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.

 

Law of Maintenance in India

An eBook about Law of Maintenance in India.

Maintenance has a legal connotation in India which includes, Child Support, Spouse Support and Parent Support.

Introduction about the ebook:

Maintenance of dependents, is a pious duty of human beings but in certain circumstances it is also a statutory liability with a corresponding right vested in the dependent, to legally enforce this duty through court of law. 
Entitlement to maintenance is a complex right in India. In certain relationships, the right and corresponding liability is rigid but in other circumstances it is dependent upon the various other factors. The matter is further made complex by various personal laws in respect of citizens belonging to different religions and also a variety of forums. This book of about 800 pages attempts to assimilate all the aspects of this branch of family law, as far as possible.  

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Selected excerpts from the ebook, Law of Maintenance:

Considerations for granting alimony

Maintenance depends upon a gathering together of all the facts of the situation, the amount of free state, the past life of the married parties, and the families, survey of the condition and necessities and rights of the members on a reasonable view of change of circumstances possibly required is the future, regard being of course had to the scale and mode of living, and to the age, habits and class of life of the parties. In short, it is out of a category of circumstances, small in themselves, that a safe and reasonable induction is to be made by a court of law in arriving at a fixed sum.
While fixing permanent alimony and maintenance under Section 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the court is expected to make detailed inquiry and has to take into account not only the income but other properties of the parties, their conduct and other circumstances of the case that the court might consider relevant.

The following principles would appear to be relevant for the purpose:
(1) position and status of the parties;
(2) reasonable want of claimant (towards food, clothing, shelter, medical attendance and treatment, education and the like);
(3) income of the claimant;
(4) income of the opposite party;
(5) number of persons opposite party is obliged to maintain.

Two corollaries may be added here:
(1) In arriving at the income of a party only involuntary deductions like income-tax, provident fund contribution, etc. are to be excluded; and
(2) though under the law opposite party may to be obliged to maintain brother or sister but if that brother or sister having no income is living with the opposite party as member of his family and where either there are no parents or are unable to maintain themselves, the court may in a given circumstance consider the expenses to be incurred on the maintenance of brother or sister by the opposite party.

After all, court cannot be expected to adopt a mechanical approach while interpreting the provisions of law incorporating principles of social justice like Section 24 of the Act.
Where the parents were facing problem of life of such daughter in all matters and ultimately, in the net analysis, the divorced daughter would be left alone, cursed by the society and a burden on herself both, socially and economically. She may or may not have any shelter to live in it and bread to eat. In the instant case, she is illiterate admittedly and that would add insult to injury because she would not be able to earn anything. The remarriage is very difficult, for-fetched proposition in most of the communities amongst Hindus. In view of this, permanent alimony should be substantially a relief to her at least……..

……….No ‘dry and cut’ solution can be found out for measuring the conduct of desertion in terms of reduction in quantum of maintenance. However, when the legislature has introduced an amendment in Section 25 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, it cannot be treated as redundant and should be given effect to logically and legally. It was further held ‘Undoubtedly, the wife in the present case deserted the husband, did not reconcile and return to the husband during the pendency of the first litigation of restitution of conjugal rights. She insisted on remaining separately even when a decree for restitution of conjugal rights was passed, and forced the husband to file a petition for dissolution of marriage, and now the marriage has been dissolved, for which she alone is responsible, she cannot persuade this Court for grant of such maintenance which should be enough for maintaining her and also meeting the expenses should be enough for maintaining her, and also meeting the expenses of the medicines. It is self-invited trouble, for which none else but she is responsible. The act of desertion which was done initially and which has been consistently followed by her, in no case can put premium over her conduct.’

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Maintenance to Muslim Woman.