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Both Parties In Maintenance Cases Shall File Affidavit of Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities: Supreme Court [Read Judgment]

Ashok Kini
4 Nov 2020 11:19 AM GMT
Both Parties In Maintenance Cases Shall File Affidavit of Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities: Supreme Court [Read Judgment]
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Affidavit of Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities shall be filed by both parties in all maintenance proceedings, including pending proceedings before the concerned Family Court / District Court / Magistrates Court, as the case may be, throughout the country, the Supreme Court has directed in an important judgment delivered on Wednesday (4 November 2020).The bench comprising Justices Indu...

Affidavit of Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities shall be filed by both parties in all maintenance proceedings, including pending proceedings before the concerned Family Court / District Court / Magistrates Court, as the case may be, throughout the country, the Supreme Court has directed in an important judgment delivered on Wednesday (4 November 2020).

The bench comprising Justices Indu Malhotra and R. Subhash Reddy has annexed model affidavits as Enclosures I, II and III in the judgment. However, the court has observed that, in case the parties belong to the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), or are living Below the Poverty Line (BPL), or are casual labourers, the requirement of filing the Affidavit would be dispensed with.

The pleadings made in the applications for maintenance and replies filed should be responsible pleadings; if false statements and misrepresentations are made, the Court may consider initiation of proceeding u/S. 340 Cr.P.C., and for contempt of Court, the court observed. Details to be mentioned in the Affidavit filed by non-agrarian deponents are: 

  1. Personal Information
  2. Details of Legal Proceedings and Maintenance being paid

  3. Details about dependant family members
  4. Medical details of the Deponent and/or dependant family members
  5. Details of Children of the parties
  6. Details of Income of the Deponent,
  7. Assets (movable and immovable) owned by the Deponent,
  8. Details of Liabilities of the Deponent,
  9. Nature of employment (Self-employed persons / Professionals / Business Persons / Entrepreneur),
  10. Information provided by the Deponent with respect to the income, assets and liabilities of the other Spouse,
  11. Details of Applicant or the other Spouse, in case parties are Non-Resident Indians, Overseas Citizens of India, Foreign Nationals or Persons living abroad outside India.

(The full model can be read in Enclosures provided in page 57 of the judgment)

Parties do not disclose the correct details, and suppress vital information

The court noticed that the issue of interim maintenance is presently decided on the basis of pleadings, where some amount of guess-work or rough estimation takes place, so as to make a prima facie assessment of the amount to be awarded. "It is often seen that both parties submit scanty material, do not disclose the correct details, and suppress vital information, which makes it difficult for the Family Courts to make an objective assessment for grant of interim maintenance. While there is a tendency on the part of the wife to exaggerate her needs, there is a corresponding tendency by the husband to conceal his actual income. It has therefore become necessary to lay down a procedure to streamline the proceedings, since a dependant wife, who has no other source of income, has to take recourse to borrowings from her parents / relatives during the interregnum to sustain herself and the minor children, till she begins receiving interim maintenance." , the court said.

The court, however, observed, that Affidavit to be filed by parties residing in urban areas, would require to be entirely different from the one applicable to rural areas, or tribal areas. So Enclosures 1 and II deal with details for Affidavit for Non-Agrarian Deponents and (II) Details for Affidavit for Agrarian Deponents. Since the state of Meghalaya has a predominantly tribal population, which follows a matrilineal system of society, a separate model of Affidavit has been drafted for it.

