A Supreme Court bench comprising of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice V. Gopala Gowda observed that a delay in adjudication by the Family Court is not only against human rights but also against the basic embodiment of dignity of an individual.
It had come to the notice of the Court that on certain occasions the Family Courts have been granting adjournments in a routine manner as a consequence of which both the parties suffer or, on certain occasions, the wife becomes the worst victim. The Bench observed that when such a situation occurs, the purpose of the law gets totally atrophied. The Family Judge is expected to be sensitive to the issues, for he is dealing with extremely delicate and sensitive issues pertaining to the marriage and issues ancillary thereto.
The Court was cautious in its approach and stated that it does not mean that the Family Courts should show undue haste or impatience, but there is a distinction between impatience and to be wisely anxious and conscious about dealing with a situation.
The question before the Court, brought by a Special Leave Petition was whether the Family Court while deciding an application under Section 7 of the Family Court Act, 1984 which includes determination of grant of maintenance to the entitled persons, should allow adjournments in a liberal manner. The Court asked whether this delay can be condoned remaining oblivious of objects and reasons of the Act and also keeping the windows of wisdom closed and the sense of judicial responsiveness suspended to the manifest perceptibility of vagrancy, destitution, impecuniosity, struggle for survival and the emotional fracture, a wife likely to face under these circumstances.
The Court noted that such an approach would not only defeat the command of the legislature but also frustrate the hope of wife and children who are deprived of adequate livelihood and whose aspirations perish like mushroom and possibly the brief candle of sustenance joins the marathon race of extinction.
9 years were consumed in the adjudication of the instant matter. In the Court's opinion, the circumstances warranted grant of maintenance from the date of application and by so granting the High Court has not committed any legal infirmity. The Court directed the arrears to be paid in a phased manner, within a period of 3 years.
The appellant and the husband had got married in 1997, and they had a son a year after. The application for maintenance was filed in 2002, claiming Rs.6000/- per month. The Family Court finally decided the matter on 24.8.2011 awarding monthly maintenance of Rs.2500/- to the respondent-wife and Rs.1500/- to the second respondent- son.
Several adjournments were taken by both the parties during this period. The maintenance was awarded from the date of order, rather than the date of application.
This was appealed by the wife, before the Rajasthan High Court. The wife contended that she had received nothing during the proceedings and suffered immensely and, eventually, the High Court directed that the maintenance should be granted from the date of filing of the application.
The Court referred to the case of Shail Kumari Devi and another v. Krishan Bhagwal Pathak alias Kishun B. Pathak, which ruled that an order for payment of maintenance can be paid by a court either from the date of order or when express order is made to pay maintenance from the date of application, then the amount of maintenance may be paid from that date, i.e., from the date of application.
Rejecting the view of the single judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in K. Sivaram v. K. Mangalamba, the Court ruled that, "while deciding an application under Section 125 of the Code, a Magistrate is required to record reasons for granting or refusing to grant maintenance to wives, children or parents. Such maintenance can be awarded from the date of the order, or, if so ordered, from the date of the application for maintenance, as the case may be. For awarding maintenance from the date of the application, express order is necessary. No special reasons, however, are required to be recorded by the court. In our judgment, no such requirement can be read in sub-section (1) of Section 125 of the Code in absence of express provision to that effect."
The Family Courts were directed that dilatory tactics by any of the parties has to be sternly dealt with, as the matter before it pertains to emotional fragmentation and delay can feed it to grow. The Court displayed hope and trust that the Family Court Judges shall remain alert to this and decide the matters as expeditiously as possible keeping in view the objects and reasons of the Act and the scheme of various provisions pertaining to grant of maintenance, divorce, custody of child, property disputes, etc.
Read the judgment here.