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Disclosure Of Assets And Liabilities: Maintenance Case

Concept Of Maintenance

Maintenance laws have been enacted as a measure of social justice to ensure protective discrimination against weak and abandon women and to prevent vagrancy by compelling a person to provide support to helpless parents, children and wife. Generally in personal laws husband is liable to maintain his helpless family regardless of fact that he has sufficient means to maintain them or not. Under Muslim personal law, the wife has absolute right to claim maintenance and such maintenance is debt on the husband whereas in Hindu Personal laws wife has to maintain her husband if the husband has no sufficient means or if the husband is incapable of earning his livings.

In order to ensure speedy and effective remedy, the provision of maintenance is also mentioned in the Special Marriage Act, 1954, Section 125 of the CrPC 1973; and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Provisions under these secular legislations are applicable to all people belonging to any religions. Under CrPC husband has no absolute liability to pay maintenance to support his wife if the wife is having sufficient means to earn her living[1].

Relief of Maintenance is an ancillary relief and the husband is obliged to maintain his wife not merely during the period she remains her wife but also after the dissolution of marriage as long as she does not marry. In many cases it is observed that there is a delay in adjudication of maintenance due to which basic human rights of the claimant got infringed, also it becomes difficult for her to maintain herself during the pendente lite[2].

Also, it was observed that under many cases spouse never discloses their actual status and actual financial positions because of which Courts have to decide the amount of relief through rough estimations. Generally, family Courts adopt a less formal procedure to establish the true income of the spouse. Though Family Court is empowered under Section 10 of the Family Court Act to frame its own laws it should not act as an umpire to decide who won and who lose Court is under obligation to discover the truth and to administer justice[3].

Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of Rajnesh v. Neha laid down some special guidelines for proper assessment of properties of both the parties and for calculating the quantum of maintenance.

Rajnesh v/sNeha

Criminal Appeal No. 730 Of 2020 - [Supreme Court Of India] - Equivalent citations: Criminal Appeal No. 730 OF 2020
(Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No. 9503 of 2018) - Bench: Ms.Indu Malhotra, R. Subhash Reddy
Petitioner: Rajnesh, Respondent: Neha and Anr - Date of Judgment: 4th November 2020

Statute
The legal principles or the law involved in this case are:
  • Section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure.
  • Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
  • Special Relief Act, 1954.

Facts
  1. In this case, the wife left her matrimonial home after the birth of the son in 2013. Thereafter she filed an application for interim maintenance under section 125 of CrPC.
  2. The Family Court in 2015 ordered the husband to provide interim maintenance of Rs.15, 000 per month to wife and Rs.5, 000 per month to son from 01.09.2013 to 31.08.2015.
  3. The Appellant-husband challenged the Order of the Family Court and filed a writ petition before the Bombay High Court, Nagpur Bench. That petition was dismissed by High Court in 2018
  4. Then he filed an appeal in Supreme Court to impugn the Order dated 14.08.2018.

Contentions
The Court directed the Appellant to pay the entire arrears towards interim maintenance to the wife and the son. But appellant failed to do so. He further contended that he is unemployed and has no source of income and has no property, moreover for payment of maintenance of her wife he had to take a loan from his father.

The wife opposed the contentions made by the husband, she submitted that he had invested in real estate projects and he is trying to conceal facts also he had wrongful possession of her Stridhan. Upon which it was contended that the family Court decided the maintenance amount on the basis of the income tax report of 2006. They both had issues regarding the amount of maintenance as the case was pending in the court for seven years and from that period they faced lots of ups and downs in their lives.

Observation
The court observed that the main aim of enacting provisions related to maintenance to prevent immorality and ameliorate the economic condition of women and children somewhere remained unfulfilled in this case due to various reasons:
  1. Overlapping Judgements

    Relief of maintenance can be claimed through various enactments like the Domestic Violence Act, Special Marriage Act 1954, CrPC etc. but the nature and the objective of these acts are different and if a person tries to claim relief simultaneously under different acts then there would be the multiplicity of proceedings and conflicting orders which would have the inevitable effect of overlapping jurisdiction
     
  2. Quantum of Maintenance

    There is no specific provision laid down in any of the statutes for deciding the accurate maintenance amount. It is generally said that The court should take several factors into consideration while deciding the quantum of maintenance like the income of both the spouse, reasonable wants of the claimant and conduct of applicant and non-applicant but spouse tries to mislead the court by not showing the true income for maintenance. These inappropriate disclosures of true income of both the parties create difficultly for family Courts to grant maintenance and because of which it becomes difficult for the claimant to get essentials for survival not only after the judgement but also during the pendency of judgement[4].
     
