Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Pushpa V. Ganediwala, J., addressed the following substantial questions of law:

  • Whether it is necessary for the wife to file an application in writing to grant permanent alimony under Section 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955?
  • Whether wife can claim maintenance under Section 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, as she is divorcee, after passing the decree of divorce?

Counsels representing both the parties had a consensus that Section 25 of the Act does permit the divorcee spouse to claim maintenance from the other spouse even subsequent to the passing of the decree of divorce, subject to certain conditions.

Court below failed to consider the wife’s prayer for permanent alimony under Section 25 of the Act.

Bench stated that various other High Courts including this High Court have held that the word ‘application’ as referred to in Section 25 of the Act i.e. ‘on an application made to it’ does not specify as to whether it is oral application or application in writing. Adding to this observation, Court stated that a broader view of Section 25 of the Act is to be taken considering the object and purpose for the inclusion of this provision in the Act.

In Madras High Court’s decision of Umarani v. D. Vivekannandan, 2000 SCC OnLine Mad 50, it was held that there is no need of written application under Section 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act and permanent alimony and maintenance can be granted on the basis of oral application.

Madhya Pradesh High Court, in Surajmal Ramchandra Khati v. Rukminibai, 1999 SCC OnLine MP 87, held that merely because the wife had not presented a separate application praying for grant of permanent alimony, it cannot be said that she is not entitled to the same.

In view of the above discussion, Bench expressed that in terms of Section 25 of the Act, for granting the relief of permanent alimony, the Court has to consider the respondent’s own income and other property, if any, the income and other property of the applicant, the conduct of the parties and other circumstances of the case, it may seem to the court to be just.

In the case of a decree by mutual consent, if relief for permanent alimony is sought, there is no occasion for the Court to observe the conduct of the parties, to examine their financial stability and other circumstances of the case to pass any order of permanent alimony at the time of passing of the decree of divorce by mutual consent. Essential element is that the Court should be able to comprehend the financial position and conduct of parties to pass permanent alimony order.

Appellant had narrated the financial status of the respondent-husband in her affidavit before the Court and she prayed to keep open the issue of permanent alimony for its consideration later on.

Since the appellate court dismissed the appeal on a misplaced ground of marital tie not subsisting, the said order is to be set aside.

On observing and noting the above discussion, Court opined that ‘application’ as referred to in Section 25 of the Act implies any application either in writing or oral for seeking permanent alimony and maintenance. Mode and form of the application under Section 25 of the Act are immaterial. The order in this regard cannot be passed in a vacuum.

Therefore, the matter is remanded to the trial court in order to decide the issue of permanent alimony. [Vijayshree v. Dr Nishant Arvind Kale, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 29, decided on 08-01-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: The Division Bench of J.B. Pardiwala and Vireshkumar B. Mayani, JJ., while addressing the issue of grant of permanent alimony to a Muslim Woman noted the significant difference between permanent alimony and periodical maintenance.

An instant appeal under Section 19 of the Family Courts Act, 1984 was filed at the instance of the original defendant (husband) and was directed against the judgment and decree passed by Principal Judge, Ahemdabad for a decree of divorce under the provisions of Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Question for consideration:

Whether the Family Court committed any error in passing the order of permanent alimony in favour of the wife while granting the decree of divorce to the wife?

There are two types of alimony:

1. Given at the time of court proceedings- This is usually the maintenance amount.

2. Given at the time of legal separation- This can be given either in a lump sum or as a fixed monthly or quarterly payment or as per the requirements of the spouse.

Supreme Court on a creative and meaningful interpretation of the MWPRDA, 1986, upheld its constitutionality. It held that a Muslim husband is liable to make reasonable and fair provision for the future of his divorced wife extending beyond the Iddat period.

In the Supreme Court decision of Shabana Bano v. Imran Khan, (2010) 1 SCC 666, the question that fell for consideration was whether a Muslim Divorced wife would be entitled to receive the amount of maintenance from her divorced husband under Section 125 CrPC, and if yes, then through which forum.

In the above decision of the Supreme Court, it was held that petition under Section 125 CrPC would be maintainable before the family court as long as the wife does not remarry. The amount of maintenance to be awarded under Section 125 of the CrPC cannot be restricted for the Iddat period only.

