family court, Chennai. Further, the wife had filed for pendent lite both for her daughter and herself under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. It has been stated that the maintenance petition was adjourned due to counter being filed by the husband. Thus, the wife-petitioner approached High Court for issuance directions to family court, Chennai in order to dispose of her interim petition.

“In matrimonial disputes, the innocent children are worst sufferers.”

In matrimonial proceedings instituted under the personal laws, the wife and children can seek maintenance against the husband/father, as the case may be. It is to provide them with financial support and it for their survival. Hindu wives can seek pendente lite maintenance in a pending matrimonial proceeding under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriages Act and children can seek such maintenance from their father under Section 26 of the Act.

Object of Section 24 Hindu Marriages Act: Maintenance to a party in matrimonial proceedings in order to provide financial assistance to the spouse to maintain herself or himself during the pendency of proceedings and have sufficient funds to carry on the litigation.

The Court noted another point in the present case that was the delay in disposal of the maintenance petitions under Sections 24 and 26 of the Hindu Marriage Act, for which the Court stated that it is,

“A classic example of ‘Law’s Delay’, ‘Court’s Delay, ‘Judges’ Delay’, ‘System Law’, ‘System Failure’. All the stakeholders in the administration of gender justice shall owe responsibility for this sorry state of affair.”

Further, the High Court stated with a lot of disappointment that, “Women and children are in a disadvantageous position, husbands torture them by dragging on even these simple maintenance petitions for years together.”

The present case is also a classic example for “Perpetration of matrimonial violence and exploitation of women and children by the husbands due to Courts inaction.”

Therefore, noting the above and throwing light on present situation in the Courts in regard to such petitions as mentioned, the learned Judge gave clarity on how the issue of delay of such proceedings can be resolved by placing the stark realities of failure of justice in gender justice and gave directions for the present case by directing the family court, Chennai to dispose of the petition within a period of 15 days from this order.[A. Savitha Ujwala v. M.R. Venkatagiri, 2017 SCC OnLine Mad 1459, decided on 25-04-2017]

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    The case listed in this piece does not talk about irretrievable breakdown of marriage at all. It is a suit for maintenance. Is there another case that you’re referring to, or is the case listed on the SCC database incomplete/ wrong? Or is this piece wrong?
    I would appreciate a response, as I am trying to find a case law that accepts the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a valid ground for divorce.

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