On November 4th, the Supreme Court laid down general guidelines and directions with regards to the award of maintenance, while exercising its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution.
A Division Bench comprising Justices Indu Malhotra and R. Subhash Reddy addressed a Criminal Appeal filed in a petition under Section 125 of CrPC in a case titled Rajnesh v. Neha & Anr. The Supreme Court, while addressing the matter, framed guidelines for payment of maintenance, the date from which maintenance was to be awarded, the criteria for determination of the quantum of maintenance, and enforcement of orders of maintenance. Moreover, it addressed the issue of overlapping jurisdictions under the Special Marriage Act, Hindu Marriage Act, Hindu Adoptions & Maintenance Act, CrPC, DV Act etc.
Directions for Overlap of Jurisdiction
The Bench reiterated that a wife was entitled to claim maintenance under different statutes. However, in a subsequent proceeding, the wife was obligated to disclose any maintenance awarded in a previous proceeding. The Court would grant adjustment or a set off for the subsequent claim. In the event of any modification required in the order passed in the previous proceeding, the party was to move the Court in the previous proceeding.
Directions for Payment of Interim Maintenance
The Court mandated the filing of the Affidavit of Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities by both parties in all existing and future maintenance proceedings. The format of the Affidavit was to be followed through Enclosures in the judgment.
Quantum of Maintenance
Apart from the law laid down in precedents regarding the factors relevant for determining the quantum of maintenance, the Court laid down additional factors. These included the age and employment opportunity forgone by the wife.
Apart from a residence order, a Magistrate was entitled to direct payment of rent and other payments concerning financial need and resources of the party. Even if the wife was earning, it would not act as a bar on the award of maintenance. Education expenses would normally be borne by the father. The expenses would be shared proportionately if the woman was earning in sufficient means. Serious disability or ill health of spouse or child(ren) would also affect the quantum of maintenance.
Date of Award
The maintenance was to be awarded from the date of Application of maintenance.
Enforcement of Maintenance
For the execution of orders or decrees, itwas to be enforced under Section 28A of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1956; Section 20(6) of the D.V. Act; and Section 128 of Cr.P.C., as may be applicable. Moreover, it may be enforced as a money decree of a civil court as per Sections 51, 55, 58, 60 read with Order XXI of CPC.
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