Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: Shampa Sarkar, J., expressed that Hindu Marriage Act is a gender-neutral provision and further expressed the scope of maintenance.

In the present revisional application, the issue was with respect to the wife being aggrieved with the quantum of maintenance.

Wife had filed an application under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act and maintenance pendente lite @Rs 30,000 per month and Rs 75,000 as litigation cost was prayed.

Wife was aggrieved that the lower court allowed 1/5th of the husband’s income as maintenance pendente lite and considering the husband’s income as Rs 60,000, Court proceeded to grant an amount of Rs 12,000 as maintenance.

Hindu Marriage Act provides for the rights, liabilities and obligations arising from a marriage between two Hindus.

Sections 24 and 25 make provisions for providing maintenance to a party who has no independent income sufficient for his or her support and necessary expenses. This is a gender-neutral provision, where either the wife or the husband may claim maintenance. The pre-requisite is that the applicant did not have independent income which is sufficient for his or her support during the pendency of the lis.

Justice Krishna Iyer’s decision of Supreme Court in Captain Ramesh Chander Kaushal v. Veena Kaushal, (1978) 4 SCC 70 was referred to regarding the object of maintenance laws.

Supreme Court’s decision in Rajnesh v. Neha, (2021) 2 SCC 324 discussed the criteria for determining the quantum of maintenance and the relevant factors to be taken into consideration in order to quantify the amount. The object behind granting maintenance is to ensure that the dependent spouse was not reduced to destitution or vagrancy on account of failure of the marriage and not as a punishment to the other spouse.

In the instant case, wife’s potential to earn may exist as she had a post-graduate degree but as per the evidence, it appeared that she had been out of employment Since May, 2014. Records revealed that the husband had been appointed at a salary of Rs 23,000. It was expected that in the intervening period, husband’s income must have gone up by at least 3 times.

Supreme Court noted that some guesswork could not be ruled out estimating the income when the sources or correct sources are not disclosed. Hence, Trial Court rounded the figure at Rs 60,000 as the expected income of the husband at present.

Bench considered it prudent to award Rs 20,000 to the wife as maintenance pendente lite.

Bench dismissed Mr Chatterjee’s contention that wife should be directed to disclose her present income and file the affidavit of assets.

Further, the Court stated that in the absence of any evidence on the part of the husband, this Court is of the opinion that taking into consideration the criteria as laid down by several judicial precedents on the subject from time to time, Rs 20,000/- as maintenance pendete lite per month is just and proper.

High Court modified the impugned order to the above extent. It was directed that the current maintenance shall be paid with effect from April, 2021 within 20th of the month.  Thereafter on and from May 2021 the maintenance shall be paid within 15th of every month as directed by lower court.[Upanita Das v. Arunava Das, C.O. No. 4386 of 2019, decided on 09-04-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner: Mr Srijib Chakraborty and Ms Sudeshna Basu Thakur

For the Opposite Party: Mr Aniruddha Chatterjee and Mr Sachit Talukdar

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: T. Raja and G. Chandrasekharan, JJ., addressed a matter wherein wife approaches the wife appealed against the family court’s decision of dissolving her marriage solemnised with the respondent, on grounds of cruelty.

Bhuvaneswari, wife of S.K. Jayakumar brought forth the instant appeal on being aggrieved by the decision of the family court, dissolving the marriage under Section 13(1)(i—a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 accepting the case of the respondent/husband that the appellant/wife caused mental cruelty under Section 13(1)(i—a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

Analysis

High Court while deciding the matter observed that the wife made wrong statements before the Court blowing hot and cold. Further, it was also noted that once when the husband met with an accident and was an inpatient for 45 days, appellant or her family member refused to visit him which clearly implies that the wife miserably failed to show any iota of trust as a dutiful wife to her husband.

Another significant point was that after the decree of divorce by the husband was filed, nothing prevents the wife to move an application invoking Section 9 of the HMA for restitution of conjugal rights.

The above clearly describes that situation wherein the wife at no pint was showing any interest to resume or rejoin the matrimonial home.

Bench noted that the trial court rightly relied on the decision of the Division Bench of this Court in the case of Suguna v. Kubendiran, (2017) 1 CTC 695, wherein it was held that if the acts of the wife are of such quality or magnitude and consequence as to cause pain, agony and suffering on the husband, the same would amount to cruelty in matrimonial law for granting the decree of divorce. Supreme Court in its decision of Pankaj Mahajan v. Dimple, (2011) 12 SCC 1 has laid down several instances of cruelty.

In the present case, the husband has stated that the wife had been insulting his parents and quarrelling with him and abusing him every now and then. Besides she had been behaving in an abnormal manner, causing great mental cruelty to the respondent/husband.

Therefore, the Court stated that the facts and pleadings clearly show that the conduct of the wife towards her husband was substantiated and hence they started to live separately for more than 7 long years.

In view of the above chain of marital life, there is no possibility for the parties to unite, hence the decision passed by the trial court was correct and no infirmity was found. [Bhuvaneswari v. S.K. Jayakumar, 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 371, decided on 20-01-2021]


Advocates for the parties:

For Appellant: G. Saravanabhavan

For Respondent: S. Xavier Felix

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Jyotsna Rewal Dua, J., disposed of a petition while granting liberty to the parties to move an appropriate application seeking relaxation of the period prescribed under Section 28(2) of the Special Marriage Act 1954.

The parties were husband and wife and their marriage was solemnized as per Roman Catholic Rights and Rituals at Shimla on 15-02-2009, after some marriage discord developed between them they had been living separately w.e.f. 18-03-2018.Petition for dissolution of marriage by a decree of divorce by mutual consent under Section 28 of Special Marriage Act, 1954 was filed by the parties before the learned District Judge (Family Court) who had granted them six months statutory period to ponder over their decision-qua-divorce and the matter had been ordered to be listed on 5-06-2021. It was submitted that they had explored all possibilities of reconciliation but failed and therefore prayed that the statutory period of six months deserved to be relaxed.

The Court explained that the above question of relaxing the stipulated six months came before the Supreme Court in the case of Amardeep Singh v. Harveen Kaur, (2017)8 SCC 746 and after tracing the legal journey the Court had held that period mentioned in Section 13B (2) was not mandatory but directory. It shall be open to the Court to exercise its discretion in facts and circumstances of each case, where there was no possibility of parties resuming cohabitation and there are chances of alternative rehabilitation.

The Court disposed of the petition by granting liberty to the parties including the petitioner to move an appropriate application seeking relaxation of the period prescribed under Section 28(2) of the Special Marriage Act 1954.[Naveen Kumar Dass v. Reena Kumari, 2021 SCC OnLine HP 225, decided on 08-02-2021]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Prathiba M. Singh, J., dismissed an application filed under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act on finding no interest in the same by the wife.

Petitioner filed a divorce petition under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, seeking divorce from his wife. To which Family Court granted a decree of divorce to dissolve the marriage. However, on the same date, a notice was issued in the application under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, Family Court called for the detailed affidavits to be filed as to the expenditure, assets and liabilities of both the Petitioner and Respondent.

The above-said application has been challenged.

Bench noted from the Family Court’s decision that the respondent did not contest the divorce petition at all. Respondent’s defence was struck off and cross-examination of the petitioner was also of a limited nature.

Further, the Court added that since the respondent did not set out any substantial defence and the decree of divorce was granted without contest, respondent didn’t seem to be interested in pressing the application under Section 24 of the Act, which is meant for interim maintenance pendente lite.

 While concluding with the decision, Court expressed that the legal position is that a Section 24 application under the Act can survive beyond the dismissal of the main proceeding for grant of divorce, in respect of the period till the dismissal of the said petition.

Adding to the above, bench stated that the decision in Rita Mago v. V.P. Mago, 20(1981) DLT 103 may no longer be good law.

Hence, Bench concluded that in view of the above facts and circumstances the respondent doesn’t seem to be interested in pursuing the application under Section 24 for interim maintenance, therefore the said application was dismissed. [Apurva Anand v. Chanchal Niranjan, CM (M) 426 of 2020 and CM Appl. 20237 of 2020, decided on 29-01-2021]


Advocates for the parties:

Petitioner: Dr Aman Hingorani and Himanshu Yadav, Advocates

 Respondent: None

Case BriefsHigh Courts

In our series of 2020 wrap-ups, let’s revisit and take a dive at some of our stories on family laws and how different High Courts dealt with the same involving some very significant rulings.

We have listed down Case briefs under sub-categories, of our coverage under the Family Law and its allied provisions.


[Allahabad High Court]

Custody of Minor

In minor’s custody case, where child is below 5 years of age, mother is preferred, but is there any exception to it? All HC explains

[Meenakshi v. State of U.P., 2020 SCC OnLine All 1475, decided on 02-12-2020]

If a natural guardian faces criminal charges relating to death of spouse, can custody of children or visitation rights be granted? All HC discusses

[Shaurya Gautam v. State of U.P., 2020 SCC OnLine All 1372, decided on 10-11-2020]

Decree of Eviction against Son

Can daughter-in-law be evicted without seeking decree of eviction against the son under S. 2(s) of Domestic Violence Act? All HC answers

[Sujata Gandhi v. S.B. Gandhi, 2020 SCC OnLine All 763, decided on 12-06-2020]


 [Bombay High Court]

Alimony

If the wife is earning something for livelihood, can the same be a ground to refuse alimony under S. 24 of Hindu Marriage Act? Read Bom HC’s ruling reiterating SC’s decision

[Arpana Vijay Manore v. Dr Vijay TukaramManore, 2020 SCC OnLineBom 3925, decided on 09-12-2020]

Bigamy

Person committing offence under S. 494 IPC, must have married another woman or man during subsistence of his or her first marriage; Bom HC invokes power under S. 482 CrPC to meet ends of justice

[Rekha v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLineBom 291, decided on 13-02-2020]

 Cooling-off Period

Can “cooling-off period” under S. 13-B(2) of Hindu Marriage Act be waived? Legal position discussed in a case of pregnant woman

[Kovelamudi Kanika Dhillon v. Kovelamudi Surya Prakash Rao,  2020 SCC OnLineBom 2054, decided on 26-10-2020]

 Cruelty to Woman

Abuse of S. 498-A IPC by making vague allegations and roping in family members of husband: Courts to carefully scrutinize allegations

[Shabnam Sheikh v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLineBom 1752, decided on 15-10-2020]

“Easy to accuse somebody of ill-treatment after someone dies, but not wise to convict somebody based on general statements”: Bom HC holds every cruelty is not an offence under S. 498-A IPC

[State of Maharashtra v. Shri Balu Ravji Abhang, 2020 SCC OnLineBom 307, decided on 20-02-2020]

Family members should not be dragged without specific evidence against them, otherwise, S. 498-A IPC is unfortunately misused as a weapon, says Bom HC

[State of Maharashtra v. Ashok, 2020 SCC OnLineBom 331, decided on 26-02-2020]

 Custody of Minor

Welfare of child as paramount consideration: Bom HC gives custody to father of minor for mother not being able to take care of the child

[Sashanka v. Prakash, 2020 SCC OnLineBom 3497, decided on 27-11-2020]

Domestic Violence & Jurisdiction of Courts

Does Family Court has jurisdiction to entertain an application for relief under Ss. 18 to 22 of DV Act? Read what Bom HC held

[Hitesh Prakashmalji Mehta v. Aashika Hitesh Mehta, 2020 SCC OnLineBom 983, decided on 28-09-2020]

Second Marriage

Performing second marriage during pendency of an appeal is a breach under S. 15 of HMA, but would it amount to civil contempt? Bom HC analyses

[Kanchan v. Prashant Manikrao Bagade, 2020 SCC OnLineBom 911, decided on 08-09-2020]

 Unmarried Daughter (Maintenance)

Whether unmarried daughter who is major by age, entitled to claim maintenance from father till her marriage? Bom HC explains law in light of Hindu Adoption & Maintenance Act

[Sanjay J. Phagnekar v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLineBom 3382, decided on 23-11-2020]

Widowed Daughter-in-Law (Maintenance)

Can a widowed daughter-in-law claim maintenance from the estate inherited by her father-in-law? Law explained

[Sardool Singh Sucha Singh Mathroo v. Harneet Kaur, 2020 SCC OnLineBom 927, decided on 07-09-2020]

 Wife having Independent Source of Income (Maintenance)

[S. 125 CrPC] Wife cannot be denied maintenance on ground of having a source of income: Restated by Bom HC

[Sanjay Damodar Kale v. Kalyani Sanjay Kale, 2020 SCC OnLineBom 694, decided on 26-05-2020]


[Calcutta High Court]

Child Marriages

Alarming rise of child marriages during lockdown has given a strong impression that they may be in garb of child trafficking; Police to investigate

[Contagion of COVID-19 Virus in Children, In Re., 2020 SCC OnLine Cal 1066, decided on 25-06-2020]

 Harassment over Complexion

Harassment by in-laws for woman’s black complexion is cruelty under S. 498-A IPC; Husband convicted for murdering wife over her black complexion

[Mazidul Miah v. State of W.B., 2020 SCC OnLine Cal 1077, decided on 25-06-2020]


[Chhattisgarh High Court]

Alienation of Property by Alleged Wife

Whether alienation of property by an alleged wife of a deceased is void? Chh HC analyses position in light of ‘Customs’ under Hindu Marriage Act

[Anirudh Prasad Kamal Sen v. Dashmat Bai Suryavanshi, Second Appeal No. 93 of 2009, decided on 28-08-2020]

Cause of Action

In a matrimonial dispute, cause of action can arise several times, even if the dispute is settled and case has been withdrawn

[Harsha Dewani v. Ashutosh Gupta, 2020 SCC OnLineChh 149, decided on 10-08-2020]


[Delhi High Court]

Adultery

Adultery can only be committed after marriage, allegation of having relationship before marriage cannot be a ground of adultery; Divorce petition dismissed

[Vishal Singh v. Priya, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 638, decided on 12-06-2020]

