Claim of Maintenance by Spouse: Delay in adjudication

Claim for maintenance or support by wife

Delay in adjudication of Spouse Support or Maintenance Claim by the Family Court is not only against human rights but also against the basic embodiment of dignity of an individual.

Sustenance by dependent spouse:

The concept of sustenance does not necessarily mean to lead the life of an animal, feel like an unperson to be thrown away from grace and roam for her basic maintenance somewhere else. She is entitled in law to lead a life in the similar manner as she would have lived in the house of her husband. That is where the status and strata come into play, and that is where the obligations of the husband, in case of a wife, become a prominent one. In a proceeding of this nature, the husband cannot take subterfuges to deprive her of the benefit of living with dignity. Regard being had to the solemn pledge at the time of marriage and also in consonance with the statutory law that governs the field, it is the obligation of the husband to see that the wife does not become a destitute, a beggar. A situation is not to be maladroitly created whereunder she is compelled to resign to her fate and think of life “dust unto dust”. It is totally impermissible. In fact, it is the sacrosanct duty to render the financial support even if the husband is required to earn money with physical labour, if he is able bodied. There is no escape route unless there is an order from the Court that the wife is not entitled to get maintenance from the husband on any legally permissible grounds.

Sensitivity required from Family Judge:

The Family Judge is expected to be sensitive to the issues, for he is dealing with extremely delicate and sensitive issues pertaining to the marriage and issues ancillary thereto. When we say this, we do not mean that the Family Courts should show undue haste or impatience, but there is a distinction between impatience and to be wisely anxious and conscious about dealing with a situation. A Family Court Judge should remember that the procrastination is the greatest assassin of the lis before it. It not only gives rise to more family problems but also gradually builds unthinkable and everestine bitterness. It leads to the cold refrigeration of the hidden feelings, if still left. The delineation of the lis by the Family Judge must reveal the awareness and balance. Dilatory tactics by any of the parties has to be sternly dealt with, for the Family Court Judge has to be alive to the fact that the lis before him pertains to emotional fragmentation and delay can feed it to grow.

[Source: Bhuwan Mohan Singh v. Meena]

Analysis of Bhuwan Mohan Singh v. Meena:

Maintenance or spouse support is always a matter of acrimonious contention between the warring couple. The concept of human right introduced in this case is good but it is likely to be turned on it’s head. Here is ground reality of litigation in India:

While the constitution of India ensures equal rights and status to all the fact is the billionaires and beggars share the same street. The courts are approached by poor and rich alike. The claim of maintenance for child or spouse support is not different. Litigations drag for years, even before an interim amount is given. While for rich couple it may be alright to pay and receive huge arrears, for poor the delay means denial. It is also a fact that rich often get speedier justice than poor.

It would be appropriate if these provisions relating to child support and spouse support are properly reworked and re-legislated with the proper attention to human rights and disassociating it’s use as leverage in matrimonial litigation. If that is done, perhaps the courts would not be required to introduce human rights from back door.

This is not the first time court has emphasized expediency in such matters. The truth is that these observations fall on deaf ears in Indian Judicial System. Subordinate Judges have become insensitive to observations of expediency by Apex Courts and in the absence of any direct accountability measure, this judgement is not going to change anything. However citing this judgement with a motion for early hearing may yield results.

 

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