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[S.24 Hindu Marriage Act] Posting Job Offer Letter On Social Media Insufficient Proof Of Wife's Employment: Bombay HC

Amisha Shrivastava
26 Nov 2022 5:30 AM GMT
Section 125 Crpc Made For Immediate Support; Court Cannot Be Hyper Technical In Their Approach: Bombay High Court

The Bombay High Court granted interim maintenance to a woman in a matrimonial matter, observing that mere social media post about a job offer does not mean that she was actually employed.

While dealing with a writ petition, Justice Sandeep V. Marne of the Aurangabad bench set aside family court's order denying maintenance pendente lite to the petitioner-wife. High Court said that the respondent-husband didn't give actual proof that his wife was employed.

"Apart from the social media post, respondent has not put on record any other concrete material to prove that petitioner actually secured any employment or she has been working and earning….. It would therefore safe to assume that petitioner is not engaged in any employment and has not been earning any income for herself", the court stated.

The court further reiterated that if the wife does not have a job, mere possession of having higher educational qualification cannot be a reason to altogether deny interim maintenance.

Proceedings for annulment of marriage between the parties are pending before Jalgaon Family Court. It rejected petitioner's application for maintenance pendente lite under section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 on the following grounds – i) she possesses higher qualifications and, ii) she declared in her social media status that she had secured a job at a company in London. Therefore, she approached the High Court.

Social Media Post

Advocate S. V. Deshmukh for the petitioner submitted that the husband did not give any material to show that his wife actually received any job or that she has been working anywhere. She had randomly received an email offering her a job and she posted it on social media. However, the offer turned out to be a sham, he said.

Advocate A. A. Nimbalkar for the respondent referred to print outs of the petitioner's Facebook and WhatsApp accounts to contend that she was not only offered a job at a UK based company and had salary of 2000 pounds, but that the reactions given to her by messages congratulating her show that she had indeed accepted the offer.

The family court had not definitively concluded that the wife actually got a job or that she has been working as a consequence of the job offer which she posted on social media. It had presumed that the possibility of her getting a job couldn't be ruled out due to her higher qualifications.

The court said that this finding was erroneous as the family court itself recorded that mere publication of a social media post is not enough to make out a case about the employment of the petitioner. The family court shouldn't have presumed that she got the job just because she possesses higher qualifications, the court stated.

The court noted that the husband could have produced concrete material such as bank statements, income tax returns etc. proving that his wife actually got the job and has been earning. However, nothing of that sort is placed on record, the court observed.

Nimbalkar argued that either the information on the social media post should be accepted as true or if it is false then the wife shouldn't be given any relief because of her 'undesirable act' of posting a fake appointment letter on her social media.

The court agreed that the petitioner's conduct is not commendable and she should not have made the post without verifying the genuineness of the offer. However, it cannot be inferred that the offer actually resulted in a job as there is no concrete proof, the court said.

"It is difficult to determine at this stage whether she was actually deceived or was merely attempting to gain praises and popularity on social media platforms by posting factually incorrect information. In absence of any concrete proof of actual employment, an inference cannot be drawn that the offer actually fructified in a job for her. Having arrived at a conclusion the Petitioner-wife is actually not employed, in my view, the doors of the Courts cannot be shut on her, even if her conduct may not be completely free from blemish", the court held.

Higher Educational Qualifications

Deshmukh submitted that maintenance cannot be denied merely because the wife has higher qualifications as she is actually jobless.

Nimbalkar relied on MP High Court judgment in Mamta Jaiswal v. Rajesh Jaiswal and said that if the wife has the capability to earn but sits ideal, she cannot be awarded maintenance as she can easily get a job.

Further, her mother is politically connected and even the petitioner has accepted certain political engagements indicating the she has sufficient sources of income, he contended.

The court differentiated the facts of Mamta Jaiswal from the current case as in that case the wife was seeking enhancement of the maintenance. The court further noted that in that case the wife had been working prior to the case. However, in the present case the husband does not contend that his wife was previously employed and earning income. "Thus Mamta Jaiswal (supra) cannot be said to have laid down a law that a wife is not entitled for any maintenance merely on account of possession of higher qualifications", the court held.

The court referred to Apex Court judgment in Shailja v. Khobbanna, which distinguished between capability to earn and actually earning and held that capability of earning cannot be reason to reduce maintenance awarded by family court.

The court concluded that husband has failed to prove that the wife is actually employed. Political position allegedly occupied by her mother and petitioner's own political engagements are irrelevant, the court added.

The husband produced salary certificate and bank statements and declared his monthly income as Rs 78,598/-. The wife relied on one entry in the month of August, 2018 to contend that her husband's salary is Rs 1,33,377. The court said that there is no reason to disbelieve the salary certificate and the affidavits made by the husband adding, "One stray entry in the bank statement, in my opinion, cannot be indicative of the exact salary earned by respondent husband."

Therefore, the court awarded interim maintenance of Rs 7,500/- to the petitioner during the pendency of the family court proceedings.

Case no. – Writ Petition No. 2668 of 2021

Case title – Aboil alias Yugandhara w/o Tejpal Patil v. Tejpal S/o Premchand Patil

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Bom) 460

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