Affidavit of Assets, Income and Expenditure

Del HC updates Affidavit of Assets, Income & Expenditure to be filed at threshold of matrimonial disputes; Issues modified directions [Detailed Report: Read Directions]

[Kusum Sharma (5) v. Mahinder Kumar Sharma, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 931, decided on 6-8-2020]

Cruelty & Desertion

Del HC analyses “A typical case that showcases as to what would amount to cruel behaviour on part of one spouse to utter detriment of other”

[Venkatesh Narasimhan v. V. Sujatha, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 571, decided on 01-05-2020]

Divorce Proceedings

Husband citizen and domicile of USA, Can he raise objections on divorce proceedings filed by wife in India? Del HC decrypts the law in light of catena of SC decisions

[Karan Goel v. Kanika Goel, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 1319, decided on 12-10-2020]

 Impotency

Is making false allegation of impotency by wife against husband a ground for decree of divorce? Del HC determines

[Kirti Nagpal v. Rohit Girdhar, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 1466, decided on 20-11-2020]

Maintenance

If interim maintenance by wife has already been secured under Domestic Violence Act, will application under S. 125 CrPC be maintainable? Del HC answers

[Rani v. Dinesh, Crl. Rev. P. 1091 of 2019 and Crl. M.A 13677 of 2020, decided on 02-12-2020]

Matrimonial Disputes

Del HC reiterates SC’s position on “duty of the Courts to encourage genuine settlements of matrimonial disputes”

[Harish Kumar v. State, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 1635, decided on 04-12-2020]

 Remedy against Custody Orders

“No exception to remedy against orders of custody under Domestic Violence Act”: Del HC dismisses S. 482 CrPC petition in view of S. 29 DV Act

[Srisha Dinav Bansal v. Rajiv Bansal, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 764, decided on 20-07-2020]

Right to Privacy versus Right to Fair Trial

[S. 14 of Family Courts Act] In a contest between right to privacy and right to fair trial, both of which arise under expansive Art. 21, right to privacy may have to yield to right to fair trial

[Deepti Kapur v. Kunal Julka, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 672, decided on 30-06-2020]

Second Marriage & Custody of Children

Second marriage of a mother is by itself not sufficient to deprive her of custody of her biological child

[Faisal Khan v. Humera,  2020 SCC OnLine Del 572, decided on 1-5-2020]

Settlement Deed affecting Children’s Right to Maintenance

Is it lawful for a wife to agree to a settlement deed in the process of dissolution of marriage wherein she settles that her minor children will not claim maintenance in future? Court explains

[Vashno Jaishwal v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2020 SCC OnLine Del 1504, decided on 20-11-2020]


[Gauhati High Court]

 Conjugal Life

Refusal to wear “sakha and sindoor” is clear intention that a hindu wife is unwilling to continue conjugal life: Divorce decreed to husband

[Bhaskar Das v. Renu Das, 2020 SCC OnLineGau 2954, decided on 19-06-2020]

 Maintenance

If a woman is divorced, will her status as a wife entitling her to maintenance under S. 125 CrPC change? Read Gau HC’s position

[Bijoy Seal v. Sefali Seal, 2020 SCC OnLineGau 4024, decided on 30-09-2020]

Special Marriage Act

If a marriage is first solemnised under the Special Marriage Act and later upon conversion to Islam, marriage is again solemnised under Mohammedan Law: Which law will prevail for dissolution of marriage? Gau HC to consider

[Md Makfur Rahman v. Malina Deb Barman, 2020 SCC OnLineGau 4645, decided on 23-04-2020]


[Gujarat High Court]

Permanent Alimony to a Muslim Woman

Will permanent alimony granted to a Muslim woman be conditional to her remarriage? Detailed report untangling significance of ‘Permanent Alimony’ & ‘Periodical Maintenance’

[Tarif Rashidbhai Qureshi v. Asmabanu, 2020 SCC OnLineGuj 711, decided on 19-03-2020]

Special Marriage Act

If marriage is registered under Special Marriage Act, is it necessary for the couple to take recourse of same law to sever ties permanently? Guj HC elucidates in a custody matter

[Chavda Twinkle v. State of Gujarat, 2020 SCC OnLineGuj 1167, decided on 17-07-2020]


[Himachal Pradesh High Court]

Ancestral Property

Can wife claim maintenance under S. 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 over ‘ancestral property’ of the husband? HP HC explains

[Kubja Devi v. Chhape Ram,  2020 SCC OnLine HP 1829, decided on 05-10-2020]


[Jharkhand High Court]

Desertion

‘Desertion’ has to be wilful and voluntary for a valid ground for divorce under S. 13 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; Legal principle “No one can take a benefit of his own fault” applied

[Sanjay Kumar v. Suman Kumari, 2020 SCC OnLineJhar 773, decided on 08-09-2020]


[Karnataka High Court]

Cruelty to First Wife

Though Shariat permits a Muslim man to practise polygamy, but would that amount to cruelty to first wife? Kar HC explains concept of Marital Cruelty

[Yusufpatel v. Ramjanbi, MFA No. 201154 of 2018 (FC), decided on 17-08-2020]


 [Kerala High Court]

Convenience & Welfare of Children over Wife

In matrimonial matters preference is to be given to convenience and welfare of children over wife: Ker HC dismisses application for transfer of case

[Nimi v. Ajith M.T., 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 4313, decided on 09-10-2020]

Cruelty

Wife’s persistent effort to separate husband from family amounts to cruelty: Divorce granted in favour of husband

[Ranjith P.C. v. Asha Nair. P, 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 1751 , decided on 20-05-2020]

 Dowry

Is there a limitation period for wife to claim property entrusted to in-laws given in form of dowry? Ker HC answers

[Sheela K.K. v. N.G. Suresh, 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 4240, decided on 24-09-2020]

 Suppressing Material Facts & Marriage

If a wife obtains husband’s consent for marriage by suppressing material facts like cardiac ailments, would that amount to fraud? Ker HC explains whether marriage can be declared null & void

[Ajitha v. Harshan, Mat. Appeal No. 734 of 2012, decided on 25-09-2020]

 Transfer Petitions related to Matrimonial Disputes

While considering transfer petitions related to matrimonial disputes, the convenience of wife is to be preferred over the convenience of husband; Ker HC reiterates

[Kavitha v. Gopakumar, 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 6098, decided on 30-11-2020]


[Madras High Court]

Customary Divorce

Can plea of customary divorce be considered as a valid defence while departmental proceeding for bigamy is initiated? Madras HC considers scope of defence under Service Rules

[Sudalaimai v. Deputy Inspector General of Police, WP (MD) No. 17504 of 2014, decided on 09-09-2020]

 Illegitimate Child [Maintenance]

Is an illegitimate child entitled to maintenance under S. 125 CrPC? Madras HC reiterates legal position

[Pachaimuthu v. Minor Vishanthini, 2020 SCC OnLine Mad 2677, decided on 01-10-2020]

Limitation Period for Domestic Violence Complaints

Limitation provided under CrPC is applicable to complaints under Domestic Violence Act: Madras HC rejects complaint filed after lapse of 1 yr 10 months

[N. Prasad v. Harithalakshmi, 2020 SCC OnLine Mad 1767, decided on 20-07-2020]

 Void Marriage

What is the essential condition for validity of any marriage? Detailed Report highlighting legality of marriage of a girl below 18 years of age

[Prakash v. State, Crl. A. No. 334 of 2014, decided on 30-11-2020]


[Orissa High Court]

Rights of a “lady” in Same-sex Couple Relationship

Same-sex couple have a right to live together outside wedlock; Rights of a woman enshrined in Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 to apply on the “lady” in the relationship

[Chinmayee Jena v. State of Odisha, 2020 SCC OnLine Ori 602, decided on 24-08-2020]


[Punjab & Haryana High Court]

Sapinda Prohibition

Whether partners falling in sapinda prohibition under HMA can stay in a live-in relationship? Parties argue while hearing in anticipatory bail

[Akhilesh v. State of Punjab,  2020 SCC OnLine P&H 2058, decided on 19-11-2020]

Section 498-A IPC, a weapon?

Disgruntled wives use provisions of S. 498-A IPC as a weapon rather than shield: P&H HC

[Amarjit Kaur v. Jaswinder Kaur, 2020 SCC OnLine P&H 577, decided on 15-05-2020]

 Voidable Marriage

In case a marriage is solemnized in violation of age restriction, marriage is only voidable

[Deepak Kumar v. State of Haryana, 2020 SCC OnLine P&H 759 , decided on 15-06-2020]


[Rajasthan High Court]

Theory of Homicidal Death

Allegation of woman set ablaze in view of dowry demand dismissed; Prosecution theory of homicidal death sheer exaggeration; finds Raj HC

[Gopal v. State of Rajasthan, DB Criminal Appeal No. 799 of 2014, decided on 06-08-2020]


 [Telangana High Court]

Harassment or Cruelty

For invoking S. 304-B IPC, harassment or cruelty caused to a woman should have happened “soon before her death”

[Surender Singh v. State of A.P., 2020 SCC OnLine TS 874, decided on 06-07-2020]


[Tripura High Court]

Dissolution of Marriage of ST Couple

Will Hindu Marriage Act have application on a couple belonging to Scheduled Tribe notified under the Constitution for purpose of dissolution of marriage? Tripura HC explains

[Rupa Debbarma v. Tapash Debbarma, 2020 SCC OnLine Tri 425, decided on 09-09-2020]

Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage

What amounts to irretrievable breakdown of marriage? Tripura HC discusses in a case where the couple lived apart for 13 continuous years

[Aparna Dey v. Alok Dey, 2020 SCC OnLine Tri 411, decided on 09-09-2020]

Lived like a Wife [Maintenance]

“Woman who lived like wife, cannot be deprived of maintenance”: Tripura HC grants maintenance to woman who “lived like wife” for 10 yrs

[Sri Bibhuti Ranjan Das v. Gouri Das, 2020 SCC OnLine Tri 280, decided on 07-07-2020]


[Uttaranchal High Court]

Medical Examination of Wife in Divorce Proceedings

Wife not eligible for medical examination of whether she can conceive or not during Divorce proceedings; Utt HC allows appeal

[Rashmi Gupta v. YogeshBabu, 2020 SCC OnLineUtt 339, decided on 01-07-2020]

 Mental Cruelty

Mental cruelty is no less than physical cruelty, wife causing mental cruelty to husband valid ground for dissolution of marriage; Utt HC dismisses appeal

[Anita Gaur v. Rajesh Gaur, 2020 SCC OnLineUtt 503, decided on 24-08-2020]


Also Read:

2020 Wrap Up — Flashback of Stories on Consumer Cases

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Anu Malhotra, J., dismissed the petition in view of the dispute being settled mutually.

The instant petition sought quashing of an FIR registered under Sections 498A/406/34 of the Penal Code, 1860 submitting to the effect that a settlement has since been arrived at between the parties.

State did not oppose the quashing of FIR which was apparently emanated due to a matrimonial discord which has been resolved by the dissolution of the marriage between the parties vide a decree of divorce through mutual consent under Section 13 B (2) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

Respondent 2 had stated that she arrived at the settlement with petitioners without any duress, pressure or coercion from any quarter, hence Court considered it appropriate to put a quietus to the litigation between the parties and for the maintenance of peace and harmony between the parties in view of the observations of the Supreme Court decision in Gian Singh v. State of Punjab, (2012) 10 SCC 303 and Jitendra Raghuvanshi v. Babita Raghuvanshi, (2013) 4 SCC 58, wherein it was held that:

“… it is the duty of the courts to encourage genuine settlements of matrimonial disputes, particularly, when the same are on considerable increase. Even if the offences are non-compoundable, if they relate to matrimonial disputes and the Court is satisfied that the parties have settled the same amicably and without any pressure, we hold that for the purpose of securing ends of justice, Section 320 of the Code would not be a bar to the exercise of power of quashing of FIR, complaint or the subsequent criminal proceedings.

16. There has been an outburst of matrimonial disputes in recent times. They institution of marriage occupies an important place and it has an important role to play in society. Therefore, every effort should be made in the interest of the individuals in order to enable them to settle down in life and live peacefully. If the parties ponder over their defaults and terminate their disputes amicably by mutual agreement instead of fighting it out in a court of law, in order to do complete justice in the matrimonial matters, the courts should be less hesitant in exercising their extraordinary jurisdiction. It is trite to state that the power under Section 482 should be exercised sparingly and with circumspection only when the Court is convinced, on the basis of material on record, that allowing the proceedings to continue would be an abuse of process of court or that the ends of justice require that the proceedings ought to be quashed….”

(emphasis supplied)

Hence, in view of the above, the Court directed for quashing of the FIR and disposed of the petition.[Harish Kumar v. State, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 1635, decided on 04-12-2020]


Advocates who appeared before the Court:

For the petitioners: Naveen Kumar Bansal, Advocate with petitioners in person.

For the Respondents: Sanjeev Sabharwal, APP for State with SI Maninder Maan Piyush Pahuja, Adv for R-2 with R-2 in person.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Anu Malhotra, J., addressed a matter wherein the husband and wife reach a settlement and the wife agrees to a clause wherein her minor daughter would also not be liable to claim anything against the petitioners.

In the instant application, petitioners have been stated to be under judicial custody, Vaibhav Jaiswal was alleged under Section 376 of Penal Code, 1860 and under POCSO Act, 2012.

Other petitioners were alleged to have committed offences under Sections 498 A, 406 and 34 of IPC.

The above-stated FIR was sought to be quashed in light of a settlement arrived between the petitioners and respondent 2 and that the marriage between the petitioner 1 and respondent 2 has been dissolved.

Respondent 2 affirmed the factum of the settlement arrived between her and petitioner 1.

Bench stated that in view of the above there appears no reason to disbelieve that the statement made by respondent 2 that she has arrived at a settlement with petitioners was made of her own accord.

Hence, all the proceedings against the petitioners are quashed.

