13 Jun 2023 3:46 PM GMT
The Kerala High Court recently enhanced the monthly maintenance allowance of the paralyzed estranged wife and son of a headload worker, on taking note of the latter's neglect and refusal to maintain his wife and child. The Single Judge Bench of Justice V.G. Arun observed that in such cases, Court ought to be aware of the dominant purpose behind Section 125 Cr.P.C. that stipulates for...
The Kerala High Court recently enhanced the monthly maintenance allowance of the paralyzed estranged wife and son of a headload worker, on taking note of the latter's neglect and refusal to maintain his wife and child.
The Single Judge Bench of Justice V.G. Arun observed that in such cases, Court ought to be aware of the dominant purpose behind Section 125 Cr.P.C. that stipulates for maintenance, which is that of ensuring that the neglected wife, child and parents are not left in a 'helpless state of distress, destitution and starvation'.
"The court should also be convinced about the existence of the following factors; i) that the respondent has neglected or refused to maintain the claimant. (ii) the claimant do not have the means to maintain herself/himself. (iii) the respondent has sufficient means for maintaining the claimant," it added.
The first petitioner, who is the wife of the respondent headload worker, developed constant fever two years after the marriage of the parties, and a year after the birth of their son (2nd petitioner). She was subsequently diagnosed with Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM), which left her paralyzed from waist down. It is noted that the petitioner wife had been in a coma for almost three months and thereafter, on ventilator support for another two months. The hospital bill came upto Rs. 29Lakhs, of which Rs. 9 Lakhs was discounted by the hospital administration, and the rest was settled with the help of crowdfunding, since the respondent was not providing financial support.
The respondent on his part however, refuted the allegation regarding the non-extension of financial support and claimed that he was kept away by his in-laws, when they started receiving contributions from various quarters. He further asserted that his wages were not sufficient for his own sustenance, and he also filed a petition seeking divorce on the ground that the first petitioner's illness had rendered her unable to discharge the duties of a wife and that the compulsion to continue the marriage would amount to cruelty. This petition was dismissed and the petition filed the wife and son was allowed ordering maintenance at the rate of Rs.4,000/- and Rs.2000/- respectively. Two revision petitions have thus been filed in the present case before the Court - one by the wife and son challenging the quantum of maintenance awarded, and the other by the husband challenging the finding regarding his liability to pay maintenance.
Advocates M. Shajna and K.M. Firoz argued on behalf of the petitioner wife and son that considering the medical condition of the first petitioner and the educational as well as other needs of the second petitioner, the amount ordered towards maintenance allowance was inadequate on the consideration that the respondent did not have adequate means or income to pay maintenance at the rate claimed by the petitioners. It was averred that although the net salary of the respondent was shown as Rs.11,681/-, he had admitted to getting additional income by doing overtime work during cross examination, which the Family Court had failed to consider. It was thus argued by the counsels that the Court could not fix the quantum, oblivious of the objective of Section 125, which is to ameliorate the sufferings of destitute wives and children.
On behalf of the respondent, Advocates T.R. Hari Krishnan and S. Sreedevi argued that the respondent husband had looked after the petitioner wife while she was in the hospital and that difference of opinion had only arisen after huge amounts had been received for the first petitioner's treatment. It was added that even after finding that the respondent did not have sufficient means, the Family Court ordered maintenance at the rate of Rs.4,000/- and Rs.2,000/-, thereby requiring the respondent to perform an impossibility.
"The case projects the plight of a hapless lady, who is almost fully paralyzed and driven to vagrancy due to her husband's neglect and refusal to maintain her. The case is also about the pathetic situation in which an innocent boy is placed by reason of his mother's illness and father's refusal to maintain him. The neglect is evident from the testimony of the respondent himself. The respondent admitted that he had no contact with the first petitioner and had seen the second petitioner prior to the filing of the case," the Court observed.
The Court thus found that the petitioners had no means to maintain themselves, on ascertaining the existence of the aforementioned three factors in the presence case. It also rejected the respondent's argument that he had no sufficient means to maintain the petitioners.
Taking note of the decision in Basanta Kumari Mohanty v. Sarat Kumar Mohanty (1982), in order to ascertain the quantum of maintenance to be awarded, the Court found that the maintenance allowance should be sufficient to meet the medical and other expenses of the first petitioner and enable her to lead a normal life to the extent possible. In the case of the child, the Court noted that considering the maintenance claims of children, denial of love and affection is also a determinative factor, even though the loss cannot be compensated with money.
It thus enhanced the monthly maintenance allowance of the first petitioner to Rs.8,000/- and that of the second petitioner to Rs.4,000/-. The respondent was granted two months time for paying the arrears of maintenance at the enhanced rate. "If the amount is not paid within the time granted, the petitioners can approach the Family Court for getting the order executed," the Court added.
Case Title: Dheera N.G. & Anr. v. Simesh S. and Simesh S. v. Dheeran N.G. & Anr.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Ker) 267
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