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Manpreet Singh Bhatia v. Sumita Bhatia - (High Court of Delhi) (20 Oct 2016)

Where parties do not come forward with exact income they have, Courts have to apply guess-work



In facts of present case, husband was aggrieved by order deciding application filed under Section 24 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 by wife granting monthly maintenance in sum of `25,000/- to the wife and similar amount towards education and maintenance Baby Sohana born to couple on December 03, 2003. Appellant did not challenge impugned order insofar `25,000/- per month has been directed to be paid to Respondent for education and maintenance of Baby Sohana. Challenge was to `25,000/- per month directed to be paid to the wife for her maintenance, but added that he may be able to meet his daughter, whom he has not met for last three years.

Provisions of Section 24 are beneficent in nature and power is exercised by Court not only out of compassion but also by way of judicial duty so that indigent spouse may not suffer at instance of affluent spouse. Legislature, in its discretion, has not fixed any guideline regarding ceiling limit of maintenance, pendente lite, as in the case of Divorce Act or Parsi Marriage Act. Word ‘support’ in Section 24 is not to be narrowly interpreted. It does not mean bare existence. It means that, claimant spouse should have the same comfort as the other. Section is not intended to bring about arithmetical equality between the two.

Court while considering the merits of an application for grant of an interim maintenance under Section 24 has to necessarily arrive at prima facie determination about the earning capacity of rival claimants. Determination cannot be made with exactitude; it is essentially interim in nature. Court is called upon to make a summary consideration of amount which the applicant is to be awarded by way of maintenance pendente lite and litigation expenses in accordance with the financial resources of the parties. Capacity of the other party to earn cannot be taken into consideration – it is only the actual earning of opposite party on the basis of which relief can be granted. Permanent income and not casual income is relevant.

Where there was sufficient means in the family of the husband on the strength of which the husband got married he has to share the burden to support his wife during the course of annulment of such marriage. Where the parties do not come forward with exact income they have, the Court would have no alternative but to apply its guess-work. Appellant is hiding his true income and keeping in view the luxurious life style in which he lives, evinced by the four luxury cars maintained by his family, impugned order needs no interference with.

Appellant while expressing his willingness to pay maintenance to his daughter was aggrieved to the extent that for the last about three years, he has not been able to even see his daughter. Though this is not a petition concerning visitation rights of parties, a father who is ready and willing to pay maintenance for his daughter is also entitled to see his daughter at least on festivals, her birthday or at regular interval. Appellant is resident of Delhi whereas Respondent is residing in Mumbai and daughter is studying in Lonavala and staying in hostel. Therefore, Court on disposing the appeal permitted Appellant to visit his daughter at Lonavala and meet her in her school.

Relevant : Section 24 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955


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