However, in regard to the settlement deed, it was observed that under clause 7 states as follows:

“It is agreed between the parties that the above settlement is with respect to all claims of wife past, present, future, alimony, stridhan, maintenance, executions, articles property etc. and neither she nor her relatives shall claim anything from husband or from his family members in future for herself or on behalf of Child/children.”

Court stated that it is essential to observe that respondent 2 gave up all the rights of the minor child Vaishanvi qua the petitioners.

But the above could not have been done so in light of the Supreme court decision in Ganesh v. Sudhi Kumar Shrivastava, Civil Appeal Nos. 4031-4032/2019 arising out of SLP (C)  Nos. 32868-32869/2018, a verdict dated 22.4.2019 adhered to by this Court in Rakesh Jain  v. State, Crl. MC No. 2935 of 2019.

Hence, the minor child would be entitled to seek her claims against the petitioners and respondent 2 qua maintenance or otherwise in accordance with the law. [Vashno Jaishwal v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2020 SCC OnLine Del 1504, decided on 20-11-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Arvind Singh Sangwan, J., observed that the marriage of first cousins is not permissible as per the prohibited sapinda under the Hindu Marriage Act.

In the instant petition, anticipatory bail has been sought wherein an FIR under Sections 363, 366A of the Penal Code, 1860 was registered.

C.S. Rana, Advocate for the petitioner submitted that the petitioner had filed a criminal writ petition, bearing CRWP-6856-2020, along with Jyoti seeking protection of their life and liberty.

The said criminal writ petition was summoned and as per the memorandum of parties, Jyoti was stated to be 17 years of and both of them the girl and the boy were stated to be in a live-in-relationship.

A representation was also made on 01-09-2020, in which Jyoti stated that her parents had love and affection for their sons but she was ignored by them, hence she decided to love with the petitioner.

State Counsel while opposing the anticipatory bail application raised the following objections:

  • Jyoti is a minor aged about 17 years, therefore her parents got the FIR registered as Jyoti and Akhilesh are stated to be the first cousins since their fathers are real brothers, hence the stated fact was concealed by the petitioner. The minor girl and boy fall in the prohibited sapinda under the Hindu Marriage Act and cannot perform marriage with each other.

Once the petitioner and Jyoti are prohibited from performing marriage with each other, there is no question of their being in any live-in-relationship, which is per se immoral and not acceptable in society.

On perusal of the above, Bench held that since the present petitioner even in the present petition did not disclose the fact that he is the first cousin of Jyoti and therefore, the submission in the present petition that as and when she attains the age of 18 years, they will perform marriage is also per se illegal.

Matter was adjourned to 11-01-2021.[Akhilesh v. State of Punjab,  2020 SCC OnLine P&H 2058, decided on 19-11-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: The Division Bench of Manmohan and Sanjeev Narula, JJ., refused to set aside the order of the trial court granting divorce to the respondent-husband.

In the instant appeal, Appellant-wife impugned the Judgment passed by Principal Judge, Family Courts whereby the Court while rejecting the relief sought under Section 12(1)(a) and (c) has allowed the petition of the respondent by granting divorce under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

CRUELTY

Trial Court dissolved the marriage between the parties on the ground of cruelty within the meaning of Section 13(1)(ia) of the HMA.

IMPOTENCY

The nature and the extent of allegations made by the appellant are beyond any controversy. Appellant laid down the allegations under two different compartments:

(i) allegations pertaining to the impotency of the Respondent, and

(ii) allegations with respect to mistreatment, torture and dowry demand against the Respondent and his parents.

The above-stated allegations laid the foundation for the ground of cruelty.

Further, the respondent had brought in evidence to establish before the Court that he was not impotent and the false and untrue allegations were causing him mental stress and amounted to cruelty.

On physical examination by the doctor, the respondent was found to be a normal male adult with fully developed secondary sexual character and organs, normal endocrine and sexual function, and had no problem of impotence.

Trial Court concluded that the credibility of the witness could not be impeached, and since respondent suffered no medical infirmity that could render him incapable of consummating the marriage, the allegation of impotence made by the respondents was not proved.

DECISION

Bench stated that, since the witness was a very highly qualified medical expert with immaculate credentials, his testimony was rightly relied upon by the Trial Court, hence no interference by this Court is required.

Court agreed with the observations of the trial court and stated that the accusations were levelled by the appellant and the onus lay on her to establish the veracity of the same.

Appellant entirely failed to produce any medical or corroborated evidence that could remotely suggest that the respondent was medically unfit to consummate the marriage.

Next Question:

Whether a false allegation of impotence amounted to cruelty within the meaning of Section 13(1)(ia) of the HMA?

Cruelty can be physical or mental. High Court stated that it is primarily contextual, pertaining to human behaviour or conduct with respect to matrimonial duties and obligations.

Bench observed that it is essential to see whether the conduct of the party is of such nature, that a reasonable person would neither tolerate the same, nor be reasonably expected to live with the other party.

Decision of the Supreme Court in V. Bhagat v. D. Bhagat, (1994) 1 SCC 337 was relied upon, wherein it was held that:

“Mental cruelty in Section 13(1)(ia) can broadly be defined as that conduct which inflicts upon the other party such mental pain and suffering as would make it not possible for that party to live with the other. In other words, mental cruelty must be of such a nature that the parties cannot reasonably be expected to live together.”

“…What is cruelty in one case may not amount to cruelty in another case. It is a matter to be determined in each case having regard to the facts and circumstances of that case. If it is a case of accusations and allegations, regard must also be had to the context in which they were made.”

ALLEGATIONS MADE IN PLEADINGS

Bench stated that it is no longer res Integra that false, baseless, scandalous, malicious and unproven allegations in the written statement may amount to cruelty.

“If it is established from the evidence that the allegations were evidently false, then such baseless allegations made in the written statement can amount to cruelty and the Court can pass a decree of dissolution of the marriage.”

In view of the above, Court found no infirmity in the trial court’s observations that the allegation of the Appellant in the Written Statement with respect to the impotency clearly falls within the concept of cruelty as defined under the law.

Bench also observed that,

There can be no justification for any party to retaliate by making untrue and false allegations regardless of how provocative the allegations may be. If the Appellant was hurt by the allegations made by the Respondent, she had her legal remedies against the same. It did not certainly give her a carte blanche to make counter-allegations which were untrue and cause deep humiliation to the Respondent.

Adding to the above, Court stated that the imputations and allegations made by the Appellant in the Written Statement were repeatedly reinforced during the trial by giving suggestions to the Respondent and also to his expert witness during the course of their cross-examinations.

Bench held that,

The cruelty in the instant case is of enduring and profound nature.

Concluding the instant matter, Cout held that the appellant and the respondent have been separated for more than eight years and since the separation continued for a sufficient length at time, it can be presumed that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

It was found that a prolonged and continuous separation and the matrimonial bond was beyond repair. Therefore, refusing to severe the matrimonial ties would cause further mental cruelty to the Respondent.

Hence, the trial court’s conclusion could not be faulted with. [Kirti Nagpal v. Rohit Girdhar, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 1466, decided on 20-11-2020]


Advocates for the parties:

Appellant: Manish Sharma, Ninad Dogra and Jigyasa Sharma

Respondent: Prabhjit Jauhar

Op EdsOP. ED.

  1. Section 13-B of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955[1] (‘HMA’) states as under:

13-B. Divorce by mutual consent.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act a petition for dissolution of marriage by a decree of divorce may be presented to the District court by both the parties to a marriage together, whether such marriage was solemnised before or after the commencement of the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act, 1976, on the ground that they have been living separately for a period of one year or more, that they have not been able to live together and that they have mutually agreed that the marriage should be dissolved.

(2) On the motion of both the parties made not earlier than six months after the date of the presentation of the petition referred to in sub-section (1) and not later than eighteen months after the said date, if the petition is not withdrawn in the meantime, the court shall, on being satisfied, after hearing the parties and after making such inquiry as it thinks fit, that a marriage has been solemnised and that the averments in the petition are true, pass a decree of divorce declaring the marriage to be dissolved with effect from the date of the decree.”

2. Section 13-B of HMA contemplates two stages. The first stage is of Section 13-B(1) that lays down the essential requirements to be fulfilled by the parties as detailed below:

(i) The petition for divorce must be presented to the District Court;

(ii) The said petition must be presented jointly, by both the parties to a marriage whether such a marriage was solemnised before or after the commencement of the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act, 1976;

(iii) The parties have been living separately for a period of one year;

(iv) The parties have not been able to live together; and

(v) The parties mutually agreed that the marriage should be dissolved.

3. The second stage is of Section 13-B(2) that relates to the manner in which the court exercises its jurisdiction, provides that both the parties must again appear in the Second Motion before the court. The parties are also required to make a joint motion not less than six months after the date of presentation of the First Motion and not later than 18 months after the said date. The period of waiting ranging from six to eighteen months is intended to give an opportunity to the parties to reflect/renege and if one of the parties does not wish to proceed ahead with the divorce during this period, then divorce cannot be granted. The said principle has been explained by the Supreme Court in  Sureshta Devi v. Om Prakash[2],  as under:

“13. From the analysis of the section, it will be apparent that the filing of the petition with mutual consent does not authorise the court to make a decree for divorce. There is a period of waiting from 6 to 18 months. This interregnum was obviously intended to give time and opportunity to the parties to reflect on their move and seek advice from relations and friends. In this transitional period one of the parties may have a second thought and change the mind not to proceed with the petition. The spouse may not be a party to the joint motion under sub-section (2). There is nothing in the section which prevents such course. The section does not provide that if there is a change of mind it should not be by one party alone, but by both. The High Courts of Bombay and Delhi have proceeded on the ground that the crucial time for giving mutual consent for divorce is the time of filing the petition and not the time when they subsequently move for divorce decree. This approach appears to be untenable. At the time of the petition by mutual consent, the parties are not unaware that their petition does not by itself snap marital ties. They know that they have to take a further step to snap marital ties. Sub-section (2) of Section 13-B is clear on this point. It provides that “on the motion of both the parties. … if the petition is not withdrawn in the meantime, the court shall … pass a decree of divorce …”. What is significant in this provision is that there should also be mutual consent when they move the court with a request to pass a decree of divorce. Secondly, the court shall be satisfied about the bona fides and the consent of the parties. If there is no mutual consent at the time of the enquiry, the court gets no jurisdiction to make a decree for divorce. If the view is otherwise, the court could make an enquiry and pass a divorce decree even at the instance of one of the parties and against the consent of the other. Such a decree cannot be regarded as decree by mutual consent.”

The aforesaid view has been reiterated by the Supreme Court in Hitesh Bhatnagar v. Deepa Bhatnagar[3].

Thus, the object of the cooling-off period is to safeguard both the parties against a hurried decision if there is otherwise a possibility of their differences being reconciled.

4. Now, the issue arises whether this cooling-off period can be waived in law by either of the parties or not. In Krishna Bahadur v. Purna Theatre[4], the Supreme Court inter alia held that a right can be waived by the party for whose benefit certain requirements or conditions had been provided for by a statute subject to the condition that no public interest is involved therein, discussing the principles of waiver as follows:

“10. A right can be waived by the party for whose benefit certain requirements or conditions had been provided for by a statute subject to the condition that no public interest is involved therein. Whenever waiver is pleaded it is for the party pleading the same to show that an agreement waiving the right in consideration of some compromise came into being. Statutory right, however, may also be waived by his conduct.”

5. In Shri Lachoo Mal v. Radhey Shyam[5], the Supreme Court has explained that everyone has a right to waive and to agree to waive the advantage of a law or rule made solely for the benefit and protection of the individual in his private capacity which may be dispensed with without infringing any public right or public policy.

6. The aforesaid principle of waiver has also been elucidated in Union of India v. Pramod Gupta[6], wherein the Supreme Court has observed as:

“111. It is, therefore, not correct to contend that there cannot be any waiver of the right to claim interest. Statutory provisions are made for payment of interest with a view to compensate a party which had suffered damages owing to a positive action or inaction of the other resulting in blockade of money which he would otherwise have received. A party which itself represents before the court of law that it would not claim interest with a view to obtain an order of stay which would be for its own benefit, in our opinion, could not be permitted to take advantage of its own wrong.”

7. In view of the above, it may be concluded that waiver is ordinarily contractual in nature inasmuch as two parties can enter into a contract in their private capacity and agree that one of them being well aware of its rights, will not assert the said right, for a consideration. However, where the statute prohibits contracting out, then the parties cannot enter into such a contract as it would be opposed to public policy.

8. The Kerala High Court in V. Janardhanan v. N.P. Syamala Kumari[7] , observed that an agreement to dissolve a marriage in derogation of the provisions of the 1955 Act is violative of the public policy of India.

9. The aforementioned cooling-off period cannot be waived off by the parties, as it gives an opportunity to both to reconsider reconciliation. The Supreme Court in Anil Kumar Jain v. Maya Jain[8],  has also held that the period of six months between filing a petition of divorce by mutual consent under Section 13-B(1)  and grant of decree of divorce under Section 13-B(2) of the 1955 Act cannot be waived off by the parties or by any civil court or High Court.

10. However, in Amardeep Singh v. Harveen Kaur[9], the abovementioned cooling-off period of six months has been held to be directory and not mandatory. The Supreme Court also interpreted Section 13-B(2) to be procedural in nature and highlighted that where the marriage has irretrievably broken down, the waiting period can be waived off by the court to enable the parties to rehabilitate themselves and start their lives afresh. It is the underlying object of the said provision that has prevailed on the Supreme Court to hold that where a court is satisfied that a case for waiver of the statutory “cooling period” under Section 13-B(2) of the Act is made out, it may waive the said period in certain circumstances. The above view has been expressed as follows:

“17. The object of the provision is to enable the parties to dissolve a marriage by consent if the marriage has irretrievably broken down and to enable them to rehabilitate them as per available options. The amendment was inspired by the thought that forcible perpetuation of status of matrimony between unwilling partners did not serve any purpose. The object of the cooling-off  period was to safeguard against a hurried decision if there was otherwise possibility of differences being reconciled. The object was not to perpetuate a purposeless marriage or to prolong the agony of the parties when there was no chance of reconciliation. Though every effort has to be made to save a marriage, if there are no chances of reunion and there are chances of fresh rehabilitation, the Court should not be powerless in enabling the parties to have a better option. 