Main Argument

The most significant submission on behalf of the appellant was that no provision exists in the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act, 1939 for the maintenance or permanent alimony. Further, it was stated that Family Court had no jurisdiction to pass any order with respect to maintenance or permanent alimony once the suit is allowed and the marriage is dissolved at the instance of the wife.

Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986

The Muslim Women Act is “to protect the rights of Muslim women who have been divorced by or have obtained a divorce from their husbands and to provide for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Hence the Muslim Women Act professes to deal with Muslim divorced women and their rights against their former husbands.

Family Court

Bench observed that, where a Family Court has been established, the power and the jurisdiction of the Family Court under Section 7(2) of the Family Courts Act, 1984 to entertain an application for maintenance, even by a divorced Muslim wife, under Chapter IX of the Code of Criminal Procedure has not been taken away, either expressly or even by implication by the Muslim Women Act of 1986.

And once such an application is made to a Family Court under Section 7(2) of the Family Courts Act, and not to a Magistrate, the same has got to be disposed of by the Family Court in accordance with the provisions of Chapter IX of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Muslim Women Act of 1986, including its Section 5, would have no manner of application.

Matrimonial Property

Further, it was stated that the right to maintenance and right in the matrimonial property are the consequences of the marriage or its dissolution. Those reliefs are incidental to the main relief of ‘dissolution of marriage’ and therefore, these reliefs are very much an integral part of the decree of ‘dissolution of marriage’.

Section 4 of the Act, 1986

It was also sought to be argued on behalf of the appellant that in view of Section 4 of the Act, 1986, the former husband had no liability to make any provision for the Post-Iddat period.

Bench observed that the right of maintenance given to the wife and the minor children under the provisions of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, is in addition to the right, which the minor children are having under Muslim Law to get maintenance from the father. The law expects that the parties should not be driven to approach the different forums but in one forum itself, they should be granted whatever reliefs to which they are entitled.

Supreme Court in the decision of K.A. Abdul Jaleel v. Shahida, (2003) 4 SCC 166 was concerned with the provisions of Section 7 of the Family Courts Act, 1984 as to whether the Family Court had the jurisdiction to adjudicate upon any question relating to the properties of the parties not only of the subsisting marriage but also divorced parties and the Supreme Court was pleased to hold that the reason for the enactment of the Family Courts Act, 1984, was to set up a Court to deal with all the disputes concerning with the Family and it is now a well-settled principle of law that the jurisdiction of a Court created specifically for the resolution of disputes of certain kinds should be construed liberally.

Wife has remarried

Counsel submitted that the wife was remarried and in view of there was no question of any lump sum permanent alimony.

Bench observed that

A divorced Muslim woman is entitled to receive, from her husband, inter alia, “maintenance”, “reasonable and fair provision”, “Mahr” etc. under Section 3 of the Act, 1986.

Permanent Alimony

Bench stated that what is significant to note is that the relief of permanent alimony is a relief incidental to the granting of the substantive relief by the Court in the main proceeding. It is an incidental relief claimed in the main proceeding, though an application is necessary for claiming it.

The Supreme Court had the occasion to consider the question whether a Muslim woman obtaining a divorce under the provisions of the Act, 1939 is entitled to maintenance under Section 125 CrPC, and it was held in Zohara Khatoon v. Mohd. Ibrahim, (1981) 2 SCC 509 that there are three distinct modes in which a dissolution of marriage can be brought about and Clause(b) of the Explanation to Section 125(1) envisages all the three modes, whether a wife is divorced unilaterally by the husband or where she obtains divorce under the other two modes, she continues to be a wife for the purpose of getting maintenance under Section 125 of the Code.

The Supreme Court held that divorce resulting from the dissolution of marriage under the provision of Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act, 1939 is also a legal divorce under the Mohammedan law by virtue of the Statute (1939 Act).

Conclusion

Bench observed that when the Court would make an award of permanent alimony or for one-time payment, it is not founded on any stipulation that any part of the sum would be either actually refunded in whole or in part. Such sum is not granted on the condition against remarriage for all times to or for any particular period.

The permanent alimony in a way is an estimated sum in a lump sum to discharge the judgment debtor from his future liabilities unconditionally.

The grant of periodical payment by way of maintenance to a divorced wife is in recognition/obligation to the spouse to maintain her so long as she enjoys the continued status of a divorcee.

On remarriage status of divorcee comes to an end and she acquires another marital status as someone’s spouse. Under the Act, 1986 as under Section 125 CrPC, the wife includes a divorcee.

