Jharkhand High Court: In a criminal revision preferred against order dated 18-04-2022 passed by the Family Court in a maintenance case directing the petitioner to pay Rs. 40,000 per month as maintenance to his wife from the date of application (4-10-2021) and pay all arrear amount within 2 months, Subhash Chand, J. modified the impugned order and reduced the monthly maintenance to Rs 25,000 to the wife payable by her husband.
The marriage was solemnized on 29-04-2018 and the couple started living in the husband’s house. The wife alleged that after a short span of time, his mother and married sisters started showing their dissatisfaction on the dowry articles not befitting her husband’s status. It was alleged that the entire building was put under CCTV camera surveillance and the wife’s cell phone was also taken into husband’s custody for tracking her activity. The wife further claimed of her husband being a habitual drunkard who hobnobs with young girls to maintain his culture, used to commit brutal marital sex by pinching teeth on his wife’s face, brutally slapping her and injuring her private parts in want of carnal sex. She also complained of taunts, maltreatment by the husband and his family members including kith and kins, restricting her free movement in the matrimonial house. All her personal documents and streedhan were taken into the possession of the mother-in-law, further alleging demands for jewellery for the husband and his family members during the baby shower ceremony. A baby girl was born with liver infection and expired within 22 months.
The wife was forced and compelled to leave her matrimonial home on 3-06-2021 and was currently residing at her ailing parents’ house. It was alleged that while the wife had no means of survival, the husband was a man of high financial means leading a lavish life fetching a monthly income in lakhs, and thus, the wife prayed for maintenance of Rs 1,25,000 from her husband.
On the other hand, the husband countered that it was the wife who treated her husband with cruelty which even led him to file a divorce petition, also denied wife bringing any jewellery or any such demands made by the family members and also claimed that his income was exaggerated by the wife and pointed towards his income tax assessment.
The Family Court passed the impugned judgment dated 18-04-2022 directing the husband to pay Rs. 40,000 per month as maintenance to his wife along with the arrears, which was challenged in the instant matter.
Court’s Analysis of Maintenance Provisions
The Court explained that “the object of Section 125 CrPC is Social Justice and also to ensure the dignity of individual as enshrined in the preamble of the Constitution of India.” Therefore, the Court batted for maintenance amount awarded by the Court to be reasonable and realistic and should avoid either extremes of maintenance being extravagant or so meagre to drive the wife to penury. It further elaborated that “The object behind right to maintenance is to ensure that the dependent spouse is not reduced to destitution or vagrancy on account of the failure of the marriage, at the same time it should not be punishment to the other spouse.”
The Court highlighted that the wife had been filing Income Tax return for past 4 years while claiming no source of income, a fact that discouraged the Court’s confidence since she was educated and professionally qualified, but noted the Court’s duty to ensure that her income should be sufficient to maintain the same standard of living as she was accustomed to in her matrimonial home. The Court perused the evidence regarding the husband’s income, loan liabilities and his liability towards his ailing mother and highlighted the Family Court’s failure to consider such aspects while fixing the quantum of maintenance, finding the same perverse and unreasonable.
The Court expressed that “Certainly, it is moral duty of the husband to pay maintenance to her wife so that she may also reside in the same status as would have been in matrimonial house; but it does not mean to squeeze milk from the husband that the marriage becomes felony for the husband.”
Placing reliance on Chandrashekar v. Swapnil, (2021) 12 SCC 624, the Court partly allowed the instant petition and modified the same and reduced the maintenance amount to Rs 25,000 per month. The Court further noted that the husband had already paid Rs. 1,20,000 towards the arrears of maintenance awarded by the Family Court and was also paying Rs. 20,000 per month to his wife. Therefore, the Court ordered the maintenance amount already paid to be adjusted towards future payment of maintenance and payment of arrears within 4 months.
[Niraj Kathuria v. State of Jharkhand, 2023 SCC OnLine Jhar 1540, decided on 13-10-2023]
Judgment by: Justice Subhash Chand
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For Petitioner: Senior Advocate Ajit Kumar
For State and Opposite Party: Special Public Prosecutor Shailendra Kumar Tiwari, Advocate Lukesh Kumar