Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Sachdeva, J. allowed a criminal revision petition filed by the petitioner-wife against the order of the trial court listing the matter for evidence.

It was an admitted fact that the trial court had earlier heard the arguments on interim maintenance application filed by the petitioner and then listen the matter for orders. The parties were directed to file income affidavits. On a subsequent date, the matter was referred to mediation which was unsuccessful. Thereafter, the trial court listen to the matter for evidence.

Ankit Mutreja, Advocate representing the petitioner, challenged the order of listing the matter for evidence since no order on interim maintenance application was yet passed by the trial court. Per contra, Sheenu Chauhan, Advocate for the respondent-husband, contended that the petitioner was not entitled to grant of any maintenance.

In view of the High Court, it was incumbent upon the trial court to consider the application for grant of interim maintenance, and it should not delay or refuse to decide the application. It was said: “Final adjudication of the maintenance application is dependent upon parties leading evidence and may take some time. If the trial court declines or delays disposal of the application for grant of interim maintenance, it would defeat the very purpose of the enactment.” The Court reiterated that maintenance is granted to a wife/dependant who is unable to maintain herself and if there is delay in disposing of the application for grant of interim maintenance, the wife/dependant would be without any support and would not be able to survive and as such it is necessary that such an application is disposed of at the earliest.

On facts of the present case, the Court held: “The order sheet reveals that arguments had been heard by the trial court on interim maintenance application but the main case was listed for evidence without disposing of the application for interim maintenance. The trial court, as noticed above, should have decided on the plea of grant of interim maintenance with promptitude.” It was also noted that the objections raised by the respondent were pleas on merits of the matter, which were yet to be adjudicated upon by the trial court, and were not relevant for disposal of the present petition.

In such view of the matter, the petition was allowed and the trial court was directed to decide the application seeking interim maintenance within a period of one month from the next date of hearing. [Anu Rani v. Vishwantra Dhama, Crl. Rev. P. 624 of 2019, decided on 15-07-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Sachdeva, J. dismissed a revision petition filed by the petitioner-husband against the order of the Appellate Court whereby his appeal challenging the order of interim maintenance passed by the trial court was dismissed.

The petitioner — a Muslim, and the respondent — a Christian, were married under Special Marriage Act. The petitioner had two daughters from his previous marriage. Two more daughters were born to the parties from their marriage to each other. However, subsequently, the respondent-wife alleged domestic violence and filed a petition under the Domestic Violence Act, 2005. In the petition filed by her under Section 23, the trial court awarded interim maintenance of Rs 60,000 per month to be payable by the petitioner. Claiming that he was a pauper, the petitioner appealed to the Appellate Court but his appeal was dismissed. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioner filed the present petition.

The petitioner, who was represented by Adab Singh Kapoor and Shefali Menezes, Advocates submitted that the respondent had taken over his business and he had no means to pay the amount of maintenance awarded. Per contra, the respondent, who was represented by Mrinal Madhav, Tarunesh Kumar and Kaushikesh Kumar, Advocates, supported the impugned order.

The High Court noted that that three of the minor daughters, who were dependent on the petitioner and respondent, were being taken care of solely by the respondent. The petitioner was running a business of travel agency and bank account showed that he was earning a substantial sum of money. It was observed by the Court: “Mere fact that the respondent wife is earning does not absolve the petitioner of his responsibility to maintain his three minor daughters.” It was further said:

“A child for her upbringing does not only require money. A lot of time and effort goes in upbringing of a child. It would be incorrect to hold that both the parents are equally responsible for the expenses of the child. A mother who has custody of a child not only spends money on the upbringing of the child but also spent substantial time and effort in bringing up the child. One cannot put value to the time and effort put in by the mother in upbringing of the child. No doubt, mother, if she is earning, should also contribute towards the expenses of the child but the expenses cannot be divided equally between the two.”