  1. In determining the question whether provision is mandatory or directory, language alone is not always decisive. The Court has to have the regard to the context, the subject matter and the object of the provision.

  1. Applying the above to the present situation, we are of the view that where the Court dealing with a matter is satisfied that a case is made out to waive the statutory period under Section 13-B(2), it can do so after considering the following:

i) the statutory period of six months specified in Section 13-B(2), in addition to the statutory period of one year under Section 13-B(1) of separation of parties is already over before the First Motion itself;

ii) all efforts for mediation/conciliation including efforts in terms of Order XXXII-A Rule 3 CPC/Section 23(2) of the Act/Section 9 of the Family Courts Act to reunite the parties have failed and there is no likelihood of success in that direction by any further efforts;

iii) the parties have genuinely settled their differences including alimony, custody of child or any other pending issues between the parties;

iv) the waiting period will only prolong their agony.

The waiver application can be filed one week after the First Motion giving reasons for the prayer for waiver. If the above conditions are satisfied, the waiver of the waiting period for the Second Motion will be in the discretion of the Court concerned.

  1. Since we are of the view that the period mentioned in Section 13-B(2) is not mandatory but directory, it will be open to the Court to exercise its discretion in the facts and circumstances of each case where there is no possibility of parties resuming cohabitation and there are chances of alternative rehabilitation.”

Therefore, in Amardeep Singh, the Supreme Court acknowledged the change in public policy by permitting waiver of the statutory period of six months, contemplated in Section 13-B of the Act, with the object of preventing a forcible perpetuation of the status of matrimony between unwilling partners. Thus, the cooling-off period of six months has an element of public policy inbuilt therein, for emphasising the sanctity and importance of sustenance of marriage, as opposed to its dissolution.

11. It is noted that a situation may also arise where despite the undertaking(s) given by the couple or either of them before the court of law in obtaining the settlement, one of the partners unilaterally withdraws the consent earlier given to the petition to be filed under Section 13-B of the Act. As already noted hereinabove, the said party may have a right to renege, more so during the cooling-off period meant for the said purpose, however, whether such a withdrawal of consent contrary to the undertaking given shall make the defaulting party liable for contempt under the relevant law, if the said party fails to file or appear in the petition or motion or both to obtain divorce in view of the option to reconsider/renege the decision of taking divorce by mutual consent under Section 13-B(2) of the Act?

12. In this regard, it is pertinent to reproduce the relevant provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971:

2. Definitions.— In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, –

a) “contempt of court” means civil contempt or criminal contempt;

b) “civil contempt” means wilful disobedience to any judgement, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court;..

*                                 *                       *

  1. Power of High Court to punish contempt of subordinate courts.— Every High Court shall have and exercise the same jurisdiction, powers and authority, in accordance with the same procedure and practice, in respect of contempt of courts subordinate to it as it has and exercises in respect of contempt of itself:

Provided that no High Court shall take cognizance of a contempt alleged to have been committed in respect of a court subordinate to it where such contempt is an offence punishable under the Indian Penal Code.

*                          *                *

  1. Punishment for contempt of court.— Save as otherwise expressly provided in this Act or in any other law, a contempt of court may be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees, or with both:

Provided that the accused may be discharged or the  punishment awarded may be remitted on apology being made to the satisfaction of the court.

Explanation.—An apology shall not be rejected merely on the ground that it is qualified or conditional if the accused makes it bona fide.

  1. Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force, no court shall impose a sentence in excess of that specified in sub-section (1) for any contempt either in respect of itself or of a court subordinate to it.
  2. Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, where a person is found guilty of a civil contempt, the court, if it considers that a fine will not meet the ends of justice and that a sentence of imprisonment is necessary shall, instead of sentencing him to simple imprisonment, direct that he be detained in a civil prison for such period not exceeding six months as it may think fit.
  3. Where the person found guilty of contempt of court in respect of any undertaking given to a court is a company, every person who, at the time the contempt was committed, was in charge of, and was responsible to, the company for the conduct of business of the company, as well as the company, shall be deemed to be guilty of the contempt and the punishment may be enforced, with the leave of the court, by the detention in civil prison of each such person:

Provided that nothing contained in this sub-section shall render any such person liable to such punishment if he proves that the contempt was committed without his knowledge or that he exercised all due diligence to prevent its commission.

4. Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (4), where the contempt of court referred to therein has been committed by a company and it is proved that the contempt has been committed with the consent or connivance of, or is attributable to, any neglect on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other officer of the company, such director, manager, secretary or other officer shall also be deemed to be guilty of the contempt and the punishment may be enforced, with the leave of the court, by the detention in civil prison of such director, manager, secretary or other officer.

  1. Contempts not punishable in certain cases.—

Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force:

a) no court shall impose a sentence under this Act for a contempt of court unless it is satisfied that the contempt is of such a nature that it substantially interferes, or tends substantially to interfere with the due course of justice;

b) the court may permit, in any proceeding for contempt of court, justification by truth as a valid defence if it is satisfied that it is in public interest and the request for invoicing the said defence is bona fide.”

13. In Sudhakar Prasad v. Govt. of A.P.[10], the Supreme Court declared that the powers of contempt are inherent in nature and the provisions of the Constitution only recognise the said pre-existing situation. The relevant observations are reproduced below:

“9. Articles 129 and 215 of the Constitution of India declare Supreme Court and every High Court to be a Court of Record having all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself. These articles do not confer any new jurisdiction or status on the Supreme Court and the High Courts. They merely recognise a pre-existing situation that the Supreme Court and the High Courts are courts of record and by virtue of being courts of record have inherent jurisdiction to punish for contempt of themselves. Such inherent power to punish for contempt is summary. It is not governed or limited by any rules of procedure excepting the principles of natural justice. The jurisdiction contemplated by Articles 129 and 215 is inalienable. It cannot be taken away or whittled down by any legislative enactment subordinate to the Constitution. The provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 are in addition to and not in derogation of Articles 129 and 215 of the Constitution. The provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 cannot be used for limiting or regulating the exercise of jurisdiction contemplated by the said two articles. 

10…..This Court held that courts of record enjoy power to punish for contempt as a part of their inherent jurisdiction; the existence and availability of such power being essential to enable the courts to administer justice according to law in a regular, orderly and effective manner and to uphold the majesty of law and prevent interference in the due administration of justice (para 12). No Act of Parliament can take away that inherent jurisdiction of the Court of Record to punish for contempt and Parliamen’ts power of legislation on the subject cannot be so exercised as to stultify the status and dignity of the Supreme Court and/or the High Courts though such a legislation may serve as a guide for their determination of the nature of punishment which a Court of Record may impose in the case of established contempt. Power to investigate and punish for contempt of itself vesting in Supreme Court flows from Articles 129 and 142(2) of the Constitution independent of Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 (para 21). Section 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 provides for the punishment which shall ordinarily be imposed by the High Court in the case of an established contempt. This section does not deal with the powers of the Supreme Court to try or punish a contemnor in committing contempt of the Supreme Court or the courts subordinate to it (paras 28, 29, 37). Though the  inherent power of the High Court under Article 215 has not been impinged upon by the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act, the Act does provide for the nature and types of punishments which the High Court may award. The High Court cannot create or assume power to inflict a new type of punishment other than the one recognised and accepted by Section 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.

Similar observation has also been made by the  Supreme Court in Supreme Court Bar Association v. Union of India[11] .

4. The principle of civil contempt has been dealt with in Ashok Paper Kamgar Union v. Dharam Godha[12], wherein the Supreme Court observed as under:

“17. Section 2(b) of Contempt of Courts Act defines ‘civil contempt’ and it means wilful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a Court or wilful breach of undertaking given to a Court. ‘Wilful’ means an act or omission which is done voluntarily and intentionally and with the specific intent to do something the law forbids or with the specific intent to fail to do something the law requires to be done, that is to say with bad purpose either to disobey or to disregard the law. It signifies a deliberate action done with evil intent or with a bad motive or purpose. Therefore, in order to constitute contempt the order of the Court must be of such a nature which is capable of execution by the person charged in normal circumstances. It should not require any extra ordinary effort nor should be dependent, either wholly or in part, upon any act or omission of a third party for its compliance. This has to be judged having regard to the facts and circumstances of each case……”

5. In Balasubramaniyam v. P. Janakaraju[13], the High Court of Karnataka has explained the principle of contempt as follows:

“19. Orders of Courts have to be obeyed unless and until they are set aside in appeal/revision. Alternatively in any proceedings for execution or in a collateral proceedings where an order is sought to be enforced or relied on, it is possible for a party to establish that the order is null and void. Then the Court considering the matter, if satisfied, will hold that the order is null and void and therefore not executable or enforceable. In this case, the order of eviction dated 6-8-1996 has been confirmed by the Revisional Court by order dated 18-11-1996  which in turn has been confirmed by order dated 18-12-1996 of this Court. These orders are not set aside. They have not been declared or held to be null and void in any proceedings. Therefore, the respondents cannot assume for themselves that the undertaking given by them is not valid or that therefore they need not comply with it.

  1. The principles relating to contempt are clear. The definition ‘Civil Contempt’ includes wilful breach of an undertaking given to a Court. Public interest requires that solemn undertakings given to a Court with the intention of obtaining any benefit should not be breached wilfully. No litigant can be allowed to wriggle away from a solemn undertaking given to the Court, as it will open dangerous trends and defeat the very purpose of giving undertakings to Court. While Courts will not be vindictive, Courts cannot also allow themselves to be trifled with by violating the solemn undertakings given to them. Litigants ought to understand that once they give an undertaking to a Court, they should comply with it in all circumstances, the only exceptions being fraud or statutory bar. They cannot break an undertaking with impunity and then attempt to justify it. The breach of solemn undertaking given to a Court is a serious matter and will have to be dealt with seriously. Further, while execution ofa decree is a matter between the decree-holder and the judgment- debtor, an undertaking to a Court is a matter between the Court and the person who gives the undertaking to the Court. The right of a landlord to get his tenant vacated in terms of an order of eviction has nothing to do with the solemn undertaking given by a tenant to the Court to vacate the premises to obtain the benefit of grant of time for vacating the premises. It therefore follows that even if the order of eviction becomes inececutable for any reason, that will not absolve the person giving the undertaking to Court, from acting in terms of it.”

16. Similar principles regarding contempt have been reiterated and reemphasised in several pronouncements, including in Rama Narang v. Ramesh Narang[14] , and Shailesh Dhairyawan v. Mohan Balkrishna Lulla[15].

17. In Shikha Bhatia v. Gaurav Bhatia[16], during the pendency of the petition for anticipatory bail in a FIR registered against him and his parents, the respondent husband entered into an agreement with the petitioner wife to pay a quantified amount to her in full and final satisfaction of all her claims and in consideration thereof, the wife agreed to sign the First Motion for grant of divorce by mutual consent and then the petition under Section 13-B(2) of the Act. The wife also agreed not to object to quashing of the FIR. On refusal of the husband to abide by the undertaking given to the wife over making the payments, she initiated contempt proceedings. The Delhi High Court observed that the husband having taken advantage of the agreement entered into with the wife in terms of the settlement, he could not withdraw the same to her detriment. It was thus held that the husband had wilfully and deliberately disregarded the settlement recorded in court on his own representation and accordingly declared him guilty of contempt.

18. In Avneesh Sood v. Tithi Sood[17], disputes had arisen between the parties after a decade of their marriage and they had executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreeing inter alia to seek divorce by mutual consent. As per the terms thereof, the husband had agreed to pay a quantified amount to the wife, in instalments. After execution of the MoU, the parties filed a joint petition for dissolution of marriage by mutual consent under Section 13-B(1) of the Act and incorporated therein the terms and conditions of settlement, which were duly accepted by the court during the First Motion proceedings. Later on, when the wife refused to cooperate with the husband for moving the Second Motion petition under Section 13-B(2) of the Act, he filed a contempt petition against the wife on the ground that she had withdrawn from the undertaking given by her to the court at the time of filing the petition for mutual divorce under Section 13-B(1) of the Act before the Family Court. The Court held the wife guilty of contempt of court for having breached the undertaking given to the learned ADJ in the First Motion divorce proceedings under Section 13-B(1) of the Act and issued a notice to show cause  as to why she should not be punished for contempt of court, particularly when she had derived benefits from the husband in terms of the MoU.

19. In view of the above, it thus follows that the Supreme Court and the High Courts, by virtue of being courts of record, have the inherent jurisdiction to punish for contempt of court. Further, Section 2(b) of the 1971 Act encompasses wilful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order etc. of a court, as well as a wilful breach of an undertaking given to the court. Therefore, even though a party who has given an undertaking to the Court withdraws the same exercising the legal right under Section 13-B of the Act, the said party has nonetheless knowingly by his/her undertaking to the Court wilfully breached the same, thus making the said party guilty of civil contempt of court under the 1971 Act.

10. The Division Bench of the Delhi High Court in Rajat Gupta Rupali Gupta[18] answered the following two questions, besides others, referred to it in the following terms:

Q. 1: Whether a party, which has under a settlement agreement decreed by a Court undertaken to file a petition under Section 13-B(1) or a motion under Section 13-B(2) of the 1955 Act or both and has also undertaken to appear before the said Court for obtaining divorce can be held liable for contempt, if the said party fails to file or appear in the petition or motion or both to obtain divorce in view of the option to reconsider/renege the decision of taking divorce by mutual consent under Section 13-B(2) of the Act?