In view of the above discussion, it can be said that:

when the wife remarries, her claim of maintenance primarily comes to stand against her new husband coming into existence in a new relationship.

The proposition of law laid down by the Court should be looked into keeping in mind Section 3(1)(a) of the Act, 1986.

A divorced woman is entitled to ‘a reasonable and fair provision” and “maintenance” to be made and paid to her within and post the Iddat period by her former husband.

Point-wise Conclusion of the decision:

  • After the Act of 1939, a wife had a statutory right to obtain a divorce from her husband through the Court on proof of the grounds mentioned in the Act.
  • The ex-wife, having obtained a divorce from her erstwhile husband under the provisions of the Act, 1939 is entitled to the reasonable and fair provision under Section 3 of the Act, 1986.
  • The Family Courts Act has in its comprehension all community including the Muslims. All disputes between the Muslim community within the purview of the Family Courts Act are to be settled by the Family Courts.
  • Dispute contemplated by Section 3 of the Act, 1986 is within the purview and four corners of the Family Courts Act as the dispute under Section 3 of the Act, 1986 also relates to matrimonial relations between the parties.
  • Right of maintenance and right in the matrimonial property are the consequences of the marriage or its dissolution.
  • The Law contemplates that the husband has two separate and distinct obligations; (I) to make “reasonable and fair provision” for his divorcee wife and (ii) to provide “maintenance” for her. The obligation to make a reasonable and fair provision for the divorced wife is not restricted until the divorced wife remarries. It is within the jurisdiction of the Family Court to pass an order for a lump sum amount to be paid to the wife in the discharge of the obligation of the husband under Section 3(1)(a) of the Act, 1986 and such order cannot be modified upon remarriage of the divorced Muslim wife.
  • Provision for permanent alimony is incidental to the granting of a decree or judicial separation, divorce or annulment of marriage.
  • The permanent alimony in a way is an estimated sum in a lump sum to discharge the husband from her future liabilities unconditionally.
  • If the wife gets remarried, her status of divorcee comes to an end and the liability of the husband to pay periodical maintenance would also come to an end.

Another significant observation of the High Court was which was placed by the counsel for the parties was that the appellant had remarried way back in the year 2014. Before the respondent herein instituted the proceedings in the Family Court for divorce, the husband had already remarried and raised a family. The appellant could do so because polygamy is permissible amongst the Muslim Community. It does not constitute an offence of bigamy punishable under Section 494 of the Penal Code.

The materials on record indicated that the husband hardly paid anything towards maintenance. The respondent had to leave her matrimonial home soon after the marriage, i.e., sometime in 2010. Ultimately, she was constrained to institute the proceedings of divorce in the Family Court. Even during the pendency of such proceedings, nothing was paid to the wife. The wife, ultimately, succeeded before the Family Court in getting the marriage dissolved and was also successful in getting an order of permanent alimony. The husband now cannot turn around and say that he is not liable to pay the lump sum amount because the respondent is remarried.

Hence, in Court opinion, the Family Court’s line of reasoning ad the ultimate conclusion that was drawn by the family court was just and proper.

Therefore the appeal was dismissed.[Tarif Rashidbhai Qureshi v. Asmabanu, 2020 SCC OnLine Guj 711, decided on 19-03-2020]


Advocates who appeared for the parties:

Nishant Lalakita for Appellant 1

Javed S Qureshi for Appellant 1

SP Majmudar for Defendant 1

Shashvata U Shukla for Defendant 1

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

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

Punjab and Haryana High Court: A Division Bench of Rakesh Kumar Jain and Harnaresh Singh Gill, JJ. allowed an appeal asking for entitlement to permanent alimony in terms of Section 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

The marriage of the parties was solemnized on 11-6-2012 as per Hindu Sikh rites and rituals. The respondent-husband was a widower whereas the appellant wife who had claimed herself to be a spinster was already married. A petition was filed by the respondent-husband under Section 11 of the Act for annulment of marriage alleging that the factum of earlier marriage was not disclosed to him at the time of their marriage was on 11-6-2012. The learned trial court concluded that at the time of marriage by the appellant with the respondent, she was already having a spouse and, therefore, a decree under Section 11 of the Act was passed against her declaring her marriage null and void.