It was found by the Court that expenditure incurred by the respondent on the three minor daughters was far more in excess of Rs 60,000 per month. In such circumstances, and further relying on Bhuwan Mohan Singh v. Meena, (2015) 6 SCC 353, the Court held that the award made by the trial court was justified. The revision petition was, therefore, dismissed. [Farooq Ahmed Shala v. Marie Chanel Gillier, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8972, decided on 01-07-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: The Bench of R.K. Gauba, J. dismissed a husband’s petition filed against the order of Metropolitan Magistrate as confirmed by Additional Sessions Judge whereby he was directed to pay interim maintenance allowance of Rs 3500 to his wife and Rs 2000 for his minor daughter.

The parties were married to each other and a daughter was born to them from the wedlock. On account of certain circumstances, the wife left the matrimonial home along with the daughter. Subsequently, she filed a petition under Section 12 of the Protection of Women and Domestic Violence Act, 2005. On her application, the Metropolitan Magistrate directed the husband to pay the interim maintenance allowance as mentioned above. The husband challenged the order in an appeal which was dismissed by Additional Sessions Judge, Aggrieved thereby, he filed the present petition under Section 482 CrPC.

S.C. Singhal, Advocate for the husband submitted that he was unemployed and therefore unable to pay the allowance. It was also submitted that the wife was gainfully employed in a beauty parlour for the proof of which certain photographs were produced.

The High Court held that mere photographs showing the wife’s presence in a parlour were not sufficient to prove that she had a regular income sufficient to maintain herself and the minor daughter, Furthermore, the husband made a cursory statement that he was unemployed, but did not disclose as to how he had been surviving all along. The Court was of the view that he was concealing facts and intentionally withholding information about his income. In such a situation, the Court approved the course adopted by Metropolitan Magistrate as per which he assumed husband’s income notionally on the basis of minimum wages and passed the order of interim maintenance. Resultantly the petition was dismissed. [Khem Chand v. Bhagwati, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 6776, Order dated 22-01-2019]

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Delhi High Court: The Bench of Sanjeev Sachdeva, J. disposed of a petition holding that the petitioner (wife) was not entitled to maintenance under Section 125 CrPC for a period prior to the grant of divorce.

The petitioner and the respondent (husband) were married. They were living separately since 2004. Divorce was granted in 2015 on an application filed by the respondent on the ground of mental cruelty and desertion by the wife. The decree of divorce was upheld by the Supreme Court. Prior to that in 2007, the petitioner had applied under Section 125 CrPC for interim maintenance. By the impugned judgment, the trial court dismissed the application for maintenance on petitioner’s failure to show that she had sufficient cause to live separately.

S.K. Srivastava and Gurjeet Singh, Advocates for the petitioner assailed the impugned judgment while Senior Advocate Kirti Uppal with Sidharth Chopra and Shaini Bharadwaj, Advocates representing the respondent supported it.

The High Court referred to Section 125(4)which states that wife is not entitled to receive maintenance is not entitled to receive maintenance if without any sufficient reason she refuses to live with her husband. Relying on Rohtash Singh v. Ramendri, (2000) 3 SCC 180, the Court held that as the divorce decree was passed on ground of desertion which was upheld by Supreme Court, the petitioner was clearly disentitled to maintenance under Section 125. However, it was cleared that she could still file application for maintenance provided she is able to satisfy the condition of Section 125(1)(a) that she is unable to maintain herself. [Archita v. Sunil Seth, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 6484, Order dated 11-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu and Kashmir High Court: A Single Bench of Sanjay Kumar Gupta, J., dismissed a petition filed to challenge the order of Sessions Judge who modified the order of the Chief Judicial Magistrate reducing the interim maintenance payable to the respondents from Rs 4000 per month to Rs 2700 per month. 

The facts of the case were that the petitioner was legally married to the respondent and from the wedlock, a child was born. Thereafter respondents filed a petition under Section 488 CrPC for grant of interim maintenance on the grounds of demand of dowry and cruelty. An application for interim maintenance was also filed, the quantum of which is the moot question here. 

The main contention forwarded by the counsel for the petitioner, Mr C.M. Gupta, was that the petitioner had only a salary of Rs 7500 per month, so he was unable to pay the interim maintenance which was on higher side. Also, the respondent was already getting maintenance under Section 30 of the Hindu Marriage Act. 

