Delhi High Court: Expressing that husband must also carry the financial burden of making certain that his children are capable of attaining a position in a society wherein they can sufficiently maintain themselves, Subramonium Prasad, J., stated that,
In households wherein the women are working and are earning sufficiently to maintain themselves, it does not automatically mean that the husband is absolved of his responsibility to provide sustenance for his children.
“…if the husband has sufficient means, he is obligated to maintain his wife and children, and not shirk away from his moral and familial responsibilities.”
Instant application under Section 482 Criminal Procedure Code had been filed seeking the review of this Court’s order, wherein this Court had granted a sum of Rs 15,000 as interim maintenance to the revisionist/Petitioner 1 till Petitioner 2 completes his graduation or starts earning, whichever is earlier.
Analysis, Law and Decision
High Court expressed that the embargo contained in Section 362 CrPC, which prohibits the Court from altering or reviewing its judgment or final order disposing of the case was inapplicable to the maintenance order passed under Section 125 CrPC.
In the Supreme Court decision of Sanjeev Kapoor v. Chandana Kapoor, (2020) 13 SCC 172, the Supreme Court had observed that the legislature was aware that there were situations where altering or reviewing of criminal court judgment were contemplates in the Code itself or any other law for the time being in force.
Noting that Section 125 CrPC was social justice legislation, the Supreme Court held that a closer look at Section 125 CrPC itself indicated that the Court after passing judgment or final order in the proceedings under Section 125 CrPC did not become functus officio, and that the Section itself contains express provisions wherein an Order passed under Section 125 CrPC could be cancelled or altered, and that this was noticeable from Sections 125(1), 125(5) and 127 CrPC. Therefore, the legislative scheme as delineated by Sections 125 and 127 CrPC clearly enumerates circumstances and incidents provided in the Code where the Court passing a judgement or final order disposing of the case can alter or review the same. The embargo as contained in Section 362 is, thus, relaxed in proceedings under Section 125 CrPC.
Bench stated that Supreme Court has consistently upheld that the conceptualization of Section 125 was meant to ameliorate the financial suffering of a woman who had left her matrimonial home; it is a means to secure the woman’s sustenance, along with that of the children, if any.
The dominant purpose of Section 125 of the Code was discussed in the Supreme Court decision of Kirtikant D. Vadodaria v. State of Gujarat, (1996) 4 SCC 479.
High Court added to its analysis, that it is true that in the majority of households, women are unable to work due to sociocultural as well as structural impediments, and, thus, cannot financially support themselves. However, in households wherein the women are working and are earning sufficiently to maintain themselves, it does not automatically mean that the husband is absolved of his responsibility to provide sustenance for his children.
Father has an equal duty to provide for his children and there cannot be a situation wherein it is only the mother who has to bear the burden of expenses for raising and educating the children.
Court cannot shut its eyes to the reality that simply attaining majority does not translate into the understanding that the major son is earning sufficiently.
To elaborate more, High Court added that,
At the age of 18, it can be safely assumed that the son is either graduating from 12th standard or is in his first year of college. More often than not, it does not place him in a position wherein he can earn to sustain or maintain himself. It further places the entire burden on the mother to bear the expenses of educating the children without any contribution from the father, and this Court cannot countenance such a situation.
It was also noted that the Supreme Court and High Courts in a slew of judgments upheld the maintenance allowance granted to a son post attaining majority on the ground that the father has a duty to finance basic education of the child and that the child cannot be deprived of his right to be educated due to his parents getting divorced.
In the present matter, the challenge to the maintenance granted for the education of the major son has been mounted by the respondent on the ground that it is contrary to the relevant statutory provision i.e. Section 125, and that it diametrically opposes the interpretation of Section 125 as has been laid down in Amarendra Kumar Paul v. Maya Paul, (2009) 8 SCC 359.
High Court noted that statutes or provisions, which are particularly for the furtherance of social welfare, must be construed liberally.
In Indian Handicrafts Emporium v. Union of India, (2003) 7 SCC 589, the Supreme Court had observed that the best textual interpretation of legislation or a statutory provision would be one that would match the contextual. Therefore, in this context, social welfare legislation cannot and should not be interpreted in a narrow manner because doing so will defeat the purpose for the enactment of such legislation and will become counterproductive.
Context of Section 125 CrPC is to ensure that the wife and the children of the husband are not left in a state of destitution after the divorce.
“Mother cannot be burdened with the entire expenditure on the education of her son just because he has completed 18 years of age, and the father cannot be absolved of all responsibilities to meet the education expenses of his son because the son may have attained the age of majority, but may not be financially independent and could be incapable of sustaining himself.”
In view of the above, the application was dismissed. [Urvashi Aggarwal v. Inderpaul Aggarwal, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 4641, decided on 5-10-2021]
Advocates before the Court:
For Petitioner: Praveen Suri and Komal Chhibber, Advocates
For Respondent: Digvijay Ray and Aman Yadav, Advocates