Delhi High Court has recently re-iterated the factors to be considered by the Court while deciding an application for interim Maintenance. A Division Bench of Justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Pratibha Rani has observed that the object behind Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 is to provide for maintenance, pendente-lite, to a spouse in matrimonial proceedings so that during the pendency of the proceedings the spouse can maintain herself/himself and also have sufficient funds to carry on the litigation so that the spouse does not unduly suffer in the conduct of the case for want of fund.
The Bench further stated that the provisions of Section 24 are beneficent in nature and the power is exercised by the Court not only out of compassion but also by way of judicial duty so that the indigent spouse may not suffer at the instance of the affluent spouse. The 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. The word ‘support’ in Section 24 is not to be narrowly interpreted. It does not mean bare existence. It means that the claimant spouse should have the same comfort as the other. Of course, the Section is not intended to bring about arithmetical equality between the two.
The Bench has also re-iterated the following factors to be considered by the Court, while awarding the amount, as held by High Court in Sh.Bharat Hegde Vs. Smt.Saroj Hegde
The Bench also held that, the 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 the rival claimants.
The determination cannot be made with exactitude; it is essentially interim in nature. The 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 the opposite party on the basis of which relief can be granted. Permanent income and not casual income is relevant. For example if a husband brings on record that the non-applicant wife earns some amount by taking coaching classes for children, this cannot be termed as her permanent income or that the wife has independent permanent source of income. The proceedings being summary, the matter has to be decided on the basis of pleadings supported by affidavits and the documents that may be filed by the parties in support of their case. 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., The Bench added
Read the Judgment Here