SUPREME COURT HOLDS THAT HIGH COURT COMMITTED ERROR IN NOT ADHERING TO THE GUIDELINES SET FOR GRANT OF MAINTENANCE TO A MINOR CHILD
A two Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Rajesh Bindal passed a Judgment dated 06.11.2023, in Aditi Alias Mithi v. Jitesh Sharma, Criminal Appeal No. 3446 of 2023, and held that the Madhya Pradesh High Court did not adhere to the procedure and guidelines laid down by the Apex Court in various cases in respect of grant of maintenance to minor child.
i) In the present case, one, Aditi @Mithi, the Appellant- Minor Daughter and her Mother, Mrs. Shikha Sharma filed an Application seeking maintenance against Mr. Jitesh Sharma, the Respondent, Father of the Appellant, under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (P.C) (Order for maintenance of wives, children and parents) before the Ld. Family Court, Guna District, Madhya Pradesh (Trial Court).
ii) The marriage was performed between the Appellant’s Mother and the Respondent in the year 2008 and 2 children were born from this wed lock i.e. a boy and a girl.
iii) Thereafter, owing to some unavoidable disputes that arose between the couple, the Respondent filed a Divorce Petition before the Ld. Trial Court in the month of January 2018. The Ld. Trial Court granted divorce vide Order dated 10.09.2022, and, further passed an Order dated 30.11.2022 granting maintenance of Rs. 20,000/- per month to the Appellant-Minor Daughter, but the Appellant’s Mother was denied any maintenance.
iv) Aggrieved by the Trial Court Order dated 30.11.2022, the Respondent filed a Criminal Revision No. 4939 of 2022 before the High Court of Madhya Pradesh at Gwalior (High Court).
v) The High Court passed an Order dated 28-06-2023 by reducing the amount of maintenance from Rs. 20,000/- to Rs. 7,500/- by allowing the Criminal Revision filed by the Respondent- Father.
Supreme Court Analysis
Aggrieved by the High Court Order dated 28-06-2023, the Appellant- Minor Daughter filed a Criminal Appeal No. 3446 of 2023 before the Supreme Court. The Apex Court passed a Judgment dated 06.11.2023 and observed as follows:
(1) That in Rajnesh v. Neha and Another, (2021) 2 SCC 324, the Supreme Court laid down the manner in which maintenance payable under Section 24 of the Hindu Mariage Act, 1955 (M. Act) (Maintenance pendente lite and expenses of proceedings) or Section 125 Cr.P.C. is to be assessed and that the terms of maintenance are decided on the basis of pleadings of parties. The detailed Guidelines were issued by exercise of powers under Article 136 (Special leave to appeal by the Supreme Court) read with Article 142 (Enforcement of decrees and orders of Supreme Court and orders as to discovery, etc.) of the Constitution of India, prescribing a uniform format of affidavit of disclosure of assets and liabilities to be filed in maintenance proceedings and the Guidelines were laid down regarding maintenance to minor children in Para 91 and 92 of the said judgment which is reproduced below:
91.The living expenses of the child would include expenses for food, clothing, residence, medical expenses, education of children. Extra coaching classes or any other vocational training courses to complement the basic education must be factored in, while awarding child support. Albeit, it should be a reasonable amount to be awarded for extracurricular/coaching classes, and not an overly extravagant amount which may be claimed.
92. Education expenses of the children must be normally borne by the father. If the wife is working and earning sufficiently, the expenses may be shared proportionately between the parties.”
(2) That in Neha Tyagi v. Lieutenant Colonel Deepak Tyagi, (2022) 3 SCC 86 the Supreme Court held that until the child reaches the age of majority, the father remains liable for his actions and must provide maintenance for the child. The child shouldn’t have to suffer because of a husband and wife’s disagreement. The relevant paragraph is reproduced below:
“6. However, at the same time, the respondent husband cannot be absolved from his liability and responsibility to maintain his son Pranav till he attains the age of majority. Whatever be the dispute between the husband and the wife, a child should not be made to suffer. The liability and responsibility of the father to maintain the child continues till the child/son attains the age of majority. It also cannot be disputed that the son Pranav has a right to be maintained as per the status of his father. It is reported that the mother is not earning anything. She is residing at her parental house at Jaipur. Therefore, a reasonable/sufficient amount is required for the maintenance of her son including his education etc. which shall have to be paid by the respondent husband, irrespective of the decree of dissolution of marriage between the appellant wife and the respondent husband. The amount which was being paid pursuant to the order passed by the Army authorities on 15-11-2012 has also been stopped by the respondent husband since December 2019.”
(3) Further, extensive Guidelines were released by the Supreme Court regarding the overlapping jurisdiction between courts in cases where the Special Marriage Act of 1954, Section 125 Cr.P.C., the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005, the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act of 1956 provide concurrent remedies for grant of maintenance in earlier cases. These Guidelines also addressed criteria for determining the amount of maintenance, the date from which maintenance is to be awarded, and the enforcement of maintenance orders, including the fixing of interim maintenance payments.
Thus, based on the aforesaid observations, and, the Supreme Court held that the High Court did not adhere to the procedure and Guidelines laid down by the Apex Court in various cases in respect of grant of maintenance in the present case. Thus, the Appeal filed by the Appellant-Minor Daughter was allowed, and the High Court Order dated 28-06-2023 was set aside. As a result, the matter was remitted to the High Court for fresh consideration.
Suneel Kumar Jaiswal
The Indian Lawyer