Supreme Court passed General Directions in regard to the menace of multiple maintenance litigation between spouses as follows.
Some crucial procedural guidelines with respect to interim maintenance proceedings…
(xi) Keeping in mind the need for a uniform format of Affidavit of Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities to be filed in maintenance proceedings, this Court considers it necessary to frame guidelines in exercise of our powers under Article 136 read with Article 142 of the Constitution of India :
(a) The Affidavit of Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities annexed at Enclosures I, II and III of this judgment, as may be applicable, shall be filed by the parties in all maintenance proceedings, including pending proceedings before the concerned Family Court / District Court / Magistrate’s Court, as the case may be, throughout the country;
(b) The applicant making the claim for maintenance will be required to file a concise application accompanied with the Affidavit of Disclosure of Assets;
(c) The respondent must submit the reply along with the Affidavit of Disclosure within a maximum period of four weeks. The Courts may not grant more than two opportunities for submission of the Affidavit of Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities to the respondent.
If the respondent delays in filing the reply with the Affidavit, and seeks more than two adjournments for this purpose, the Court may consider exercising the power to strike off the defence of the respondent, if the conduct is found to be wilful and contumacious in delaying the proceedings.32
On the failure to file the Affidavit within the prescribed time, the Family Court may proceed to decide the application for maintenance on basis of the Affidavit filed by the applicant and the pleadings on record;
(d) The above format may be modified by the concerned Court, if the exigencies of a case require the same. It would be left to the judicial discretion of the concerned Court, to issue necessary directions in this regard.
(e) If apart from the information contained in the Affidavits of Disclosure, any further information is required, the concerned Court may pass appropriate orders in respect thereof.
(f) If there is any dispute with respect to the declaration made in the Affidavit of Disclosure, the aggrieved party may seek permission of the Court to serve interrogatories, and seek production of relevant documents from the opposite party under Order XI of the CPC;
On filing of the Affidavit, the Court may invoke the provisions of Order X of the C.P.C or Section 165 of the Evidence Act 1872, if it considers it necessary to do so;
The income of one party is often not within the knowledge of the other spouse. The Court may invoke Section 106 of the Evidence Act, 1872 if necessary, since the income, assets and liabilities of the spouse are within the personal knowledge of the party concerned.
(g) If during the course of proceedings, there is a change in the financial status of any party, or there is a change of any relevant circumstances, or if some new information comes to light, the party may submit an amended / supplementary affidavit, which would be considered by the court at the time of final determination.
(h) The pleadings made in the applications for maintenance and replies filed should be responsible pleadings; if false statements and misrepresentations are made, the Court may consider initiation of proceeding u/S. 340 Cr.P.C., and for contempt of Court.
(i) In case the parties belong to the Economically Weaker Sections (“EWS”), or are living Below the Poverty Line (“BPL”), or are casual labourers, the requirement of filing the Affidavit would be dispensed with.
(j) The concerned Family Court / District Court / Magistrate’s Court must make an endeavour to decide the I.A. for Interim Maintenance by a reasoned order, within a period of four to six months at the latest, after the Affidavits of Disclosure have been filed before the court.
(k) A professional Marriage Counsellor must be made available in every Family Court.
Some crucial procedural guidelines with respect to Permanent alimony
(i) Parties may lead oral and documentary evidence with respect to income, expenditure, standard of living, etc. before the concerned Court, for fixing the permanent alimony payable to the spouse.
(ii) In contemporary society, where several marriages do not last for a reasonable length of time, it may be inequitable to direct the contesting spouse to pay permanent alimony to the applicant for the rest of her life. The duration of the marriage would be a relevant factor to be taken into consideration for determining the permanent alimony to be paid.
(iii) Provision for grant of reasonable expenses for the marriage of children must be made at the time of determining permanent alimony, where the custody is with the wife. The expenses would be determined by taking into account the financial position of the husband and the customs of the family.
(iv) If there are any trust funds / investments created by any spouse / grandparents in favour of the children, this would also be taken into consideration while deciding the final child support.
In view of the foregoing discussion as contained in Part B – I to V of this judgment, we deem it appropriate to pass the following directions in exercise of our powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India :
(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, including pending 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. he 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 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.
Note: In my opinion, since all these proceedings are Civil in nature (no criminal liability at all meaning No jail), no one has to bother much about the same, as no care of concern is shown to address root causes:
- Why do these proceedings take years together?
- Allowance of endless adjournments
- No strict demand for filling up of vacant Judge or magistrate posts/constituting additional Courts.
- No Case calendar approach (passed by one of the judges in this case here), despite the name-sake tag of summary proceedings.
- Which husband in his same mind, will want to live with a woman who drags him to Court correctly/maliciously? Such relationship is dead for all practical purposes.
- If there was such neglect by husband/male person, why no legal termination of marriage is NOT invoked suo moto/automatically?
- This shall be addressed in one of my future PILs here.
Citations: [2020 SCC ONLINE SC 903]
Other Sources : https://indiankanoon.org/doc/117541087/
The HC dismissed the Crl Writ Petition challenging the Family Court Order in the 125 CrPC case.Rajnesh Vs Neha and Anr on 14 Aug 2018
Family Court case no: Petition No. E-443/ 2013