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Supreme Court Issues Uniform Guidelines for the Grant of Interim Maintenance In Matrimonial Matters

RAJNESH v NEHA & Anr., CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 730 OF 2020, (Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No. 9503 of 2018), November 4, 2020.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court comprising of Justice Indu Malhotra and Justice R. Subhash Reddy while passing an order regarding interim maintenance in the Criminal Appeal No.730 have issued General Guidelines and Directions on maintenance.

The matter is an appeal against an interim application made under section 125 of Cr.P.C by the respondent-wife and minor-son wherein, the family court by an order dated 24.08.2015 awarded interim maintenance of Rs.15, 000 per month to the Respondent No.1-wife from 01.09.2013; and Rs.5, 000 per month as interim maintenance for the Respondent No.2-son from 01.09.2013 to 31.08.2015; and @ Rs. 10,000 per month from 01.09.2015 onwards till further orders were passed in the main petition. The order was challenged by the Appellant-husband in Criminal Writ Petition No.875/2015 filed before the Bombay High Court, Nagpur Bench and the same has been dismissed. Upon hearing both the parties, the Supreme Court has issued an order directing the husband to pay the arrears of the amount due by him towards the interim maintenance of the wife and failing to comply with the order, the respondent-wife shall take recourse to all other remedies available under law.

The court observed that,

The proceedings for payment of interim maintenance u/S. 125 Cr.P.C. have been pending between the parties for a period of over 7 years now. We deem it appropriate that the Family Court decides the substantive application u/S. 125 Cr.P.C. in Petition No. E-443/ 2013 finally, in light of the directions / guidelines issued in the present judgment, within a period of 6 months’ from the date of this judgment.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the Part-B of the judgment has critically analyzed relevant provisions in various enactments for the payment of maintenance and the issues of overlapping jurisdiction.

Maintenance may be claimed under one or more of the afore-mentioned statutes, since each of these enactments provides an independent and distinct remedy framed with a specific object and purpose. For instance, a Hindu wife may claim maintenance under the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act 1956 (“HAMA”), and also in a substantive proceeding for either dissolution of marriage, or restitution of conjugal rights, etc. under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (“HMA”) by invoking Sections 24 and 25 of the said Act

The court also observed that the proceedings under section 125 of Cr.P.C are summary in nature. The court has taken note of judgments in Chaturbhuj v Sitabai, 2008) 2 SCC 316, Bhuwan Mohan Singh v Meena & Ors., 2015) 6 SCC 353, Chanmuniya v Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha & Anr., (2011) 1 SCC 141 under Section 125 of Cr.P.C.

The court regarding overlapping jurisdiction under various enactments has also noted conflicting judgments and finally observed as below,

To overcome the issue of overlapping jurisdiction, and avoid conflicting orders being passed in different proceedings, we direct that in a subsequent maintenance proceeding, the applicant shall disclose the previous maintenance proceeding, and the orders passed therein, so that the Court would take into consideration the maintenance already awarded in the previous proceeding, and grant an adjustment or set-off of the said amount. If the order passed in the previous proceeding requires any modification or variation, the party would be required to move the concerned court in the previous proceeding.

The Supreme Court while exercising its power under Article 136 r/w Article 142 has issued guidelines enunciating uniform format in the Affidavit of Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities to be filed in maintenance proceedings by the parties.

The Affidavit of Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities annexed at Enclosures I, II and III of this judgment, as may be applicable, shall be filed by the parties in all maintenance proceedings, including pending proceedings before the concerned Family Court / District Court / Magistrate’s Court, as the case may be, throughout the country;

The court has after considering factors to be examined while determining the quantum of maintenance has listed out additional factors which are to be considered such as age and employment of parties, right to residence, where the wife is earning some income, maintenance of minor children, and serious disability or ill health.

The court has on the issue of the date from which maintenance is to be awarded took note of key judgments in Kanhu Charan Jena v. Smt. Nirmala Jena, 2001 Cri LJ 879, Bina Devi v State of U., (2010) 69 ACC 19 and S. Radhakumari v K.M.K. Nair, AIR 1983 Ker 139 in determining the question of whether the maintenance is to be awarded from the date of application or the date of order or the date of service of summons.

In this regard, the court has directed that maintenance is to be awarded from the date, on which the application has been made and stated as below,

It has therefore become necessary to issue directions to bring about uniformity and consistency in the Orders passed by all Courts, by directing that maintenance be awarded from the date on which the application was made before the concerned Court. The right to claim maintenance must date back to the date of filing the application, since the period during which the maintenance proceedings remained pending is not within the control of the applicant.

The court has after analyzing the difficulties involved in the enforcement of the orders of maintenance has directed that,

For enforcement / execution of orders of maintenance, it is directed that an order or decree of maintenance may be enforced under Section 28A of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1956; Section 20(6) of the D.V. Act; and Section 128 of Cr.P.C., as may be applicable. The order of maintenance may be enforced as a money decree of a civil court as per the provisions of the CPC, more particularly Sections 51, 55, 58, 60 r.w. Order XXI.

View/ Download the Judgment: RAJNESH v NEHA & Anr.

Lalitha Sarvani. A



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