Ans.: The distinguishing feature of Section 13-B of the 1955 Act is that it recognises the unqualified and unfettered right of a party to unilaterally withdraw the consent or reconsider/renege from a decision to apply for divorce by mutual consent, notwithstanding any undertaking given in any legal proceeding or recorded in any settlement/joint statement, in or outside the court, resulting in a consent order/decree, to cooperate with the other spouse to file a petition under Section 13-B(1) or a Second Motion under Section 13-B(2) of the Act, or both. Withdrawal of the consent even at the stage of the enquiry, as contemplated under Section 13-B(2), is also in exercise of the right available to a party under the very same provision. Any other view will not only impinge on the jurisdiction of the court which has an obligation under the statute to undertake an independent enquiry before passing a decree of divorce by mutual consent, it will also encroach upon a statutory right vested in a party under Section 13-B(2) of the Act and go against the very spirit of the provision. However, at the same time, a defaulting party can be held liable for civil contempt on the ground of breaching the terms and conditions incorporated in an undertaking given to the court or made a part of a consent order/decree. In the event the aggrieved party approaches the court for initiation of contempt proceedings against the defaulting party for wilful/deliberate breach of any of the terms and conditions of an undertaking/settlement agreement/consent order or a decree and takes a plea that as a consequence thereof, he/she has been placed in a disadvantageous position or has suffered an irreversible/grave prejudice, the court in exercise of its inherent powers of contempt, supplemented by the 1971 Act has the requisite jurisdiction to entertain the petition and direct restoration of status quo ante in every possible way. Thus, contempt jurisdiction operates in a different field and is uninfluenced by the fetters imposed on a court under the Act of 1955. The only rider to the above is that no direction can be issued even in contempt proceedings to compel the defaulting party to give its consent for a decree of divorce by mutual consent, as it is opposed to the object, policy and intent of Section 13-B of HMA.

 Q. 2: Whether by undertaking before a Court to file a Second Motion under Section 13-B(2) of the Act, 1955 at Section 13-B(1) stage or by giving an undertaking to a Court to that effect in a separate court proceeding, a party waives its right to rethink/renege under Section 13-B(2) of the Act, 1955? If yes, whether such right can be waived by a party under Section 13-B(2) of the Act, 1955?

Ans.: Notwithstanding any undertaking given by a party before a court to file a Second Motion under Section13-B(2) or at the Section 13-B(1) stage or in any separate court proceedings, its right to rethink/renege under Section 13-B(2) of the Act, cannot be waived for the reason that such a waiver is proscribed by the statute that keeps a window open for the parties to withdraw their consent at any stage till the decree of divorce is finally granted. The right of withdrawal of consent in the above proceedings can be exercised at any stage and exercise of such a discretion cannot be treated as being opposed to public policy. Any other interpretation given to the aforesaid provision would negate the underlying aim, object and intent of the said provision. Once a party decides to have a second thought and on reflection, backs off, the court concerned cannot compel the defaulting party to give its consent on the basis of an earlier settlement/undertaking.


* Advocate and a qualified Chartered Accountant. Author is currently a Senior Associate in the Dispute Resolution Practice at L&L Partners Law Offices, New Delhi. Author’s views are personal.

[1] The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

[2] (1991) 2 SCC 25

[3] (2011) 5 SCC 234

[4] (2004) 8 SCC 229 

[5] (1971) 1 SCC 619

[6] (2005) 12 SCC 1

[7] 1990 SCC OnLine Ker 13 

[8] (2009) 10 SCC 415

[9] (2017) 8 SCC 746

[10] (2001) 1 SCC 516

[11] (1998) 4 SCC 409  

[12] (2003) 11 SCC 1

[13] 2004 SCC OnLine Kar 226

[14] (2006) 11 SCC 114

[15] (2016) 3 SCC 619

[16] 2010 SCC OnLine Del 1962

[17] 2012 SCC OnLine Del 2445

[18] 2018 SCC OnLine Del 9005

Case BriefsSupreme Court

[Note: This report is a detailed analysis of Supreme Court’s judgment in Rajnesh v. Neha*. To read the guidelines and directions issued by the Court, click here.]

Supreme Court: The bench of Indu Malhotra** and R. Subhash Reddy, JJ has framed guidelines on the issue of maintenance of wife, covering overlapping jurisdiction under different enactments for payment of maintenance, payment of Interim Maintenance, the criteria for determining the quantum of maintenance, the date from which maintenance is to be awarded, and enforcement of orders of maintenance.

The directions came in a case which revealed that the application for interim maintenance under Section 125 Cr.P.C. has remained pending before the Courts for seven years now, and there have been difficulties encountered in the enforcement of orders passed by the Courts, as the wife was constrained to move successive applications for enforcement from time to time.


Legislations dealing with the issue of maintenance


The legislations which have been framed on the issue of maintenance are the Special Marriage Act, 1954, Section 125 of the Cr.P.C. ,1973; and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 which provide a statutory remedy to women, irrespective of the religious community to which they belong, apart from the personal laws applicable to various religious communities. Further, a Hindu wife may claim maintenance under the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act 1956 , and also in a substantive proceeding for either dissolution of marriage, or restitution of conjugal rights, etc. under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 by invoking Sections 24 and 25 of the said Act.

The different enactments provide an independent and distinct remedy framed with a specific object and purpose. In spite of time frames being prescribed by various statutes for disposal of interim applications, in practice that in a vast majority of cases, the applications are not disposed of within the time frame prescribed.

Special Marriage Act, 1954

  • Section 36 of this secular legislation, applicable to all persons who solemnize their marriage in India, provides that a wife is entitled to claim pendente lite maintenance, if she does not have sufficient independent income to support her and for legal expenses. The maintenance may be granted on a weekly or monthly basis during the pendency of the matrimonial proceedings. The Court would determine the quantum of maintenance depending on the income of the husband, and award such amount as may seem reasonable.
  • Section 37 provides for grant of permanent alimony at the time of passing of the decree, or subsequent thereto. Permanent alimony is the consolidated payment made by the husband to the wife towards her maintenance for life.

Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

  • Sections 24 and 25 make provision for maintenance to a party who has no independent income sufficient for his or her support, and necessary expenses. This is a gender-neutral provision, where either the wife or the husband may claim maintenance. The prerequisite is that the applicant does not have independent income which is sufficient for her or his support, during the pendency of the lis.
  • Section 24 of the HMA provides for maintenance pendente lite, where the Court may direct the respondent to pay the expenses of the proceeding, and pay such reasonable monthly amount, which is considered to be reasonable, having regard to the income of both the parties. The proviso to Section 24 providing a time line of 60 days for disposal of the application was inserted vide Act 49 of 2001 w.e.f. 24.09.2001.
  • Section 26 of the HMA provides that the Court may from time to time pass interim orders with respect to the custody, maintenance and education of the minor children.

Hindu Adoptions & Maintenance Act, 1956

HAMA is a special legislation which was enacted to amend and codify the laws relating to adoption and maintenance amongst Hindus, during the subsistence of the marriage.

Section 18 provides that a Hindu wife shall be entitled to be maintained by her husband during her lifetime. She is entitled to make a claim for a separate residence, without forfeiting her right to maintenance. Section 18 read in conjunction with Section 23 states the factors required to be considered for deciding the quantum of maintenance to be paid. Under sub-section (2) of Section 18, the husband has the obligation to maintain his wife, even though she may be living separately. The right of separate residence and maintenance would however not be available if the wife has been unchaste, or has converted to another religion.

Distinction between maintenance under HMA and HAMA

  • The right under Section 18 of HAMA is available during the subsistence of a marriage, without any matrimonial proceeding pending between the parties. Once there is a divorce, the wife has to seek relief under Section 25 of HMA.
  • Under HMA, either the wife, or the husband, may move for judicial separation, restitution of conjugal rights, dissolution of marriage, payment of interim maintenance under Section 24, and permanent alimony under Section 25 of the Act, whereas under Section 18 of HAMA, only a wife may seek maintenance.

Section 125 of the Cr.P.C

The purpose and object of Section 125 Cr.P.C. is to provide immediate relief to an applicant. An application under Section 125 Cr.P.C. is predicated on two conditions :

  • the husband has sufficient means; and
  • “neglects” to maintain his wife, who is unable to maintain herself.

In such a case, the husband may be directed by the Magistrate to pay such monthly sum to the wife, as deemed fit. Maintenance is awarded on the basis of the financial capacity of the husband and other relevant factors.

Under sub-section (2) of Section 125, the Court is conferred with the discretion to award payment of maintenance either from the date of the order, or from the date of the application.

Under the third proviso to the amended Section 125, the application for grant of interim maintenance must be disposed of as far as possible within sixty days’ from the date of service of notice on the respondent.

Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

The D.V. Act provides relief to an aggrieved woman who is subjected to “domestic violence.”

1.Sections 17 and 19 grant an entitlement in favour of an aggrieved woman to the right of residence in a “shared household”, irrespective of her having any legal interest in the same or not. From the definition of “aggrieved person” and “respondent”, it is clear that :

(a) it is not the requirement of law that the aggrieved person may either own the premises jointly or singly, or by tenanting it jointly or singly;

(b) the household may belong to a joint family of which the respondent is a member, irrespective of whether the respondent or the aggrieved person has any right, title, or interest in the shared household; 24

(c) the shared household may either be owned, or tenanted by the respondent singly or jointly.

2. The right to residence u/S. 19 is, however, not an indefeasible right, especially when a daughter-in-law is claiming a right against aged parents-in-law. While granting relief u/S. 12 of the D.V. Act, or in any civil proceeding, the court has to balance the rights between the aggrieved woman and the parents-in-law.

3. Section 20(1)(d) provides that maintenance granted under the D.V. Act to an aggrieved woman and children, would be given effect to, in addition to an order of maintenance awarded under Section 125 of the Cr.P.C., or any other law in force.

4. Under sub-section (6) of Section 20, the Magistrate may direct the employer or debtor of the respondent, to directly pay the aggrieved person, or deposit with the court a portion of the wages or salaries or debt due to or accrued to the credit of the respondent, which amount may be adjusted towards the monetary relief payable by the respondent.

5. Section 22 provides that the Magistrate may pass an order directing the respondent to pay compensation and damages for the injuries, including mental torture and emotional distress, caused by the acts of domestic violence perpetrated by the respondent.

6. Section 26 of the D.V. Act provides that any relief available under Sections 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 may also be sought in any legal proceeding before a Civil Court, Family Court or Criminal Court.

7. Section 36 provides that the D.V. Act shall be in addition to, and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law for the time being in force.


Analysis of the issues


(a)Issue of overlapping jurisdiction

The Court noticed that while it is true that a party is not precluded from approaching the Court under one or more enactments, since the nature and purpose of the relief under each Act is distinct and independent, it is equally true that the simultaneous operation of these Acts, would lead to multiplicity of proceedings and conflicting orders. This process requires to be streamlined, so that the respondent/husband is not obligated to comply with successive orders of maintenance passed under different enactments.

“It is well settled that a wife can make a claim for maintenance under different statutes. For instance, there is no bar to seek maintenance both under the D.V. Act and Section 125 of the Cr.P.C., or under H.M.A. It would, however, be inequitable to direct the husband to pay maintenance under each of the proceedings, independent of the relief granted in a previous proceeding.”

The Court, hence, directed 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.

[Read detailed guidelines and directions here]

(b) Payment of Interim Maintenance

At present, the issue of interim maintenance is decided on the basis of pleadings, where some amount of guess-work or rough estimation takes place, so as to make a prima facie assessment of the amount to be awarded. It is often seen that both parties submit scanty material, do not disclose the correct details, and suppress vital information, which makes it difficult for the Family Courts to make an objective assessment for grant of interim maintenance.

“While there is a tendency on the part of the wife to exaggerate her needs, there is a corresponding tendency by the husband to conceal his actual income.”

It was hence directed that the Affidavit of Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities shall be filed by both parties in all maintenance proceedings, including pending proceedings before the concerned Family Court / District Court / Magistrates Court, as the case may be, throughout the country.

Apart from this the Court also directed that in the first instance, the Family Court in compliance with the mandate of Section 9 of the Family Courts Act 1984, must make an endeavour for settlement of the disputes.

For this, Section 6 provides that the State Government shall, in consultation with the High Court, make provision for counsellors to assist a Family Court in the discharge of its functions. Given the large and growing percentage of matrimonial litigation, it has become necessary that the provisions of Section 5 and 6 of the Family Courts Act are given effect to, by providing for the appointment of marriage counsellors in every Family Court, which would help in the process of settlement. If the proceedings for settlement are unsuccessful, the Family Court would proceed with the matter on merits.

[Read detailed guidelines and directions here]

(c) Criteria for determining quantum of maintenance

The objective of granting interim / permanent alimony is to ensure that the dependant spouse is not reduced to destitution or vagrancy on account of the failure of the marriage, and not as a punishment to the other spouse. There is no straitjacket formula for fixing the quantum of maintenance to be awarded.

“The maintenance amount awarded must be reasonable and realistic, and avoid either of the two extremes i.e. maintenance awarded to the wife should neither be so extravagant which becomes oppressive and unbearable for the respondent, nor should it be so meagre that it drives the wife to penury. The sufficiency of the quantum has to be adjudged so that the wife is able to maintain herself with reasonable comfort.”

