“Wife Should Not Be Made To Wait For Years Together, To Get Certain Amount Of Maintenance From The Hands Of The Husband”: Karnataka High Court
The Karnataka High Court has passed a judgment on 8th February, 2023 issuing directions to the lower courts to follow a timeline, while deciding cases filed by estranged women seeking maintenance u/s 24 of Hindu Marriage Act. This was in the case of Pratibha Singh v. Vineet Kumar (Writ Petition no.21852 of 2022) and this is presided over by a single judge bench of JUSTICE M NAGAPRASANNA.
FACTS OF THE CASE:
The petitioner is the wife and the respondent is her husband. The two got married on 22-04-2016. On several allegations, it appears that about six months after their marriage the wife leaves the matrimonial house and begins to reside with her parents at their house. Long after the alleged separation, the respondent/husband registers a petition seeking annulment of marriage in M.C.No.3726 of 2019 under Section 13(1) (ia) & (ib) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The petitioner, upto the month of May 2020 claims that she was working and earning a salary of `35,000/- but due to onset of Covid-19 she was laid off and had no avocation to maintain herself. Therefore, she files an application before the concerned Court invoking Section 24 of the Act seeking interim maintenance at `1,50,000/- per month and one time litigation expenses at `2,00,000/-. The concerned Court by its order dated 26-08-2022 passes an order directing payment of interim maintenance at `15,000/- and one time litigation expenses at `50,000/-. The petitioner seeks the Court to increase the maintenance on the ground that it is too meager to maintain herself. The learned counsel from the respondent side contended that the husband files his assets and liability statement which clearly depicts that his monthly salary is `3,16,027/- apart from the income that derives from all other assets including fixed deposit that he has. The learned senior counsel for the respondent/husband would submit that the wife is qualified, she can maintain herself and she does not need any amount of maintenance from the hands of the husband as the separation had happened in the 2016, and after the husband initiates proceedings for divorce, the wife files the application under Section 24 of the Act and took the help of Dr. E.SHANTHI v. Dr.H.K. VASUDEV ILR 2005 KAR 4981 to prove the point.
The Court opined that “Proviso to Section 24 directs that an application filed under Section 24 seeking maintenance should be disposed as far as possible within 60 days. The term “as far as possible” is being interpreted that the Court can pass orders even after six months in some cases, two years, three years or even four years after filing the application. This delay in considering those applications for maintenance would defeat the very soul of the provision which is to give succor to the wife who leaves or made to leave the matrimonial house on myriad circumstances”
The concerned Courts should adhere to the following timeline devised by the Supreme Court:
- Notice on the application be issued immediately. Service through E-mail / What’s App, shall also be valid service in the eye of law.
- The concerned Court shall grant two months to the husband to file his objections to the application filed by the wife seeking interim maintenance under section 24 of the Act.
- The wife also should be given the same two months to file statement of assets and liabilities.
- On the assets and liabilities so filed by the wife, the concerned Court shall consider the contentions of 26 the parties, hear them and pass appropriate orders, within four months thereafter, if not earlier.
- Therefore, the outer limit to decide any application seeking interim maintenance is six months from the date of its filing.
- To achieve this timeline, the concerned Court should refrain itself from granting unnecessary adjournments to both the husband and the wife.
- If the husband or the wife would not co-operate with the closure of the proceedings qua the application for interim maintenance the Court would be free to pass appropriate orders in accordance with law.
- Any delay beyond six months should be only on reasons recorded in writing in the order that would be passed.
The concerned Courts shall adhere to the aforesaid timeline, as the wife should not be made to wait for years together, to get certain amount of maintenance from the hands of the husband.
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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY PRATIKSHYA P. BEURA