The Court while dismissing the petition held that the purpose of granting interim maintenance was to save claimant from vagrancy and destitution. Further, the argument that the petitioner was already getting maintenance under Section 30 of the Hindu Marriage Act, was not tenable as the petitioner had statutory right to get maintenance. Also, petitioner had not annexed any evidence in this regard. [Krishan Singh v. Jyoti Jamwal, 2018 SCC OnLine J&K 991, decided on 18-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Ravi Malimath, J. allowed a writ petition filed under Article 227 of the Constitution of India against an interim maintenance order on account of it being arbitrary against the husband.

The respondent filed an application under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act in order to seek interim maintenance for which the petitioner was directed to pay Rs 5000 per month against which this writ petition was filed.

The petitioner contended that his only source of earning was a photostat machine shop and thus the amount awarded was too excessive for him. He brought into consideration the financial position of the respondent which comprises of her owning various landed properties in the State as well as she had a four-wheeler to her possession along with the fact that she was a practicing advocate.

The Court agreed with the petitioner that taking into account the low income of the petitioner against a considerably higher income of the respondent, the maintenance awarded was far too excessive. Accordingly, the amount was reduced to Rs 3000 per month.[Rachayya v. Bhagyalaxmi,2018 SCC OnLine Kar 1821, order dated 05-06-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: A Division bench comprising of C.K. Abdul Rehim and R. Narayana Pisharadi, JJ. affirmed the order of Family Court striking off defence of the erring husband but set aside the part of order staying proceedings in a divorce petition instituted by the wife, holding the same to be counter-productive in achieving real and substantial justice.

Facts of the case were that the respondent-wife filed a petition for divorce in the Family Court inter alia claiming interim maintenance from the petitioner-husband. The court granted her decree for interim maintenance but the petitioner deliberately disobeyed the court’s order and did not pay maintenance. The Family Court directed petitioner’s defence in the divorce petition to be struck off and to withhold trial till payment of arrears of maintenance. The said order was challenged by the petitioner in the present appeal.

At the outset, the Bench noted that the petitioner had not offered any explanation whatsoever for non-payment of the interim monthly maintenance. Having gone through judgments of various High Courts on the said issue, it was observed that when a party flouts a court order directing payment of interim alimony, thereby putting the other party at a disadvantage, the court is not helpless and it can exercise its power under Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 to do real and substantial justice. On the said reasoning, it was opined that the Family Court was right in its approach of striking off the defence of petitioner and in staying of the proceedings. However, the court noted that in the instant case, divorce petition had been filed by the wife and as such, staying of proceedings in that case on the ground of non-payment of maintenance by the petitioner-husband would only cause delay in the disposal of the case thereby further adding to the wife’s grievances.

The High Court held that staying of proceedings only in a divorce case instituted by the defaulting party would achieve the object and staying of proceedings in a case instituted by the party to whom the amount is due, would be counter-productive. On the aforesaid reasoning, the order of Family Court striking off defence of petitioner was upheld and the part of order staying the proceedings was set aside. [Maximus Fernandez v. Olga Fernandez, 2018 SCC OnLine Ker 3479, decided on 24-09-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Vipin Sanghi and P.S. Teji, JJ. dismissed the petition filed by the wife against the order of Additional Sessions Judge rejecting her challenge to the maintainability of the appeal filed by the husband under Section 29 of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.

Interim maintenance was awarded to the wife by the trial court under Section 23, DV Act. The husband preferred an appeal against the order under Section 29. The wife challenged the maintainability of the appeal on the ground that the appellant was required to deposit the complete amount of compensation awarded before he could file an appeal. However, the Additional Sessions Judge rejected the challenge. Matter reached the High Court, and the learned Single Judge referred the same to be considered by a larger bench, as there were two conflicting judgments of coordinate benches. The question before the Court was whether statutory remedy of appeal under Section 29 could be made subject to pre-deposit of entire amount of interim maintenance fixed by Magistrate under Section 23?

