The Bombay High Court has held that in a matrimonial dispute, even if parents of the wife are rich and affluent, the fact is irrelevant while deciding her application for interim maintenance.
Justice MS Sonak was hearing a writ petition filed by one Shlokha Chhabria wherein she had challenged an order of the Family Court, Bandra, rejecting her application for interim maintenance.
The petitioner’s husband had contended that she comes from a rich background and that her parents are affluent. Thus, the application was rightly rejected by the Family Court on six grounds, said Narendra Chhabria. The grounds for rejection were-
(i) Family Court accepted the allegation made petitioner’s husband that she had suppressed facts regarding a flat in Khar bought by her family in which she had a stake along with her father and brother.
(ii) Family Court held that petitioner had failed to press application for interim maintenance filed in 2011, hence it was finally disposed of five years later in May 2016. The inference was that since the petitioner was financially comfortable enough, she did not press her application.
(iii) Court also held that the petitioner failed in giving a break up of expenses to justify her demand of Rs 5 lakh per month as maintenance.
(iv) The petitioner stated that she is a tutor but failed to disclose her actual income as tutor.
(v) Court held that documents have been placed on record by both parties but evidence is yet to be led, hence, it is not possible to decide the issue of interim maintenance.
(vi) The petitioner is an able-bodied person working as a tutor and, therefore, she is not entitled to any maintenance.
Appearing on behalf of the petitioner, RV Pai argued that his client had not suppressed any material facts of the case while filing her application dated January 5, 2011. He submitted that on the date of the application, she (Shlokha) had no interest or stake in the said flat in Khar. Pai further submitted that in any case, the petitioner had gifted her stake or interest in the flat to her brother.
The petitioner had stated in her application that it was not possible to maintain the kind of lifestyle she was accustomed to, through her salary and, hence, maintenance was being sought.
After going through all the relevant judgments of the Supreme Court as well as other high courts, the court thwarted all six grounds stated in the Family Court order and said:
“The impugned order is thus required to be set aside on the ground that the dismissal of the application for interim maintenance is based upon the ground or reasons which are found to be untenable. Ordinarily, this would call for remand.
However, considering the fact that the entire material is on record before this Court and the issue is only of interim maintenance, a remand will not be appropriate.”
Further, the court observed that there was no truth to the claim made by the petitioner’s husband that he had a monthly income of Rs. 20,000 only. The court noted that according to details obtained from the Company of Registrar’s office, Narendra was a partner in a partnership firm functioning under the name and style of “Sterling Luminaires”. This firm is in the business of manufacture and trading of electrical fittings, goods and also acts as agents, distributors for various types and varieties of electrical fittings and goods.
“From the evasive nature of denial, it is apparent that there is some truth in the various details placed on record by the petitioner. In the context of the respondent's luxurious life style, which is reflected from the material placed on record, it is not possible to accept that the income of the respondent is only Rs. 4 to 5 lakhs p.a. The respondent, will easily being in a position to pay interim maintenance of Rs. 1 lakh per month to the petitioner. However, since the petitioner earns Rs. 25,000 to 30,000 per month as a tutor in French, it will be reasonable if the interim maintenance is determined as Rs. 75,000 per month.
The respondent therefore cannot deny the petitioner's interim maintenance on the ground that her parents are rich and affluent or that her parents are in a position to maintain her. Primary duty of maintenance is that of respondent husband and the same cannot be wished away on the basis of such considerations,” the court said.
Finally, the family court order was set aside and a cost of Rs. 50,000 was imposed on the respondent husband. The husband was also directed to pay Rs. 75,000 per month with effect from the date of filing i.e., January 5, 2011.
Read the Judgment Here