SUPREME COURT ISSUES GUIDELINES ON PAYMENT OF MAINTENANCE IN MATRIMONIAL DISPUTES

The Two Judge Bench of the Hon’ble #SupremeCourt of India comprising of Justices Indu Malhotra and R. Subhash Reddy passed a Judgment dated 04.11.2020 in the case of Rajnesh v. Neha & Anr. (Criminal Appeal No. 730 of 2020) and has issued #Guidelines on payment of #maintenance in #matrimonial cases.

In the present case, the Respondent-Wife and the minor Son had filed an Application for Interim Maintenance under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 (Cr.P.C.) In January, 2013 shortly after the birth of the minor Son (Respondent No. 2), the Respondent No.1 (Wife) had left the Matrimonial House. On 02.09.2013, an Application was filed by the Respondent No. 1 under Section 125 Cr.P.C. seeking Interim Maintenance on behalf of herself and her minor Son. Vide Order dated 24.08.2015, the Family Court awarded an Interim Maintenance of Rs. 15,000/- per month to the Respondent No. 1 from 01.09.2013 and an interim maintenance of Rs.5,000/- per month to the Respondent No. 2 from 01.09.2013 to 31.08.2015 and an amount of Rs. 10,000 per month from 01.09.2015 till further orders were passed.

The Appellant-Husband challenged the said Order before the Hon’ble Bombay High Court- Nagpur Bench vide Criminal Writ Petition No.875/2015. The Writ Petition was subsequently dismissed vide Order dated 14.08.2018 and the Bombay High Court upheld the Order passed by the Family Court.

An Appeal was filed in the Apex Court challenging the High Court Order dated 14.08.2018. A notice was issued to the Respondent No. 1 and the Appellant was directed to file his Income Tax Returns and Assessment Orders for the period from 2005-2006 till date and to place a photocopy of his passport on record. Further, the Appellant was directed vide Order 11.09.2019 to make payment of the arrears of Rs.2,00,000 towards interim maintenance to the Wife and an amount of Rs.3,00,000 towards arrears of maintenance, which was due and payable to the Wife. However, by an Order dated 14.10.2019, it was recorded that only a part of the arrears had been paid by the Appellant and therefore, a final opportunity was given to him to make payment of the balance amount by 30.11.2019. The Apex Court further ordered that if the Appellant fails to make the said payment, he shall be liable for contempt of court.

Further, the Supreme Court also laid down certain Guidelines with respect to payment of maintenance in matrimonial matters, which are given below:

1- On the issue of Overlapping Jurisdiction, the Bench held the following:

i) When maintenance is claimed under different statutes, courts will take into consideration an adjustment or set off, of the amount which has been awarded in any previous proceeding(s), while determining whether or not any amount further is to be awarded in the subsequent proceeding.

ii) It is mandatory for the applicant to disclose the previous proceeding and the orders that were passed therein, in the subsequent proceeding.

iii) If an order has been passed in the previous proceeding(s) and it requires any modification or variation, it shall be done in the same proceeding.

2- On the issue of payment of interim maintenance, the Bench held that it is mandatory for the parties to file affidavit of disclosure of assets and liabilities in all maintenance proceedings, including the pending proceedings before the concerned Family Court/District Court/Magistrate Court, as the case may be, throughout the country.

3- On the criteria for determining the amount/quantum of maintenance, the Apex Court held that factors such as status of the parties, reasonable needs of the wife and dependent children; whether the applicant is educated and professionally qualified; etc. shall be taken into consideration.

4- Furthermore, the Bench held that maintenance in all cases will be awarded from the date on which the application for maintenance is filed.

5- On the issue of enforcement of orders of maintenance, the Court held that an order or decree of maintenance may be enforced like a decree of a civil court.

Suchitra Upadhyay

Associate

The Indian Lawyer & Allied Services

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