The Court, after perusing the concerned sections, was of the view that neither the language used by the legislature in Section 399 read with Section 401 CrPC nor in Section 29 of DV Act even remotely suggest that the legislature intended to impose preconditions to the available remedies. Further, any such precondition will fall foul of Article 14 of the Constitution. It was held that there cannot be an absolute rider that the entire maintenance amount, as granted by the trial Court, should be deposited prior to the entertainment of the statutory remedy, because it would leave the remedy of statutory revision/appeal illusory. The reference was answered in above terms and the matter was directed to be listed before the Single Judge for further proceedings. [Sabina Sahdev v. Vidur Sahdev, 2018 SCC OnLine Del 9747, dated 09-07-2018]

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Himachal Pradesh High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Dharam Chand Chaudhary, J. dismissed a criminal revision petition that was filed against the order of the Sessions Judge wherein he reversed the order of Chief Judicial Magistrate granting maintenance to the petitioner under Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

The petitioner was married to the respondent and they had school going children. She alleged that the respondent and his mother treated her and the minor children with cruelty. She submitted that the children were studying in a public school and their expenses were high. The respondent was a government doctor earning Rs 1.5 lakhs per month. Taking note of such factual details,  the Chief Judicial Magistrate directed the respondent to pay Rs 30,000 per month to the petitioner by way of interim allowance. On appeal, the said order was reversed by the Sessions Judge vide the order under challenge herein.

The High Court perused the record and observed that the Chief Judicial Magistrate passed the order without recording any prima facie finding qua alleged instances of maltreatment to the petitioner and the children, by the respondent and his mother. The Court held that in a case of domestic violence, in order to seek the relief of interim maintenance under Section 23 of the Act, a prima facie case qua maltreatment and existence of instances of domestic violence was required to be made out which was not done in this case. Moreover, the Sessions Court did not close the right of the petitioner to claim interim maintenance rather remanded the matter to the trial court for disposal under the law. The High Court did not find any fault with the order impugned. Consequently, the petition was dismissed. [Ashmin Kashmiri v. Pushkar Kashmiri,2018 SCC OnLine HP 841, dated 04-07-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: The Single Judge Bench comprising of M.V. Muralidaran J., held that “If the husband is healthy, able-bodied and in a position to support himself, he is under the obligation to support his wife under Section 125 CrPC, for wife’s right to receive maintenance under the Section, unless disqualified, is an absolute right.”

The petition for divorce was first filed by the husband/petitioner subsequently followed by a petition by the wife seeking restitution of conjugal rights and while these petitions were still pending, the wife of the petitioner filed another petition seeking interim maintenance for which the petitioner was asked to pay Rs. 16,000/- per month to the respondent/wife.

The petitioner in his submission stated that he was unemployed and was living under the shadow of his father which makes him incapable of providing such huge amount of interim maintenance. But for the same stated issue the respondent/wife contended that it was the husband’s duty to maintain his wife/child with the provision of all the basic needs, and also the contention of the petitioner is incorrect as he runs his own business.

The Hon’ble High Court, on noting all the facts and circumstances stated that it is the obligation of the husband to maintain his wife and he cannot be permitted to plead that he is unable to maintain his wife due to financial constraints as long as he is capable of earning. Therefore, the Criminal Revision was partly allowed by reducing the sum of interim maintenance to Rs. 10,000/- per month by directing the Family Court judge to dispose of the petition without giving any further adjournment. [Vishnuprasad v. Vishnupriya,  2018 SCC OnLine Mad 1306, dated 11-04-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Hearing an appeal against the Family Court’s order declining to award interim maintenance to the  appellant wife as she is a qualified chartered accountant having sufficient means to maintain herself, the Court observed that Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act makes a provision for award of interim maintenance to a spouse who has no independent income sufficient to support her and fight the legal battle. The appellant wife being  well qualified and in profession for the past 13 years need not be granted interim maintenance.

