Tribune News Service
New Delhi, November 4
The right to claim maintenance under all enactments, including those under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), must date back to the filing of the application, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.
“Financial constraints of a dependent spouse hampers their capacity to be effectively represented before the court. In order to prevent a dependent from being reduced to destitution, it is necessary that maintenance is awarded from the date on which the application for maintenance is led before the concerned court,” said a Bench headed by Justice Indu Malhotra.
“The delay in adjudication was not only against human rights, but also against the basic embodiment of dignity of an individual,” it said while deciding a matrimonial case from Maharashtra in which the maintenance of a wife and son under Section 125 of CrPC had to be determined.
As courts adopt different judicial yardsticks to grant interim maintenance and permanent alimony in matrimonial cases, the top court also laid down guidelines to ensure uniformity and consistency in judicial practice in such matters.
The guidelines issued by the top court addressed the issues of overlapping jurisdiction, payment of interim maintenance, criteria for determining the quantum of maintenance, date from which maintenance is to be awarded and enforcement/execution of orders of maintenance.
On interim maintenance, it said an affidavit of disclosure of assets and liabilities annexed to the judgment should be filed by both parties in all maintenance proceedings, including pending proceedings before the concerned family courts, district courts or magistrate courts across India.
For determining quantum of maintenance, the Bench said courts should consider the criteria enumerated in the judgment which were not exhaustive and the court concerned may exercise its discretion to consider any other factor/s which might be necessary or of relevance in the facts and circumstances of a case.
It directed that a copy of the judgment be communicated by the SC Secretary General and to Registrars of all High Courts for onward circulation to all district courts. It shall also be displayed on websites of all subordinate courts for awareness and implementation, it said.
The order or decree of maintenance may be enforced like a decree of a civil court, it noted.
Dealing with the issue of overlapping, it said in cases where successive claims for maintenance were made by a party under different statutes, the court would consider an adjustment or set off the amount awarded in the previous proceeding/s while determining whether any further amount was to be awarded in the subsequent proceeding.
To avoid conflicting orders in a subsequent maintenance proceeding, the applicant shall disclose the previous maintenance proceeding, and the orders passed therein, it said.