Sunday, August 10, 2014

End alimony delays: Madras high court

The Madras high court has asked family courts to think out of the box and invoke their inherent powers to curb the practice of husbands denying or delaying payment of alimony to their wives in matrimonial cases. "The Family Courts Act is a most flexible legislation, enabling family court judges to invoke novel and creative ideas, so as to dispose of cases quickly and effectively. Still, it is not being done," the court said.

Passing orders on a petition filed by Anita, who said her husband Mahaveer Sancheti had defaulted on payment of monthly alimony of 10,000 since 2011, Justice S Vimala said in an order on Tuesday that courts should not do three things while handling such cases. One: They could not remain a mute spectators, merely recording the fact that maintenance amount had not been given. Two: They could not ask the wife to file a new execution petition, as it would give the husband some more opportunity to drag proceedings. Three: They should not grant innumerable adjournments, so that the wife is unable to realise the maintenance amount.

Instead, family courts should invoke Section 151 of the Civil Procedure Code and tap their inherent powers to deal with the matter, she said. At times courts should do things not expressly stated in law, she said, adding: "Even though there are no provisions enabling the court to strike out pleadings/defence, in case of non-payment of maintenance/non-obedience to orders, court can invoke powers under Section 151 of the Civil Procedure Code and strike out pleadings."

The judge also pulled up a family court for having simply adjourned an alimony case several times, though the woman had told the court that her husband had not paid the monthly maintenance for nearly three years. "When an application has been filed by Anita, the family court should have acted in a sensible manner and passed an order immediately. The silence on the part of the family court has made the wife approach the high court, seeking a direction to dispose of the application," the judge said.

Pointing out that notices served to the husband had been returned with a note, 'addressee not present', Justice Vimala said it was clear that the intention was to delay the proceedings endlessly. She then directed the family court concerned to dispose of the petition relating to non-payment of alimony within a week, and pass final orders on the main matrimonial case itself thereafter.

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