The appellant is a CA while her husband is an Electrical Engineer running his own business. The husband had filed a petition for dissolution of marriage under Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Hindu Marriage Act. The wife under Section 24, sought interim maintenance for a sum of Rs 3 lakh per month for herself and the two children besides Rs 1.13 lakh towards litigation expenses.  While denying maintenance to the wife, the Family Court refused to believe her claim that she was getting only Rs 7,000 per month despite the fact that she had been practicing as a Chartered  Accountant since the year 2003. Her claim that she has no sufficient means to support herself and children was dealt with by the  Family Court noting that the parties had been indulging in jugglery of accounts making the things complex. The Family Court, however, awarded a sum of Rs 22,900 per month towards the maintenance of her two children.

Concurring with the finding of the Family Court, the Court observed that the High Court of Madras in Manokaran v. M. Devaki, 2003 SCC Online Mad 135,  while construing the provision of Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act and relying on its earlier decision in  Kumaresan v. Aswathi, 2002 SCC Online Mad 377 held that for grant of maintenance pendent lite, the party should not have sufficient independent income for her/his support. The Court also noted that in the  context of award of interim maintenance under Section 24 to a well-qualified spouse having the earning capacity but desirous of remaining idle has been deprecated in the decision in Mamta Jaiswal v. Rajesh Jaiswal, 2000 (3) MPLJ 100.

Dismissing the appeal, the Bench of Pratibha Rani and Pradeep Nandrajog, JJ observed that the appellant wife who is a qualified Chartered Accountant and in profession since the year 2003 need not be granted interim maintenance under Section 24 of the Act. [Rupali Gupta v. Rajat Gupta, 2016 SCC OnLine Del 5009, decided on September 5, 2016]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Reiterating the factors to be considered while considering the merits of an application for grant of interim maintenance under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 the Court held that the object behind Section 24  is to provide for maintenance, pendente lite, to a spouse in matrimonial proceedings so that during the pendency of the proceedings the spouse can maintain herself/himself and also have sufficient funds to carry on the litigation and  not unduly suffer in the conduct of the case for want of funds. A spouse unable to maintain himself/herself is entitled to maintenance on the principle of equistatus and respect that the spouse would have enjoyed if he/she continued to live with other spouse.

The Court reiterated the factors to be considered while determining the amount of maintenance as laid down in Bharat Hegde v. Saroj Hegde,  2007 SCC Online Del 622 : (2007) 140 DLT 16:

  • Status of the parties.
  • Reasonable wants of the claimant.
  • The independent income and property of the claimant
  • The number of persons, the non applicant has to maintain.
  • The amount should aid the applicant to live in a similar life style as he/she enjoyed in the matrimonial home.
  • Non-applicant’s liabilities, if any.
  • Provisions for food, clothing, shelter, education, medical attendance and treatment etc. of the applicant.
  • Payment capacity of the non-applicant.
  • Some guess work is not ruled out while estimating the income of the non-applicant when all the sources or correct sources are not disclosed.
  • The non-applicant to defray the cost of litigation.
  • The amount awarded under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code is adjustable against the amount awarded under Section 24 of the Act.

The Division Bench of Pradeep Nandrajog and Pratibha Rani, JJ. held that the court has to necessarily arrive at prima facie determination about the earning capacity of the rival claimants. The determination cannot be made with exactitude; it is essentially interim in nature. Capacity of the other party to earn cannot be taken into consideration – it is only the actual earning of the opposite party on the basis of which relief can be granted. Permanent income and not casual income is relevant. Where there was sufficient means in the husband’s family on the strength of which the husband got married he has to share the burden of supporting his wife during the course of annulment of such marriage

The Court  further observed that “the provisions of Section 24 are beneficent in nature and the power is exercised by the court not only out of compassion but also by way of judicial duty so that the indigent spouse may not suffer at the instance of the affluent spouse. The legislature, in its discretion, has not fixed any guideline regarding ceiling limit of maintenance, pendente lite, as in the case of the Divorce Act or the Parsi Marriage Act. The word “support” in Section 24 is not to be narrowly interpreted. It does not mean bare existence. It means that the claimant spouse should have the same comfort as the other. Of course, the section is not intended to bring about arithmetical equality between the two.” [Sujit Kumar v. Vandana, 2016 SCC OnLine Del 4397, decided on August 8, 2016]