IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 730 OF 2020
(Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No. 9503 of 2018)
NEHA & Anr. …RESPONDENTS
PART A Order passed in Criminal Appeal No.730 of 2020
PART B General Guidelines and Directions
I. Issue of Overlapping Jurisdictions
II. Payment of interim maintenance
III. Criteria for determining quantum of maintenance
IV. Date from which Maintenance to be awarded
V. Enforcement of orders of maintenance
VI. Final Directions
INDU MALHOTRA, J.
(i) The present Criminal Appeal arises out of an application for Interim Maintenance filed in a petition u/S. 125 Cr.P.C. by the Respondent–wife and minor son. The Respondent No.1–wife left the matrimonial home in January 2013, shortly after the birth of the son–Respondent No.2. On 02.09.2013, the wife filed an application for interim maintenance u/S. 125 Cr.P.C. on behalf of herself and the minor son. The Family Court vide a detailed Order dated 24.08.2015 awarded interim maintenance of Rs.15,000 per month to the Respondent No.1– wife from 01.09.2013; and Rs.5,000 per month as interim maintenance for the Respondent No.2–son from 01.09.2013 to 31.08.2015; and @ Rs. 10,000 per month from 01.09.2015 onwards till further orders were passed in the main petition.
(ii) The Appellant–husband challenged the Order of the Family Court vide Criminal Writ Petition No.875/2015 filed before the Bombay High Court, Nagpur Bench. The High Court dismissed the Writ Petition vide Order dated 14.08.2018, and affirmed the Judgment passed by the Family Court.
(iii) 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 wilful disobedience with the Orders passed by this Court.
In the backdrop of the facts of this case, we considered it fit to frame guidelines on certain aspects pertaining to the payment of maintenance in matrimonial matters. There are different statutes providing for making an application for grant of maintenance / interim maintenance, if any person having sufficient means neglects, or refuses to maintain his wife, children, parents. The different enactments provide an independent and distinct remedy framed with a specific object and purpose. Inspite of time frames being prescribed by various statutes for disposal of interim applications, we have noticed, in practice that in a vast majority of cases, the applications are not disposed of within the time frame prescribed. To address various issues which arise for consideration in applications for grant of maintenance / interim maintenance, it is necessary to frame guidelines to ensure that there is uniformity and consistency in deciding the same. To seek assistance on these issues, we have appointed Ms. Anitha Shenoy and Mr. Gopal Sankaranaryanan, Senior Advocates as Amici Curiae, who have graciously accepted to assist this Court.