Delhi High Court: The Division Bench of Suresh Kumar Kait and Neena Bansal Krishna, JJ.*, opined that where both the spouses were equally qualified and earning equally, interim maintenance could not be granted to the wife under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (‘the Act’). The Court concurred with the Family Court’s decision and opined that after considering the respective income and expenditure of the parties, the Family Court had rightly denied any maintenance to the wife. However, considering the income of the parties and appreciating that the child’s responsibility had to be shared by both the parents, the Court reduced the interim maintenance for the child from Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 25,000.
In the instant case, the parties got married on 06-07-2014 and on 24-06-2016, one son was born from the wedlock. However, in February, 2020, the parties separated because of the differences between them.
The appellant-wife filed a divorce petition and also filed an application under Section 24 of the Act seeking interim maintenance. The wife held a degree in B.Sc and MBA (Banking and Finance) and was presently working. She was drawing a salary of Rs. 2.5 lakhs per month and claimed that she was paying Rs. 92,940 per month and Rs. 25,137 per month as EMI towards a loan taken for a flat and car respectively. The wife submitted that from the meagre income that was left thereafter, she was barely able to manage and provide reasonable facility to her child whose all educational and other overhead expenses were paid by her. She asserted that the husband earlier transferred Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 30, 000 per month towards the child’s expenses but he had stopped paying the amount since November, 2021. Thus, the wife claimed a maintenance of Rs. 2 lakhs and Rs. 60,000 for herself and for the child respectively. She further claimed Rs. 50,000 towards the litigation expenses.
On the other hand, the respondent-husband was equally qualified and held a degree of B.Tech and M.Tech and was currently working. He had an earning of USD 7134, which was equivalent to Rs. 5,60,000 per month and had monthly expenditure of USD 7092. The husband submitted that he barely had sufficient income to meet his own personal expenses and admitted that he had stopped paying since November, 2021 because the wife had withdrawn herself from the matrimonial relationship.
The Family Court in its order dated 23-02-2023, considered the respective income and expenditure of the parties and held that the wife was equally qualified and was earning, thus she was not entitled to any maintenance. However, the Family Court directed the husband to pay Rs. 40,000 per month towards the interim maintenance and expenses of the child.
Thus, aggrieved by the order dated 23-02-2023, the wife filed the present appeal seeking enhancement of maintenance for the child to Rs. 60,000 per month and also interim maintenance for herself. Whereas, the husband aggrieved by the order, filed an appeal to reduce the amount of maintenance to Rs. 21, 500 per month and out of which he would be liable to pay Rs. 10,750 per month.
Analysis, Law, and Decision
The Court noted that both the parties were highly qualified and the wife was getting Rs. 2.5 lakhs per month while the husband was getting USD 7134 per month. However, if the husband’s earning was converted to Indian Rupee by applying Purchase Power Parity Index, the amount becomes Rs. 1,65,651 per month or if simple exchange rate was applied, the amount was equivalent to Rs. 5,60,000. The Court opined that although the husband was earning in dollars, it could not be overlooked that his expenditure was also in dollars and he had explained that he had a monthly expense of about USD 7000 and was left was with little money for saving.
The Court relied on K.N. v. R.G., 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7704 wherein it was held that the proceedings under Section 24 of the Act were not intended to equalize the income of both the spouses or to provide an interim maintenance to maintain the similar lifestyle as the other spouse. The Court opined that the object of Section 24 of the Act was to ensure that during the matrimonial proceedings under the Act, either party should not be handicapped and suffer any financial disability to litigate only because of paucity of source of income. The provision of interim maintenance was made to help either spouse to sail through litigation expenses and ensure that they were able to live comfortably.
Thus, the Court opined that in the present case, where both the spouses were equally qualified and earning equally, interim maintenance could not be granted to the wife under Section 24 of the Act. The Court concurred with the Family Court and opined that after considering the respective income and expenditure of the parties, the Family Court had rightly denied any maintenance to the wife. However, considering the respective income of the parties and appreciating that the child’s responsibility had to be shared by both the parents, the Court reduced the interim maintenance for the child from Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 25,000.
[ABC v. XYZ, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 6529, decided on 11-10-2023]
*Judgement authored by- Justice Suresh Kumar Kait and Justice Neena Bansal Krishna
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For the Appellants: Anuj Arora and Pardeep Sharma, Advocates;
For the Respondent: Somvir Singh Deshwal, Advocate