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