For determining the quantum of maintenance payable to an applicant, the factors which would weigh with the Court inter alia are

  • the status of the parties; reasonable needs of the wife and dependant children; whether the applicant is educated and professionally qualified; whether the applicant has any independent source of income; whether the income is sufficient to enable her to maintain the same standard of living as she was accustomed to in her matrimonial home; whether the applicant was employed prior to her marriage; whether she was working during the subsistence of the marriage; etc.
  • the financial capacity of the husband, his actual income, reasonable expenses for his own maintenance, and dependant family members whom he is obliged to maintain under the law, liabilities if any, would be required to be taken into consideration, to arrive at the appropriate quantum of maintenance to be paid. The Court must have due regard to the standard of living of the husband, as well as the spiralling inflation rates and high costs of living.
  • On termination of the relationship, if the wife is educated and professionally qualified, but had to give up her employment opportunities to look after the needs of the family being the primary caregiver to the minor children, and the elder members of the family, this factor would be required to be given due importance. With advancement of age, it would be difficult for a dependant wife to get an easy entry into the work-force after a break of several years as she would be required to undergo fresh training to acquire marketable skills and re-train herself to secure a job.
  • In case where the wife is working, it cannot operate as a bar from being awarded maintenance by the husband. The onus is on the husband to establish with necessary material that there are sufficient grounds to show that he is unable to maintain the family, and discharge his legal obligations for reasons beyond his control. If the husband does not disclose the exact amount of his income, an adverse inference may be drawn by the Court.
  • The living expenses of the child would include expenses for food, clothing, residence, medical expenses, education of children. Extra coaching classes or any other vocational training courses to complement the basic education must be factored in, while awarding child support. Albeit, it should be a reasonable amount to be awarded for extra-curricular/coaching classes, and not an overly extravagant amount which may be claimed.

“Education expenses of the children must be normally borne by the father. If the wife is working and earning sufficiently, the expenses may be shared proportionately between the parties.”

  • Serious disability or ill health of a spouse, child / children from the marriage / dependant relative who require constant care and recurrent expenditure, would also be a relevant consideration while quantifying maintenance

The aforesaid factors are however not exhaustive, and the concerned Court may exercise its discretion to consider any other factor/s which may be necessary or of relevance in the facts and circumstances of a case.

[Read detailed guidelines and directions here]

(d) Date from which maintenance is to be awarded

Even though a judicial discretion is conferred upon the Court to grant maintenance either from the date of application or from the date of the order in S. 125(2) Cr.P.C., it would be appropriate to grant maintenance from the date of application in all cases, including Section 125 Cr.P.C. In the practical working of the provisions relating to maintenance, there is significant delay in disposal of the applications for interim maintenance for years on end. It would therefore be in the interests of justice and fair play that maintenance is awarded from the date of the application.

The rationale of granting maintenance from the date of application finds its roots in the object of enacting maintenance legislations, so as to enable the wife to overcome the financial crunch which occurs on separation from the husband. Financial constraints of a dependant spouse hampers their capacity to be effectively represented before the Court. In order to prevent a dependant from being reduced to destitution, it is necessary that maintenance is awarded from the date on which the application for maintenance is filed before the concerned Court.

[Read detailed guidelines and directions here]

(e) Enforcement of orders of maintenance

Enforcement of the order of maintenance is the most challenging issue, which is encountered by the applicants. If maintenance is not paid in a timely manner, it defeats the very object of the social welfare legislation. Execution petitions usually remain pending for months, if not years, which completely nullifies the object of the law.

An application for execution of an Order of Maintenance can be filed under the following provisions :

(a) Section 28 A of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1956 r.w. Section 18 of the Family Courts Act, 1984 and Order XXI Rule 94 of the CPC for executing an Order passed under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act (before the Family Court);

(b) Section 20(6) of the DV Act (before the Judicial Magistrate); and

(c) Section 128 of Cr.P.C. before the Magistrate’s Court.

Section 18 of the Family Courts Act, 1984 provides that orders passed by the Family Court shall be executable in accordance with the CPC / Cr.P.C.

Section 125(3) of the Cr.P.C provides that if the party against whom the order of maintenance is passed fails to comply with the order of maintenance, the same shall be recovered in the manner as provided for fines, and the Magistrate may award sentence of imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month, or until payment, whichever is earlier

Some Family Courts, however, have passed orders for striking off the defence of the respondent in case of non-payment of maintenance, so as to facilitate speedy disposal of the maintenance petition.

The Court, however, was of the opinion that striking off the defence of the respondent is an order which ought to be passed in the last resort, if the Courts find default to be wilful and contumacious, particularly to a dependant unemployed wife, and minor children. Contempt proceedings for wilful disobedience may be initiated before the appropriate Court.

Hence, it was directed that the order or decree of maintenance may be enforced like a decree of a civil court, through the provisions which are available for enforcing a money decree, including civil detention, attachment of property, etc. as provided by various provisions of the CPC, more particularly Sections 51, 55, 58, 60 read with Order XXI.

[Read detailed guidelines and directions here]

[Rajnesh v. Neha,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 903, decided on 04.11.2020]


*CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 730 OF 2020

**Justice Indu Malhotra has penned this judgment

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Indu Malhotra* and R. Subhash Reddy, JJ has framed guidelines on the issue of maintenance of wife, covering overlapping jurisdiction under different enactments for payment of maintenance, payment of Interim Maintenance, the criteria for determining the quantum of maintenance, the date from which maintenance is to be awarded, and enforcement of orders of maintenance.

The directions came in a case which revealed that the application for interim maintenance under Section 125 Cr.P.C. has remained pending before the Courts for seven years now, and there have been difficulties encountered in the enforcement of orders passed by the Courts, as the wife was constrained to move successive applications for enforcement from time to time.


Legislations dealing with the issue of maintenance


The legislations which have been framed on the issue of maintenance are the Special Marriage Act, 1954, Section 125 of the Cr.P.C. ,1973; and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 which provide a statutory remedy to women, irrespective of the religious community to which they belong, apart from the personal laws applicable to various religious communities. Further, a Hindu wife may claim maintenance under the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act 1956 , and also in a substantive proceeding for either dissolution of marriage, or restitution of conjugal rights, etc. under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 by invoking Sections 24 and 25 of the said Act.

The different enactments provide an independent and distinct remedy framed with a specific object and purpose. In spite of time frames being prescribed by various statutes for disposal of interim applications, in practice that in a vast majority of cases, the applications are not disposed of within the time frame prescribed.


Guidelines and Directions 


(a)Issue of overlapping jurisdiction

To overcome the issue of overlapping jurisdiction, and avoid conflicting orders being passed in different proceedings, the Court issued the following directions in order to ensure uniformity in the practice followed by the Family Courts/District Courts/Magistrate Courts throughout the country:

(i) where successive claims for maintenance are made by a party under different statutes, the Court would consider an adjustment or setoff, of the amount awarded in the previous proceeding/s, while determining whether any further amount is to be awarded in the subsequent proceeding;

(ii) it is made mandatory for the applicant to disclose the previous proceeding and the orders passed therein, in the subsequent proceeding;

(iii) if the order passed in the previous proceeding/s requires any modification or variation, it would be required to be done in the same proceeding.

(b) Payment of Maintenance

Interim Maintenance

(a) the Affidavit of Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities shall be filed by both parties in all maintenance proceedings, including pending proceedings before the concerned Family Court / District Court / Magistrates Court, as the case may be, throughout the country.

[Note: The judgment has the Affidavit of Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities annexed as Enclosures I, II and III.]

(b) The applicant making the claim for maintenance will be required to file a concise application accompanied with the Affidavit of Disclosure of Assets;

(c) The respondent must submit the reply alongwith the Affidavit of Disclosure within a maximum period of four weeks.

  • The Courts may not grant more than two opportunities for submission of the Affidavit of Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities to the respondent.
  • If the respondent delays in filing the reply with the Affidavit, and seeks more than two adjournments for this purpose, the Court may consider exercising the power to strike off the defence of the respondent, if the conduct is found to be wilful and contumacious in delaying the proceedings.
  • On the failure to file the Affidavit within the prescribed time, the Family Court may proceed to decide the application for maintenance on basis of the Affidavit filed by the applicant and the pleadings on record;

(d) The above format may be modified by the concerned Court, if the exigencies of a case require the same. It would be left to the judicial discretion of the concerned Court, to issue necessary directions in this regard.

(e) If apart from the information contained in the Affidavits of Disclosure, any further information is required, the concerned Court may pass appropriate orders in respect thereof.

(f) If there is any dispute with respect to the declaration made in the Affidavit of Disclosure, the aggrieved party may seek permission of the Court to serve interrogatories, and seek production of relevant documents from the opposite party under Order XI of the CPC. On filing of the Affidavit, the Court may invoke the provisions of Order X of the C.P.C or Section 165 of the Evidence Act 1872, if it considers it necessary to do so.

The income of one party is often not within the knowledge of the other spouse. Hence, the Court may invoke Section 106 of the Evidence Act, 1872 if necessary, since the income, assets and liabilities of the spouse are within the personal knowledge of the party concerned.

(g) If during the course of proceedings, there is a change in the financial status of any party, or there is a change of any relevant circumstances, or if some new information comes to light, the party may submit an amended / supplementary affidavit, which would be considered by the court at the time of final determination.

(h) The pleadings made in the applications for maintenance and replies filed should be responsible pleadings; if false statements and misrepresentations are made, the Court may consider initiation of proceeding u/S. 340 Cr.P.C., and for contempt of Court.

(i) In case the parties belong to the Economically Weaker Sections (“EWS”), or are living Below the Poverty Line (“BPL”), or are casual labourers, the requirement of filing the Affidavit would be dispensed with.

(j) The concerned Family Court / District Court / Magistrate’s Court must make an endeavour to decide the I.A. for Interim Maintenance by a reasoned 37 order, within a period of four to six months at the latest, after the Affidavits of Disclosure have been filed before the court.

(k) A professional Marriage Counsellor must be made available in every Family Court

Permanent alimony

(i)Parties may lead oral and documentary evidence with respect to income, expenditure, standard of living, etc. before the concerned Court, for fixing the permanent alimony payable to the spouse.

(ii) In contemporary society, where several marriages do not last for a reasonable length of time, it may be inequitable to direct the contesting spouse to pay permanent alimony to the applicant for the rest of her life. The duration of the marriage would be a relevant factor to be taken into consideration for determining the permanent alimony to be paid.

(iii) Provision for grant of reasonable expenses for the marriage of children must be made at the time of determining permanent alimony, where the custody is with the wife. The expenses would be determined by taking into account the financial position of the husband and the customs of the family.

(iv) If there are any trust funds / investments created by any spouse / grandparents in favour of the children, this would also be taken into consideration while deciding the final child support.

(c) Criteria for determining the quantum of maintenance

For determining the quantum of maintenance payable to an applicant, the factors which would weigh with the Court inter alia are the status of the parties; reasonable needs of the wife and dependant children; whether the applicant is educated and professionally qualified; whether the applicant has any independent source of income; whether the income is sufficient to enable her to maintain the same standard of living as she was accustomed to in her matrimonial home; whether the applicant was employed prior to her marriage; whether she was working during the subsistence of the marriage; whether the wife was required to sacrifice her employment opportunities for nurturing the family, child rearing, and looking after adult members of the family; reasonable costs of litigation for a non-working wife.

The financial capacity of the husband, his actual income, reasonable expenses for his own maintenance, and dependant family members whom he is obliged to maintain under the law, liabilities if any, would be required to be taken into consideration, to arrive at the appropriate quantum of maintenance to be paid. The Court must have due regard to the standard of living of the husband, as well as the spiralling inflation rates and high costs of living.

Serious disability or ill health of a spouse, child / children from the marriage / dependant relative who require constant care and recurrent expenditure, would also be a relevant consideration while quantifying maintenance

The aforesaid factors are however not exhaustive, and the concerned Court may exercise its discretion to consider any other factor/s which may be necessary or of relevance in the facts and circumstances of a case.

(d) Date from which maintenance is to be awarded

Maintenance in all cases will be awarded from the date of filing the application for maintenance 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.

(e) Enforcement/Execution of orders of maintenance

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.

[Rajnesh v. Neha, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 903, decided on 04.11.2020]


*Justice Indu Malhotra has penned this judgment

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: Sanjay K. Agrawal, J., discusses the decision of trial Court and first Appellate Court with regard to alienation of the property of a deceased by his alleged wife.

Facts of the instant case relate to the dispute in property left by Sukhdev. Both Sukhdev and his wife died issue-less.

Plaintiff claimed that he is the brother of Sukhdev and after the death of Sukhdev, he inherited the property left by Sukhdev and Shanti Bai, whereas defendant 1 alternatively claimed that she had married Sukhdev Sukhdev in Chudi form and became his wife thereafter, got her name mutated in the revenue record.

Plaintiff submitted that defendant 1 has no relationship with the family of Sukhdev and has illegally got her name mutated.

Trial Court

Trial Court decreed the suit holding that the suit property was the joint family property of Sukhdev and Anirudh Prasad Kamal Sen — plaintiff and defendant 1 is not the wife of Sukhdev and therefore the alienation made by defendant 1 — Dashmat bai in favour of defendant 1 is null void.

First Appeal | Second Appeal

On appeal being preferred before the first appellate Court by defendants 1 & 2 being dissatisfied with the judgment & decree of the Trial Court, the first appellate Court allowed the appeal and set aside the judgment & decree of the Trial Court and eventually dismissed the suit feeling aggrieved against which this second appeal has been preferred by the plaintiff under Section 100 of the CPC in which substantial questions of law.

Analysis & Decision

CUSTOM

Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 lays down conditions for a Hindu marriage and Section 7 lays down ceremonies for a Hindu marriage by providing that a Hindu marriage may be solemnized in accordance with the customary rites and ceremonies of either party thereto.

Section 29 of the Act of 1955 saves the rights recognised by custom or conferred by special enactment to obtain the dissolution of marriage, whether solemnised before or after the commencement of the Act.

Section 3(a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 defines the expressions “custom” and “usage”.

Bench stated that Custom must have been observed for a long time and must be ancient.

Customs will have to be always strictly proved and in relation to matrimonial matters particularly to the existence of customs.

The Supreme Court in the matter of Yamanaji H. Jadhav v. Nirmala, (2002) 2 SCC 637 has held that custom being an exception, the general rule of divorce ought to have been specifically pleaded and established by leading cogent evidence by the person propounding such custom.