  3. Enforcement of Orders of Maintenance

    If maintenance is not paid timely, it defeats the very object of the relief. Execution petitions remain pending for months. Also, time for granting maintenance during the pendency of proceeding is not specified due to which there is a significant delay in disposal of the applications for interim maintenance for years. Due to this spouse willfully disobeys the orders passed by the Court.


Guidelines Issued By Supreme Court

Supreme Court has framed various guidelines on the basis of the abovementioned observations for securing the ends of justice and for proper enforcement of orders of maintenance. These guidelines are:
  • Both the parties shall file an Affidavit for disclosure of Assets and liabilities before claiming maintenance. If any kind of misrepresentation is done then the wrongdoer will be held liable for the Contempt of the Court and the Court may consider the initiation of proceeding u/S. 340 of CrPC.
  • Court enunciated that every party except those who belong to the Economically Weaker Section, or are casual labours or are living below the poverty line shall file an Affidavit for claiming maintenance. An affidavit filed by parties belonging to the urban area will be totally different from the parties belonging to rural or tribal areas.

Essential Ingredients In Affidavit

  1. The Affidavit must contain every personal detail along with details related to the nature of employment, earning, expenditure, the standard of living etc.
     
  2. The Deponent must disclose the list of family members who are dependent family along with their medical reports, Details of Children of the parties, Assets (movable and immovable) owned including investments made and liabilities of the Deponent.
     
  3. Parties have to submit documentary evidence whether in oral or written form before the concerned Court for fixing the alimony payable to the spouse. Duration of marriage should also be disclosed for determining the permanent alimony of the spouse.
     
  4. All the details of legal proceedings and the information related to maintenance which was awarded to the claimant in the previously constituted proceeding must be disclosed so that court can decide the quantum of maintenance in a more authentic way. Along with all these details, other essential details can be asked by Court for determining alimony.
The affidavit must be submitted in the prescribed format as defined by Court. Though the Court has the discretion to modify the format and can ask for additional details as per the requirements for clarity and authenticity.

Guidelines Regarding Enforcement Of Maintenance Order

Affidavit of Disclosure of assets and liabilities shall be filed by the parties in both maintenance and pending proceedings before the Concerned Court as the case may be.
  1. It is mandatory for the claimant to file a concise application accompanied by an Affidavit of disclosure of assets and the respondent have to file an affidavit along with the reply within a maximum period of 4 weeks. Court has the right to strike off the defence of the respondent after giving two opportunities to him to submit an affidavit of disclosure of assets along with a reply provided that The court must find it just and fair to strike off such a defence.
     
  2. The court may examine the affidavit submitted by parties under Order X of CPC if any dispute arises with respect to the declaration made in the affidavit. If Court thinks fit it may invoke Section 106 of Evidence Act, 1872 for getting clarity about the income, assets and liabilities of the spouse.
     
  3. If there is any change in the financial status of any party or some new information turn up during the course of proceeding then such information must be submitted in court during final determination in the form of a supplementary affidavit.
     
  4. The Concerned Court shall decide alimony for Interim maintenance within the period of six months after such Affidavit is filed before the Court.
Maintenance shall be awarded from the date of filing an application for maintenance. Hon'ble Court directed that the order or decree of maintenance may be enforced like a decree of a civil court, more particularly as per Sections 51, 55, 58, 60 read with Order XXI of CPC.

Case Comment
The provision of maintenance aims at empowering the destitute and achieving social justice or equality and dignity of the individual...The law regulates relationships between people. It reflects the values of society[5].

The detailed guidelines issued by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the aforementioned case will ensure speedy relief but there is no uniformity in the embodiment of affidavit some weaker sections are not mandated to file an affidavit.

Generally, it is observed that the women of weaker sections remain deprived of their rights and more inappropriate disclosure of the true financial position of the spouse is observed in these cases. For proper enforcement of the maintenance laws, it is suggested to make special provisions for the deprived section of the society. The spouse who has to provide maintenance to the claimant must file the affidavit in order to ensure justice and equality of sexes.

End-Notes:
  1. Bhagwan Dutt v. Kamla Devi, (1975) 2 SCC 386
  2. Bhuwan Mohan Singh v. Meena AIR 2014 SC 2875
  3. Mohanlal Shamji v. Union of India AIR 1991 SC 1346
  4. Radhika v. Vineet Rungta 110 (2004) DLT 111.
  5. Badshah v. Urmila Badshah Godse and Anr (2014) 1 SCC 188.


    Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Khyati Relan
    Awarded certificate of Excellence
    Authentication No: AP33842447008-29-042

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