Anil Chawla, learned counsel for the appellant, submitted that the appellant is entitled to permanent alimony in terms of Section 25 of the Act. He basically relied upon the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Rameshchandra Rampratapji Daga v. Rameshwari Rameshchandra Daga, (2005) 2 SCC 33 in which it was held that the jurisdiction of the Court to grant alimony was not restricted to judicial separation or divorce and encompassed all kind of decrees such as restitution of conjugal rights under Section 9, judicial separation under Section 10, declaring marriage as null and void under Section 11, annulment of marriage as voidable under Section 12 and Divorce under Section 13.

Whereas, learned counsel for the respondent, Veneet Sharma, submitted that once the marriage of the appellant with the respondent had been held to be null and void after the decree had been passed under Section 11 of the Act, the question of award of permanent alimony did not arise at all. To further his arguments, the learned counsel cited Yamunabai Anantrao Adhav v. Anantrao Shivram Adhav, 1988 (1) HLR 375. Relying on Savitaben Somabhai Bhaitya v. State of Gujarat, 2005 (2) R.C.R. (Criminal) 190, he contended that in the said case though, the dispute was in regard to the award of maintenance under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 but it was held by the Supreme Court that marriage of a woman in accordance with the Hindu rites with a man having a living spouse was a complete nullity in the eyes of law and she was therefore not entitled to the benefit of Section 125 of the Code or the Hindu Marriage Act.

The Court observed that the judgment in the case of Ramesh Chandra, (2005) 2 SCC 33was deciding a specific issue as to whether Section 25 of the Act would be applicable in the decree passed under Section 11 of the Act which was not the issue before the Supreme Court in the case of Savitaben Somabhai Bhatiya (supra) in which Section 125 CrPC was in issue before the Supreme Court

Citing Balwant Rai Saluja v. Air India Ltd., (2014) 9 SCC 407, in which it was held that the binding nature of a decision would extend to only observation on the point raised and decided by the Court, the Court held that the present case was governed by the Ramesh Chandra case.

In view of the above, the Court allowed the present appeal only to the extent that the question of law which was framed by the Court holding that the appellant would be entitled to permanent alimony under Section 25 of the Act irrespective of the fact that the decree has been passed under Section 11 of the Act. The Court accordingly remanded the matter back to the trial court to decide the application under Section 25 of the Act, to be filed by the appellant before it for the purpose of seeking permanent alimony. [Sukhbir Kaur v. Sukhdev Singh, FAO-M No. 35 of 2016 (O&M), decided on 06-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A Division Bench of Sudhanshu Dhulia and Ramesh Chandra Khulbe, JJ. entertained an appeal by the appellant-wife under Section 19 of Family Courts Act, 1984 against the impugned judgment granting divorce passed by Principal Judge of Family Court.

Facts giving rise to this appeal were, the respondent had filed a suit earlier under Section 13 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 which was decreed already. When the marriage was solemnized between the parties, the respondent was working as a Sepoy in the Indian Army and it was a smooth sail for both of them. Subsequently, respondent-husband filed for divorce and for dissolution of marriage on the grounds that appellant was suffering from epilepsy prior to marriage and such essential fact was not disclosed to him, the appellant also suffered from different ailments which served as a hindrance, physically and mentally in their prosperous marriage. But the actual ground on which suit was filed for divorce was cruelty and desertion.

The Court observed that parties are living separately for a long time, the issues framed by the Family Court were sufficient to grant a divorce in this particular case. It was also observed that the Family Court found that appellant suffered from epilepsy and was treated for the same in addition to it she also suffered from tuberculosis, and such physical suffering of the appellant served as mental cruelty upon the husband. The expert opinion stated that due to such ailments the appellant was not in a fit state to conceive a child. The Court appreciated that such ailments were not relevant grounds to prove cruelty and to dissolve the marriage prime facie but non-disclosure of such important facts before marriage led to cruelty which is a proper ground for divorce.

The Court stated that there was enough evidence before the court below to establish that there was cruelty on the part of the appellant/wife, such as threatening the husband to falsely implicate in criminal cases and making a complaint to the superior officers of the husband. The wife had also made unnecessary allegations against the respondent before the Commanding Officer, which lowered his esteem in the eyes of his superior officer.

Hence, the Court awarded permanent alimony and disposed the application of maintenance under Section 125 CrPC, it also found that there was no need to interfere with the Order of Family Court and setting aside the divorce decree.[Himani v. Rohit Bisht, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 448, decided on 13-05-2019]