Guidelines

The court has issued following guidelines also

(a) The Affidavit of Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities annexed at Enclosures I, II and III of this judgment, as may be applicable, shall be filed by the parties in all maintenance proceedings, including pending proceedings before the concerned Family Court / District Court / Magistrate's Court, as the case may be, throughout the country;
(b) The applicant making the claim for maintenance will be required to file a concise application accompanied with the Affidavit of Disclosure of Assets;
(c) The respondent must submit the reply alongwith the Affidavit of Disclosure within a maximum period of four weeks. The Courts may not grant more than two opportunities for submission of the Affidavit of Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities to the respondent. If the respondent delays in filing the reply with the Affidavit, and seeks more than two adjournments for this purpose, the Court may consider exercising the power to strike off the defence of the respondent, if the conduct is found to be wilful and contumacious in delaying the proceedings. On the failure to file the Affidavit within the prescribed time, the Family Court may proceed to decide the application for maintenance on basis of the Affidavit filed by the applicant and the pleadings on record;
(d) The above format may be modified by the concerned Court, if the exigencies of a case require the same. It would be left to the judicial discretion of the concerned Court, to issue necessary directions in this regard.
(e) If apart from the information contained in the Affidavits of Disclosure, any further information is required, the concerned Court may pass appropriate orders in respect thereof.
(f) If there is any dispute with respect to the declaration made in the Affidavit of Disclosure, the aggrieved party may seek permission of the Court to serve interrogatories, and seek production of relevant documents from the opposite party under Order XI of the CPC; On filing of the Affidavit, the Court may invoke the provisions of Order X of the C.P.C or Section 165 of the Evidence Act 1872, if it considers it necessary to do so; The income of one party is often not within the knowledge of the other spouse. The Court may invoke Section 106 of the Evidence Act, 1872 if necessary, since the income, assets and liabilities of the spouse are within the personal knowledge of the party concerned.
(g) If during the course of proceedings, there is a change in the financial status of any party, or there is a change of any relevant circumstances, or if some new information comes to light, the party may submit an amended / supplementary affidavit, which would be considered by the court at the time of final determination.
(h) The pleadings made in the applications for maintenance and replies filed should be responsible pleadings; if false statements and misrepresentations are made, the Court may consider initiation of proceeding u/S. 340 Cr.P.C., and for contempt of Court.
(i) In case the parties belong to the Economically Weaker Sections ("EWS"), or are living Below the Poverty Line ("BPL"), or are casual labourers, the requirement of filing the Affidavit would be dispensed with.
(j) The concerned Family Court / District Court / Magistrate's Court must make an endeavour to decide the I.A. for Interim Maintenance by a reasoned order, within a period of four to six months at the latest, after the Affidavits of Disclosure have been filed before the court.
(k) A professional Marriage Counsellor must be made available in every Family Court.

The court also issued guidelines regarding the payment of Permanent alimony:

(i) Parties may lead oral and documentary evidence with respect to income, expenditure, standard of living, etc. before the concerned Court, for fixing the permanent alimony payable to the spouse.

(ii) In contemporary society, where several marriages do not last for a reasonable length of time, it may be inequitable to direct the contesting spouse to pay permanent alimony to the applicant for the rest of her life. The duration of the marriage would be a relevant factor to be taken into consideration for determining the permanent alimony to be paid.

(iii) Provision for grant of reasonable expenses for the marriage of children must be made at the time of determining permanent alimony, where the custody is with the wife. The expenses would be determined by taking into account the financial position of the husband and the customs of the family.

(iv) If there are any trust funds / investments created by any spouse / grandparents in favour of the children, this would also be taken into consideration while deciding the final child support.


The court also observed that, although there is no bar to seek maintenance under the D.V. Act and Section 125 of the Cr.P.C., or under H.M.A., it would be inequitable to direct the husband to pay maintenance under each of the proceedings, independent of the relief granted in a previous proceeding. It observed thus:

"If maintenance is awarded to the wife in a previously instituted proceeding, she is under a legal obligation to disclose the same in a subsequent proceeding for maintenance, which may be filed under another enactment. While deciding the quantum of maintenance in the subsequent proceeding, the civil court/family court shall take into account the maintenance awarded in any previously instituted proceeding, and determine the maintenance payable to the claimant..."
"To overcome the issue of overlapping jurisdiction, and avoid conflicting orders being passed in different proceedings, we direct that in a subsequent maintenance proceeding, the applicant shall disclose the previous maintenance proceeding, and the orders passed therein, so that the Court would take into consideration the maintenance already awarded in the previous proceeding, and grant an adjustment or set-off of the said amount. If the order passed in the previous proceeding requires any modification or variation, the party would be required to move the concerned court in the previous proceeding."

Therefore, the affidavit to be filed in maintenance cases should also contain details of Legal Proceedings and Maintenance being paid

Case: RAJNESH vs. NEHA [Cr. A No. 730 OF 2020 ]
Coram: Justices Indu Malhotra and R. Subhash Reddy 

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