Principle of law laid down in Yamanaji H. Jadhav v. Nirmala, (2002) 2 SCC 637,  was followed with approval by the Supreme Court in the matter of Subramani v. M. Chandralekha, (2005) 9 SCC 407, by holding that as per Hindu law, divorce was not recognised as a means to put an end to marriage which was always considered to be a sacrament, only exception being where it was recognised by custom.

Now, coming back to the instant case, the dispute was with regard to the property left by Sukhdev who is the brother of the plaintiff. Whereas, defendant 1 claiming to be the wife of Sukhdev in Chudi form, alienated the suit property to defendant 2 which has been questioned in the suit.

It has also been alleged that Dashmat bai had married two other people prior to her alleged marriage with Sukhdev, though there was no evidence on record in regard to her divorce with the other two people.

Father of Dashmat bai, Jaitram (DW-1) categorically stated that he was not present at the time when Dashmat bai allegedly entered into marriage in Chudi Form with Sukhdev, which is quite unnatural that father was not present at the time of such important ceremony.

Similarly, Dashmat Bai herself could have entered into the witness-box and offered herself for cross-examination in absence of which adverse inference could be drawn against her.

As there was no iota of evidence of marriage having been taken place between Dashmat Bai and Sukhdev in view of the testimony of her father Jaitram (DW-1) and another witness DW-2, as they were not present in the said alleged marriage and in view of the fact that defendant 1 Dashmat Bai did not offer herself for cross-examination, adverse inference against her has to be drawn.

Hence, in view of the discussion, it can be said that no relationship of husband and wife existed between the defendant 1 and Sukhdev.

The question that needs to be answered is whether, by the alienation made by defendant 1, title was conveyed to defendant 2?

Supreme Court in its decision of Prahlad Pradhan v. Sonu Kumhar, (2019) 10 SCC 259, dealt with the question of competency of a person to transfer property and transfer of property by a person without rights, wherein the following was held:

“7. Since Mangal Kumhar did not have an exclusive right, title or interest in the suit property, his widow Etwari Kumharin was not legally competent to sell the suit property to the appellants, purporting to be the sole owner of the property. Reliance is placed on Eureka Builders v. Gulabchand, (2018) 8 SCC 67 wherein this Court held: (SCC pp. 75-76, paras 35-36)

“35. It is a settled principle of law that a person can only transfer to other person a right, title or interest in any tangible property which he is possessed of to transfer it for consideration or otherwise. In other words, whatever interest a person is possessed of in any tangible property, he can transfer only that interest to the other person and no other interest, which he himself does not possess in the tangible property.

36. So, once it is proved that on the date of transfer of any tangible property, the seller of the property did not have any subsisting right, title or interest over it, then a buyer of such property would not get any right, title and interest in the property purchased by him for consideration or otherwise. Such transfer would be an illegal and void transfer.”

(emphasis supplied)

Court held that the alienation made by defendant 1 in favour of defendant 2 holding her to be the wife of Sukhdev as the property was originally owned by Sukhdev, is clearly void.

In view of the above discussion, decree be drawn up accordingly. [Anirudh Prasad Kamal Sen v. Dashmat Bai Suryavanshi, Second Appeal No. 93 of 2009, decided on 28-08-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: A Division Bench of M. Sathyanarayanan and P. Rajamanickam, JJ., addressed an appeal with regard to seeking interim maintenance when permanent maintenance was already granted.

Petitioners have filed the present appeal challenging the Family Court’s Order.

Husband sought divorce against the first appellant(wife) on the ground of cruelty.

During the pendency of the above petition, appellants filed an application under Section 7(1) of the Family Courts Act read with Section 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and Sections 20 and 26 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 to direct the husband to pay a sum of Rs 10,000 to appellant 1 and Rs 5,000 to appellant 2 towards monthly maintenance.

Another application under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1055 read with Sections 20 and 26 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 to direct the respondent to pay a sum of Rs 7,500 to appellant 1 and Rs 5, 000, was also filed.

Counsel for the appellants, M.P. Senthil and Counsel S. Jeyavel, for the respondent.

Issues to be considered:

  • Whether the petitioners are precluded from seeking interim maintenance by invoking the provisions of Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act r/w Sections 20 and 26 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act on the ground that they already got an order for payment of maintenance in D.V proceedings?

Analysis & Decision

Bench referred to Section 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, which is in regard to the permanent Alimony and Maintenance.

Section 25(1) of HMA empowers the Court, while passing any decree to consider the status of the parties and whether any arrangement needs to be made in favour of the wife or the husband and by way of permanent alimony, an order granting maintenance can also be passed by the Court.

“…at any time, subsequent to the passing of decree also, the Court can order for granting maintenance on application made to it by either wife or the husband.”

Bench noted that the appellants cannot ask for interim relief, when permanent relief has already been granted to them.

In view of the above, court relied on the decision of Rakesh Malhotra v. Krishna Malhotra, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 239 wherein the following was dealt with:

After grant of permanent alimony under Section 25 of the 1955 Act, prayer made by wife before Magistrate under Section 125 of Code for maintenance over and above what has been granted by Court under Section 25 of Act. Impugned order allowing prayer was set aside with direction that application preferred under Section 125 of Code shall be treated and considered as one preferred under Section 25(2) of Act.

What the appellants should have done in the present matter?

Since, the appellants had already received maintenance in the DV proceedings under Section 20 of the DV Act which is permanent in nature, yet if due to a change in the circumstances the said order required modification or alteration, they can approach the same Court seeking the relief by invoking Section 25(2) of the DV Act or the Family Court can also be approached to exercise the power under Section 25(1) of the HMA.

But the resort of filing another application before another forum that too in the nature of interim relief should not be adopted.

Section 26 of the DV Act shows that the aggrieved person may seek any relief under Sections 18 to 22 of DV Act in any legal proceedings before a Civil Court/Family Court or Criminal Court as additional reliefs.

In the present case, the petitioner had already received an order in the petition properly filed under Section 12 of the DV Act before the Additional Mahila Court, Tiruchirappalli and that being so, they were not entitled to file a petition before the Family Court by invoking the provision under Section 26(1) of the DV Act, seeking interim relief.

Therefore, in the High Court’s opinion, the  Family Court Judge had rightly dismissed the application. [Gomathi v. Sacraties,  2020 SCC OnLine Mad 2754, decided on 15-09-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: RMT. Teeka Raman, J., while addressing a petition observed that,

“A plea of customary divorce is a valid defence in departmental proceedings initiated for the misconduct of bigamy under Service Rules/Conduct Rules.”

The instant petition was sought to set aside the punishment order imposed in proceedings under Rule 3(b) Tamil Nadu Police Subordinate Service (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1955.

Petitioner, during his service, married a staff nurse and has two children. Later, in 2007, the petitioner during his service married a Woman Sub Inspector of Police and had two children with her as well.

Grave Misconduct

Petitioner’s grave misconduct was having married Woman Sub Inspector of Police while his first wife was living with two children and thereby violating Rule 23(1)(b) of the Tamil Nadu Subordinate Police Officer’s Conduct Rules, 1964.

Charge Memo

In view of the above-stated act, a charge memo was issued under Rule 3(b) of the Tamil Nadu Police Subordinate Service (D&A) Rules, 1955.

The Oral Enquiry Officer held the charge against the petitioner.

Deputy Inspector General of Police also arrived at the conclusion that the petitioner violated Rule 23(1)(b) of the Tamil Nadu Subordinate Police Officers’ Conduct Rules, 1964 and awarded the petitioner a punishment of “Reduction in rank by the stage from the post of Head Constable to Gr.I PC for a period of two years to be spent on duty from the date of receipt of the order”.

Senior Counsel, Veera Kathiravan submitted that there was a customary divorce between the petitioner and his first wife and subsequently the petitioner married the widow Woman Sub-Inspector of Police and hence he did not violate any rules.

Analysis & Decision

Crux of the charge framed against the petitioner was that the delinquent was reprehensible conduct in having married the Woman Sub-Inspector of Police when his first wife was living and thereby violating the Rule 23(1)(b) of the Tamil Nadu Subordinate Police Officers’ Conduct Rules 1964 and tarnished the image of Police Force.

Hindu Marriage Act

Bench stated that after the coming into force of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, an end to marriage can be sought by either obtaining a declaration that the marriage between them was a nullity on the grounds specified in Section II or to dissolve the marriage between them on any of the grounds mentioned in Section 13 of the Act. While, Section 29 of the Act saves the rights recognized by custom or conferred by special enactment to obtain the dissolution of marriage, whether solemnized before or after the commencement of the Act.

Authorities have established that the prevalence of customary divorce in the community to which parties belong, contrary to the general law of divorce must be specifically pleaded and established by the person propounding such custom.

Core question to be decided in the present matter was whether the plea of customary divorce is a valid defence in the departmental proceedings initiated for action of bigamy as defined in Section 3(b) of the Tamil Nadu Police Rules?

Bench noted the statement of the first wife that due to misunderstandings between the couple, as per the custom prevailing in the community, there was a customary divorce.

Customary Divorce

Hence, the plea raised by the delinquent about the prevalence of customary divorce in their community which was pleaded by the petitioner and the same was accepted by none other than the first wife herself only after the dissolution of the first marriage, he contracted the second marriage.

Court concluded its decision as follows:

  • Disciplinary Proceedings can be initiated even if the second marriage is contracted with the knowledge of the first wife so also even if the first wife does not prosecute the husband for the same and hence the complaint given by the third party alleging contract of the second marriage, departmental proceedings can still be maintainable.
  • A plea of customary divorce is a valid defence in departmental proceedings initiated for the misconduct of bigamy under Service Rules/Conduct Rules.
  • To substantiate plea of customary divorce a specific plea has to be raised in the statement of defence by the delinquent officer and has to be proved on up to the decree of the preponderance of probability and execution of the customary divorce as projected by the delinquent.

Hence, in view of the above, the petition was allowed and the punishment was set aside. [Sudalaimai v. Deputy Inspector General of Police, WP (MD) No. 17504 of 2014, decided on 09-09-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: J.R. Midha, J. laid modified directions and affidavit of assets, income and expenditure to be filed by both the parties at the very threshold of a matrimonial litigation. The Court has modified the directions and the format of affidavit already issued in earlier judgments of the Delhi High Court.

These modified directions/guidelines shall apply to all matrimonial cases including cases under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005; Section 125 CrPC; Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956; Special Marriage Act, 1954; Indian Divorce Act, 1869; Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 and Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956.

Earlier directions and affidavit

The directions to be followed while dealing with matrimonial cases were first issued in Kusum Sharma (1) v. Mahinder Kumar Sharma, 2014 SCC OnLine Del 7672. Further, in exercise of the powers under Section 10(3) of the Family Courts Act, 1984 read with Sections 106 and 165 of the Evidence Act and Article 227 of the Constitution of India, the format of affidavit of assets, income and expenditure was formulated by the Court in Kusum Sharma (2) v. Mahinder Kumar Sharma, 2015 SCC OnLine Del 6793 and the directions were modified. By its judgment in Kusum Sharma (3) v. Mahinder Kumar Sharma, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 11796, the Court modified the affidavit formulated in Kusum Sharma (2). Finally, in Kusum Sharma (4) v. Mahinder Kumar Sharma, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 12534, the directions and the affidavit were further modified. The modified directions in Kusum Sharma (4) have been in effect since 1st January 2018.

Need for modification

The High Court has now modified the earlier affidavit in Kusum Sharma (4) to make it more comprehensive. In the earlier judgments, the High Court considered International Best Practices including 10 affidavits of assets, income and expenditure used in 5 countries. 50 more formats of affidavits of assets, income and expenditure of various countries namely USA, UK, Ireland, Singapore, Canada, Australia and South Africa had now come to the notice of the Court. Thus, the Court was of the view that its judgment in Kusum Sharma (4) warrants modification.

The Bhandari Engineers case connection

In Bhandari Engineers & Builders( P) Ltd. (1) v. Maharia Raj Joint Venture (Ex. P. 275 of 2012, dt. 5-12-2019), the Delhi High Court had formulated an affidavit of assets, income and expenditure to be filed by the judgment-debtor in execution cases. By its decision in Bhandari Engineers & Builders( P) Ltd. (2) v. Maharia Raj Joint Venture (Ex. P. 275 of 2012, dt. 5-8-2020), the Court modified and improved the format of the affidavit to make it more comprehensive and further directions were passed so that the execution cases are decided within a period of 1 year from the date of their institution. In the Court’s opinion, the affidavits formulated in Bhandari Engineers (2) are far more comprehensive than the affidavit formulated by the Court for matrimonial cases. Therefore, the Court considered it appropriate to incorporate the benevolent features of Bhandari Engineers (2) in the format of the affidavits of assets, income and expenditure in matrimonial cases.

Affidavit of Assets, Income and Expenditure in matrimonial cases

The modified affidavit of assets, income and expenditure (“Annexure A2” in the present Judgment) is very comprehensive and is useful to determine the maintenance in matrimonial litigation.

Salaried person

A salaried person is required to disclose the particulars of his employment including salary, DA, commissions, incentives, bonus, perks, perquisites, other benefits, Income tax, etc.

Self-employed person

A self-employed person is required to disclose the nature of business/profession, share in the business, net worth of the business, number of employees, annual turnover/gross receipts, gross profit, Income Tax, net income and regular monthly withdrawal/drawings from the business.

Income from other sources

The parties are further required to disclose income from other sources, namely, agricultural income, rent, interest on bank deposits and other investments, dividends, mutual funds, annuities, profit on sale of movable/immovable assets, etc.

Assets

With respect to the assets, the parties are required to disclose the particulars of the immovable properties, financial assets including bank accounts, DEMAT accounts, safety deposit lockers; investments including FDRs, stocks, shares, insurance policies, loans, foreign investments; movable assets including motor vehicles, mobiles, computer, laptop, electronic gadgets, gold, silver and diamond jewellery, etc.; intangible assets; garnishee(s)/trade receivables; corporate/business interests; disposal and parting away of properties; properties acquired by the family members, inheritance.

