In a significant and praiseworthy judgment titled Rajnesh vs Neha in Criminal Appeal No. 730 of 2020 (Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No. 9503 of 2018 delivered as recently as on November 4, 2020, a two Judge Bench of Supreme Court comprising of Justice Indu Malhotra and Justice R Subhash Reddy has issued commendable, cogent and comprehensive guidelines on payment of maintenance in matrimonial matters. The Bench minced no words to hold that maintenance in all cases will be awarded from the date of filing the application for maintenance. There is no reason why these guidelines must not be implemented at the earliest.
To put things in perspective, the Bench then puts forth that, “The present appeal has been filed to impugn the Order dated 14.08.2018. This Court issued notice to the wife and directed the Appellant-husband to file his Income Tax Returns and Assessment Orders for the period from 2005-2006 till date. He was also directed to place a photocopy of his passport on record. By a further Order dated 11.09.2019, the Appellant-husband was directed to make payment of the arrears of Rs. 2,00,000 towards interim maintenance to the wife; and a further amount of Rs. 3,00,000, which was due and payable to the wife towards arrears of maintenance, as per his own admission. By a subsequent Order dated 14.10.2019, it was recorded that only a part of the arrears had been paid. A final opportunity was granted to the Appellant-husband to make payment of the balance amount by 30.11.2019, failing which, the Court would proceed under the Contempt of Courts Act for willful disobedience with the Orders passed by this Court.”
(a) The Judgment and order dated 24.08.2015 passed by the Family Court, Nagpur, affirmed by the Bombay High Court, Nagpur Bench vide Order dated 14.08.2018 for payment of interim maintenance @ Rs. 15,000 p.m. to the Respondent No.1-wife and Rs. 10,000 p.m. to the Respondent No. 2-son, is hereby affirmed by this Court;
(b) The husband is directed to pay the entire arrears of maintenance @ Rs. 15,000 p.m. within a period of 12 weeks from the date of this Judgment, and continue to comply with this Order during the pendency of the proceedings u/S. 125 Cr.P.C. before the Family Court;
(c) If the Appellant-husband fails to comply with the aforesaid directions of this Court, it would be open to the respondents to have the Order enforced u/S. 128 Cr.P.C., and take recourse to all other remedies which are available in accordance with law;
(d) The proceedings for payment of interim maintenance u/S. 125 Cr.P.C. have been pending between the parties for a period of over 7 years now. We deem it appropriate that the Family Court decides the substantive application u/S. 125 Cr.P.C. in Petition No. E-443/2013 finally, in light of the directions/guidelines issued in the present judgment, within a period of 6 months’ from the date of this judgment.
The Registry is directed to forward a complete copy of the pleadings, along with the written submissions filed by the parties, and the record of the proceedings in the present Criminal Appeal, to the Family Court, Nagpur. The present Criminal Appeal is disposed of accordingly.”
(a)Issue of overlapping jurisdiction
To overcome the issue of overlapping jurisdiction, and avoid conflicting orders being passed in different proceedings, it has become necessary to issue directions in this regard, so that there is uniformity in the practice followed by the Family Courts/District Courts/Magistrate Courts throughout the country. We direct that:
(i) where successive claims for maintenance are made by a party under different statutes, the Court would consider an adjustment or set off, of the amount awarded in the previous proceeding/s, while determining whether any further amount is to be awarded in the subsequent proceeding;
(ii) it is made mandatory for the applicant to disclose the previous proceeding and the orders passed therein, in the subsequent proceeding;
(iii) if the order passed in the previous proceeding/s requires any modification or variation, it would be required to be done in the same proceeding.
(b) Payment of Interim Maintenance
The Affidavit of Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities annexed as Enclosures I, II and III of this judgment, as may be applicable, shall be filed by both parties in all maintenance proceedings before the concerned Family Court/District Court/Magistrates Court, as the case may be, throughout the country.
(c) Criteria for determining the quantum of maintenance
For determining the quantum of maintenance payable to an applicant, the Court shall take into account the criteria enumerated in Part B – III of the judgment.
The aforesaid factors are however not exhaustive, and the concerned Court may exercise its discretion to consider any other factor/s which may be necessary or of relevance in the facts and circumstances of a case.
(d) Date from which maintenance is to be awarded
We make it clear that maintenance in all cases will be awarded from the date of filing the application for maintenance, as held in Part B – IV above.
(e)Enforcement/Execution of orders of maintenance
For enforcement/execution of orders of maintenance, it is directed that an order or decree of maintenance may be enforced under Section 28A of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1956; Section 20(6) of the D.V. Act; and Section 128 of the Cr.P.C., as may be applicable. The order of maintenance may be enforced as a money decree of a civil court as per the provisions of the CPC, more particularly Sections 51, 55, 58, 60 r.w. Order XXI.”