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Guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court for maintenance in matrimonial disputes : 2020

November 25, 2021
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This article is written by Yash Kapadia. Through this article, we shall ascertain the set of guidelines framed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court on certain aspects pertaining to the payment of maintenance in matrimonial matters.

Introduction

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the case of Rajnesh vs Neha and Anr., 2020 laid down the set of guidelines relating to maintenance in cases of matrimonial disputes.

This case particularly arose out of an application for interim maintenance filed under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC) by the Respondents i.e. wife and minor son. 

In this article, we shall provide a brief overview of the facts of this case and shall enlist the guidelines put forth by the Hon’ble Apex Court. 

Facts of the case

Arguments on behalf of the Appellants

The counsel for the Appellant argued that: 

Arguments on behalf of Respondents 

The counsel for the Respondents, particularly Respondent No. 1 submitted that: 

Judgment 

The Supreme Court gave the following order:

Considering the backdrop of this case is pending since over a period 7 years under Section 125 of CrPC, difficulties faced while enforcing orders of the Court and successive applications filed by Respondent No. 1, the Apex Court deemed it necessary that a set of guidelines be framed on the issue of maintenance, which would cover 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.

Guidelines

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in this case decided to frame the following guidelines pertaining to the issues mentioned below: 

Issue of overlapping jurisdiction

The Apex Court has in detail, enlisted the legislations pertaining to maintenance and has also further provided judicial precedents pertaining to each one.1

It was also observed how different courts had conflicting opinions in terms of the issue of jurisdiction. Some High Courts took the view that since each proceeding is distinct and independent of the other, maintenance granted in one proceeding cannot be adjusted or set off in the other. For example, the Madhya Pradesh High Court in Ashok Singh Pal v Manjdecidingulata, 2008, held that the remedies available to a person aggrieved under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (HMA) are independent of Section 125 of the Cr.P.C.

On the flip side, the Bombay High Court in Vishal v Aparna & Anr., 2018, held that in a case of parallel proceedings, any sort of adjustment or a set-off must take place. For example, even though proceedings under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (DV Act) is an independent proceeding, the Magistrate must not disregard the maintenance awarded in any other legal proceedings, while determining whether over and above the maintenance already awarded, any further amount was required to be granted for reasons to be recorded in writing. Therefore, there is no bar wherein one cannot seek maintenance under two statutes. 

The following are the directions issued by the Court: 

Payment of interim maintenance

The Apex Court acknowledged how this case has been pending for a period of 7 long years due to multiple adjournments sought by parties that too at the stage of interim maintenance. Despite Section 24 of HMA and Section 125 CrPC through its provisos state that such interim proceedings must be completed within a period of 60 days, courts still keep it pending for years. 

The following were the directions passed by the Court:

In case of permanent alimony: 

Readers must glance through Enclosure I, II, III from the judgment in order to understand the format of Affidavit of Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities which is supposed to be filed by the parties in the concerned courts. 

Criteria for determining the quantum of maintenance

The Apex Court stated the following criteria to be considered while determining the quantum of maintenance payable to an applicant: 

Certain additional factors were also enumerated which were deemed to be relevant by the Court in determining the quantum of maintenance:

Date from which maintenance must be awarded

The Apex Court stated that there is no law in force under the HMA with respect to the date from which an order of maintenance may be made effective. Similarly, Section 12 of the DV Act too is silent on the date from which the maintenance is to be awarded. 

However, Section 125 of CrPC states that a Magistrate may award maintenance either from the date of the order or from the date of application. 

The Apex Court stated how different and divergent views were adopted by different courts for this guideline similar to the guideline on the issue of overlapping jurisdiction. Some courts held that payment of maintenance has to be done from the date on which the application for maintenance was filed while some others held that payment must be made from the date of the order granting maintenance. Further, some other Courts were also of the view that such payments ought to be made from the date on which the summons were served upon the respondent.2

In the absence of a uniform law in force to tackle this issue, the Supreme Court, with a stern view to put this to rest, stated that in all cases, maintenance must be awarded from the date on which an application was made to the concerned court. 

Enforcement of orders of maintenance

Well, this issue is the most challenging issue encountered by any applicant. If the maintenance is not paid and execution proceedings are filed, sometimes it takes months and even years which completely defeats the object of the law in force. 

The following directions were passed in this regard:

Conclusion

The Supreme Court has taken brilliant efforts to formulate these guidelines so that no court is under the confusion of what is to be done in cases of maintenance. Also, as per the Order, a copy of this judgment was to be circulated by the Secretary-General of this Court to the Registrars of all High Courts, who would, in turn, circulate it to all the District Courts in the States. This is a landmark judgment in the domain maintenance disputes and must be read in its entirety for awareness and implementation. 

References

  1. https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2018/37875/37875_2018_39_1501_24602_Judgement_04-Nov-2020.pdf
  2. https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2018/37875/37875_2018_39_1501_24602_Judgement_04-Nov-2020.pdf 

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