Standard of living and lifestyle

The affidavit requires the parties to disclose their standard of living and lifestyle, namely, credit/debit cards, membership of clubs and other associations, loyalty programmes, social media accounts, domestic helps and their wages, mode of travel in city and outside city, category of hotels, category of hospitals for medical treatment, frequency of foreign travel, frequent flyer cards, brand of mobile, wrist watch, pen, expenditure ordinarily incurred on family functions, festivals and marriage of family members, etc.

Household expenditure, etc.

The affidavit further requires the disclosure of expenditure on housing, household expenditure, maintenance of dependents, transport, medical expenditure, insurance, entertainment, holiday and vacations, litigation expenses, discharge of liabilities, etc.

 Modified Directions

The modified directions laid down by the Court in the present decision in Kusum Sharma (5) are delineated below:

(1) The Court has to ascertain the financial capacity/status of the parties for determining the maintenance and permanent alimony. A comprehensive affidavit of assets, income and expenditure of both the parties is necessary to determine their financial capacity/status.

 (2) Upon completion of the pleadings in the maintenance application, the Court shall fix the date for reconciliation and direct the parties to simultaneously file the affidavits of their assets, income and expenditure. The Court shall also direct the party seeking maintenance to produce the passbook of his/her savings bank account in which maintenance can be directly deposited/transferred by the opposite party.

(3) The Court shall simultaneously take on record the affidavit of assets, income and expenditure of both the parties. The simultaneous filing of the affidavit by the parties is very important and should be strictly adhered to. The simultaneous filing of the affidavit by the parties would avoid any undue advantage to the party who files his/her affidavit later. It is clarified that the affidavit of assets, income and expenditure is not to be filed along with the petition/application or written statement/reply.

(4) If a party is carrying on the business as proprietor of proprietorship concern/partner of a partnership concern/director of a company/member of a HUF/trustee of a trust/ member of a society or in any other form/entity, the Court may consider directing the party to file an additional affidavit with respect to the assets of the proprietorship concern/partnership concern/ company/society/HUF/Trust, as the case may be, in the format of Annexure B1 attached to Bhandari Engineers (2).

(5) In pending maintenance cases, if the parties have not already filed the affidavit of their assets, income and expenditure, the Court shall direct the parties to file their affidavit in the format of Annexure A2.

(6) If the reconciliation fails, the Court shall grant an opportunity to the parties to respond to the affidavit of the opposite party and list the maintenance application for hearing.

(7) The Courts shall ensure that the filing of the affidavits by the parties is not reduced to a mere ritual or formality. If the affidavit of the party is not in the prescribed format or is not accompanied with all the relevant documents, the Court may take the affidavit on record and grant reasonable time to the party to remove the defects/deficiencies.

(8) In appropriate cases, the Court may direct a party to file an additional affidavit relating to his assets, income and expenditure at the time of marriage and/or one year before separation and/or at the time of separation.

(9) If the party does not truly disclose all his assets and income, the opposite party is at liberty to serve the interrogatories under Order 11 CPC and/or seek production of relevant documents from the party filing the affidavit.

(10) In appropriate cases, Court may order interrogatories, discovery, inspection, production of any document and/or order any fact to be proved by affidavit under Section 30 CPC.

(11) The Court shall, thereafter, consider whether the oral examination of the party is necessary under Section 165 of the Evidence Act. If so, the Court shall proceed to examine the party to elicit the truth. The principles relating to the scope and powers of the Court under Section 165 of the Evidence Act have been summarised in Ved Parkash Kharbanda v. Vimal Bindal, 2013 SCC OnLine Del 994, which may be referred to.

(12) If the admitted income of the parties is on record, such as, in the case of a salaried employee whose salary slip is on record, the Court may fix ad-interim maintenance on the basis of the admitted documents pending filing of the affidavit of the assets, income and expenditure by both the parties. The Court may record the statement of the parties, if considered necessary for fixing the ad-interim maintenance.

(13) If any party delays in filing of the affidavit of assets, income and expenditure or the affidavit filed by a party is not in terms of these directions or a party delays the disclosure of further information/documents and the delay is causing hardship, the Court is at liberty to fix ad-interim maintenance after hearing the parties.

(14) If the statements made in affidavit of assets, income and expenditure are found to be incorrect, the Court shall consider its effect by drawing an adverse inference or imposing additional cost, while fixing the maintenance. However, an action under Section 340 CrPC is ordinarily not warranted in matrimonial litigation till the decision of the main petition unless the Court, for the reasons to be recorded, considers it expedient in the interest of justice, to deal with it earlier.

(15) At the time of issuing notice on the petition for dissolution of marriage, the Court shall consider directing the petitioner to deposit such sum, as the Court may consider appropriate for payment to the respondent towards interim litigation/part litigation expenses; except in cases, such as, divorce petition by the wife who is unable to support herself and is claiming maintenance from the respondent husband.

(16) The interim litigation expenses directed by the Court at the stage of issuing notice, does not preclude the respondent from seeking further litigation expenses incurred by the respondent at a later stage. The Court shall consider the respondent‘s claim for litigation expenses and pass an appropriate order on the merits of each case.

(17) At the time of passing a decree of divorce, the Court shall bring to the notice of the party concerned, as the case may be, that he/she can claim permanent alimony without prejudice to his/her right to challenge the decree of divorce and if the party seeks permanent alimony, at that stage, for which an oral prayer/application is sufficient, the Court shall fix the permanent alimony on the basis of the affidavits of assets, income and expenditure, after hearing both the parties. However, if the affidavits have not been filed at the stage of fixing the permanent alimony, the Court shall direct the parties to file the same before fixing the permanent alimony.

(18) In Bhandari Engineers & Builders( P) Ltd. (2) v. Maharia Raj Joint Venture (Ex. P. 275 of 2012, dt. 5-8-2020) the Delhi High Court has laid down comprehensive guidelines and has formulated affidavit of assets, income and expenditure to be filed by the judgment-debtor in execution proceedings, which may be considered in execution cases of the maintenance order apart from following the specific statutory provisions such as Sections 125 to 127 CrPC.

(19) The affidavit of assets, income and expenditure is to be treated as guidelines to determine the true financial capacity/status of the parties. The Courts are at liberty to determine the nature and extent of information/documents necessary and to direct the parties to disclose relevant information and documents to determine their financial capacity/status. The Courts are at liberty to pass appropriate directions as may be considered necessary to do complete justice between the parties and in appropriate cases, such as, the cases belonging to the lowest strata of the society or case of a litigant who is a permanently disabled/paralytic, the Court may, for reasons to be recorded, dispense with the requirement of filing of the affidavit or modify the information required.

(20) These modified directions/guidelines shall apply to all matrimonial cases including cases under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005; Section 125 CrPC; Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956; Special Marriage Act, 1954; Indian Divorce Act, 1869; Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 and Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956.

(21) Matrimonial jurisdiction deserves a special attention and the maintenance applications should be decided expeditiously.

(22) The Courts below shall expedite the maintenance proceedings and shall make an endeavour to decide them within the prescribed time. The Family Courts shall send the list of all pending maintenance cases which are more than one year old, through the Principal Judge, Family Court. The list shall contain the name of the case; date of institution; number of hearings that have taken place; and the reasons for such delay. List be prepared according to the seniority, i.e. the oldest case shall be mentioned first. The Principal Judge, Family Court shall compile the lists of all Family Courts and shall send them to the Registrar General of the Delhi High Court by 31st December 2020 for being placed before the High Court.

Ancillary directions and suggestions

(a) The amici curiae submitted that the matter be kept pending for seeking feedback/comments of the Family Courts after implementation of the modified directions/guidelines. The matter is to be listed on 18th December 2020.

(b) The Court was of the view that the mandatory filing of the affidavit of assets, income and expenditure by the parties in a detailed prescribed form should be incorporated in the statutes, as in the developed countries. The Court was of the view that this suggestion be considered by the Central Government. Copy of the present judgment along with Annexure A2 is directed to be sent to Chetan Sharma, ASG, for taking up the matter with Ministry of Law and Justice.

(c) The modified directions and format of affidavit of assets, income and expenditure (Annexure A2) is directed to be uploaded on the website of the District Court (in .pdf format) to enable the lawyers/litigants to download the same.

(d) Copy of the present judgment and modified format of the affidavit of assets, income and expenditure (Annexure A2) is directed to be sent to the Registrar General of this Court who shall circulate it to the District Judge (Headquarters) and Principal Judge, Family Courts (Headquarters) for being circulated to all the concerned courts.

(e) Copy of the judgment along with the modified format of the affidavit of assets, income and expenditure (Annexures A2) is directed to be sent to the Delhi Judicial Academy to sensitise the judges about the modified directions laid down by the High Court.

(f) National Judicial Academy is reporting the best practices of the High Courts on their website (www.nja.nic.in) under the head of Practices & Initiatives of various High Courts. Copy of the present judgment along with Annexure A2 is directed to be sent to National Judicial Academy.

Note of appreciation

The Court appreciated the assistance rendered by Sunil Mittal, Senior Advocate and Anu Narula, Advocate as amici curiae. The Court also appreciated the extensive research on corresponding law in other countries by Akshay Chowdhary, Law Researcher, attached to the Delhi High Court. [Kusum Sharma (5) v. Mahinder Kumar Sharma, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 931, decided on 6-8-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A Division Bench of Ravi Malimath and Narayan Singh Dhanik, JJ., allowed an appeal which was filed aggrieved by the order passed by the trial court in ordering the medical examination of the wife.

The respondent-wife was alleged to have committed various acts of cruelty; that she had also deserted her husband, therefore, he filed the petition before the Family Court under Sections 13 (ia) and 13 (ib) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. During the pendency of the proceedings, on an application made by the husband, the impugned order was passed by the trial court directing the medical examination of the wife to ascertain whether she was in a position to conceive or not. Thus, the present appeal.

The Counsel for the appellant wife, Harshpal Sekhon contended that wife undergoing a medical test to ascertain whether she can conceive or not is something unheard of and further whether she can conceive or not is irrelevant to the facts and circumstances of the case.

The Court while allowing the appeal quashed the Family Court’s Order and  stated that husband had sought for a decree of divorce on the grounds under Sections 13 (ia) and 13 (ib) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Section 13 (ia) is with regard to cruelty and Section 13 (ib) is with regard to desertion. Therefore, the husband would have to establish these two facts before the court in order to seek divorce on these grounds. The ability of the wife to conceive or not has no relevance or any nexus with sub-section (ia) or (ib) of Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act. Her ability to conceive or not is irrelevant in the present proceedings. [Rashmi Gupta v. Yogesh Babu, 2020 SCC OnLine Utt 339 , decided on 01-07-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Sudhir Mittal, J., addressed a matter of registration of marriage.

Issue in focus 

Application for registration of marriage was filed in the year 2019, yet the same has not been registered till date.

Counsel for the petitioners submit that petitioner 2 was below 21 years of age on the date of marriage and thus it is in violation of Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

However, in view of Section 11 and 12 of HMA, marriage was only voidable. Parties did not seek to avoid marriage and thus, there is no legal bar on registration of the same.

Bench

In view of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, in case a marriage is solemnized in violation of the age restriction laid down therein, the marriage is only voidable.

Since parties have not sought the annulment of marriage the same is being sought to get registered and thus there is no legal bar to its registration.

Court directed Respondents 2 to 4 to ensure that the marriage be registered within 2 weeks. [Deepak Kumar v. State of Haryana, 2020 SCC OnLine P&H 759 , decided on 15-06-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: While deciding the instant petition filed by a runaway couple seeking protection from arrest and bodily harm that they apprehend, can be caused by the police and the private respondents respectively, the Bench of Rajiv Narain Raina, J., held that in matters such as one raised in the instant petition, the Courts should abstain itself from evaluation of social norms and introduction of personal ideas related to social morality.

The matter was taken up via video conferencing due to ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. It was contended by the counsel for the respondents that the petitioner is minor. The Court also noted that the petitioners have already submitted their Aadhar Card as proof of their majority, thereby rebutting the respondent’s claim.

Disposing off the petition, the Court referred to Lata Singh v. State of U.P., (2006) 5 SCC 475 and observed that since the petitioner’s prayer for protection is based on Article 21 of the Constitution, therefore it is necessary that the police attends to the matter in all earnestness and ensures that adequate protection is provided to the petitioners from any kind of bodily injury and harm. The Court further noted that, even if it assumes that the petitioner girl is minor, under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 marriage of a minor girl is not void, but voidable upon reaching the marriageable age. [Sumanpreet Kaur v. State of Punjab, 2020 SCC OnLine P&H 694, decided on 12-05-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Bench of Jyoti Singh and G.S. Sistani, JJ., allowed an appeal filed by the appellant-wife against the judgment of the family court whereby it had granted divorce in favour of the respondent-husband under Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1995 on the ground of cruelty.

In his divorce petition, the husband had alleged that the wife taunted him as impotent, misbehaved with his parents and relatives threw utensils, etc. The family court allowed his petition and granted a decree of divorce in his favour. Aggrieved thereby, the wife filed the present appeal.

 V.P. Singh Bidhuri, Advocate for the wife assailed the impugned judgment. Per contra, Rajender Yadav, Advocate appearing for the husband supported the same.

The High Court noted that there were no material particulars or details in the divorce petition and the averments were very general in nature. Citing Rule 7 of the Hindu Marriage Rules, 1979 which prescribes as to what should be the contents of the petition filed under HMA, the Court observed, ” a perusal of the Rule shows that it is a statutory requirement as well that the acts/offences alleged in matrimonial cases should be set out with specific particulars of time, place, etc. The present divorce petition clearly does not meet the requirement of Rule 7. Merely stating that the appellant was neglecting her duties or that she was abusive and insulting, would not be sufficient to constitute an act of cruelty unless and until specific instances showing such conduct are pleaded and proved.” In such and other views of the matter, the Court allowed the present appeal and set aside the impugned judgment passed by the family court. [J v. JC, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7703, dated 28-02-2019]