Sunday, April 2, 2017

MANISH JAIN V/s.AKANKSHA JAIN

                                            REPORTABLE
                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                       CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4615  OF 2017
                  (Arising out of SLP (C) No.7670 OF 2014)

MANISH JAIN                                         …Appellant

                                   Versus
 AKANKSHA JAIN                                   …Respondent

                                  O R D E R

R. Banumathi, J.

Leave granted.

2.    The present appeal has been filed  by  the  appellant-husband  against
the order dated 21.02.2014 passed by the High Court of Delhi  at  New  Delhi
in C.M.(M) No.910 of 2010.  In the  said  judgment,  the  High  Court  while
setting aside the order dated 15.03.2010 passed by the  Additional  District
Judge-II (West),  Tis  Hazari,  Delhi  who  declined  to  award  maintenance
pendente lite to the respondent-wife under Section 24 of the Hindu  Marriage
Act, 1955 has granted interim maintenance  to  the  respondent-wife  at  the
rate of Rs.60,000/- per month to be paid  by  the  appellant-husband  Manish
Jain with effect from 1st  February,  2012  till  the  disposal  of  divorce
petition.  The said amount was fixed in addition to  Rs.10,000/-  which  the
appellant-husband has already been paying by way of interim  maintenance  as
per the order passed in Criminal Appeal No.65 of 2008  under  Section  23(2)
of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 [for short  ‘the
D.V. Act’].

3.    This is a case of marital  discord  which  has  a  chequered  history.
Brief facts leading to this appeal by way of special leave  are  as  under:-
Both the appellant and the respondent got married  on  16.02.2005  and  they
were living at V-38, Green  Park,  New  Delhi.  The  couple  shifted  to  an
accommodation at 303, SFS Apartment, Hauz Khas, New Delhi on 15.04.2007.  In
or about July, 2007 relationship  between  the  parties  got  strained.   In
September,  2007  the  appellant-husband  filed  a  divorce   petition   HMA
No.553/2007 under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955  [for  short  ‘the  HM  Act’]
seeking divorce on the grounds of cruelty.

4.    In November, 2007 the respondent-wife filed a petition under the  D.V.
Act along with interim relief i.e., maintenance. She also filed a  complaint
on 23.11.2007 under Section 498-A and Section 406 IPC with  CAW  Cell,  Amar
Colony, Nanakpura, New Delhi against the appellant-husband  and  his  family
members which was later on registered as FIR bearing No.190 of 2008,  Police
Station, Friends  Colony,  New  Delhi  on  04.03.2008.  In  December,  2007,
respondent filed yet another Complaint Case No.381  of  2008  under  Section
125 Cr.P.C. before the Mahila Court, Patiala House, New Delhi.  Her  interim
application seeking maintenance amongst other reliefs  under  Section  23(2)
of the D.V. Act  was  dismissed  by  the  Metropolitan  Magistrate,  Patiala
House,  New  Delhi  by  order  dated  23.04.2008  on  the  ground  that  the
respondent was employed  and  was  getting  a  stable  income  and  that  no
document was placed on record by the respondent to show that respondent  had
again become jobless as  the  publication  of  the  Magazine  FNL  had  been
stopped.  Against  the  dismissal  of  application  for   maintenance,   the
respondent had filed appeal before Additional Sessions Judge, Patiala  House
in Criminal Appeal No.65 of 2008.   In  the  said  appeal  and  in  Criminal
Revision No.66 of 2008, Additional  Sessions  Judge,  Patiala  House  by  an
order dated 01.09.2009 granted maintenance of Rs.10,000/- per month  to  the
respondent-wife.

      5.    The appellant-husband filed an  application  under  Section  438
Cr.P.C. on 22.04.2008 for grant  of  bail  in  anticipation  of  his  likely
arrest. The High Court granted anticipatory bail  to  the  appellant-husband
subject to return of Toyota Corolla  and  dowry/jewellery  articles  to  the
respondent-wife within a week from the date of order till the next  date  of
hearing which is said to have been complied with.   Order  was  also  passed
directing the respondent to deposit Rs.12,00,000/-  towards  alleged  return
of dowry articles.

      6.    The respondent-wife filed application under Section  24  of  the
HM Act claiming interim  maintenance  pendente  lite  of  Rs.4,00,000/-  per
month and also a sum of Rs.80,000/- to meet litigation expenses  during  the
pendency of the divorce petition.  In the said application, the  respondent-
wife pleaded that she was having no source of  income  to  maintain  herself
and that she is  dependent  upon  others  for  her  day  to  day  needs  and
requirements. The said application was  resisted  by  the  appellant-husband
contending that the respondent-wife is an educated lady  and  that  she  had
completed her one year course of  Fashion  Designing  from  J.D.  Institute,
Hauz Khas, New Delhi and that she is capable of earning  monthly  salary  of
Rs.50,000/. The application filed  under  Section  24  of  the  HM  Act  was
dismissed by Additional District Judge-II, Tis Hazari, Delhi by order  dated
15.03.2010. Being aggrieved, the respondent-wife filed  Crl.  M.A.  No.17724
of 2012 before the High Court, Delhi. The High  Court  in  its  order  dated
08.11.2011 in C.M.(M) No.910 of 2010 filed by the  wife  against  the  order
dated 15.03.2010 directed both the parties to file an  affidavit  truthfully
disclosing their correct income.  Both the husband and  the  wife  filed  an
affidavit as to their income in compliance of the aforesaid order. After  so
directing the parties to file affidavit regarding  their  income  and  after
referring to the income of appellant-husband and the  properties  which  the
appellant and his family are owning and also the standard of living  of  the
respondent-wife which she is required to maintain, the  High  Court  by  the
impugned order directed the appellant-husband to pay interim maintenance  of
Rs.60,000/- per month in addition to Rs.10,000/- which was  directed  to  be
paid to the respondent-wife in the proceedings under the D.V. Act.

7.    Aggrieved by the order of the High Court, the  appellant-husband  came
in  appeal  before  this  Court  by  way  of  special  leave.  After  giving
opportunity to the  parties  to  work  out  a  settlement  which  ultimately
failed, the same  was  dismissed  on  15.04.2014.  Being  aggrieved  by  the
dismissal of the above petition, a review petition was filed  on  13.05.2014
in which notice was issued by this Court on  06.08.2014  and  on  03.02.2016
the same was allowed and the Special Leave  Petition  was  restored  to  its
original number which is the subject matter before us.

8.     Learned  counsel  for  the  appellant-husband  submitted   that   the
respondent-wife has concealed  her  employment  and  independent  source  of
income on several occasions throughout the  matrimonial  proceedings  before
the courts below and also that the High Court has committed  a  grave  error
in interfering with  the  well-reasoned  order  of  the  trial  Court  under
Section 24 of the HM Act. The  learned  counsel  for  the  appellant-husband
submitted that the trial court after analyzing the evidence  that  the  wife
was educated, professionally qualified  in  the  Fashion  industry  and  had
sufficient independent income rejected the application of the  wife  seeking
maintenance under Section 24 of the HM Act.  It was submitted that the  High
Court without proper appreciation of the income of the parties  had  wrongly
set aside the order of the trial Court  and  fixed  an  abnormal  amount  of
Rs.60,000/- as maintenance to the respondent-wife under Section  24  of  the
Hindu Marriage Act. Learned  counsel  further  submitted  that  in  Criminal
Appeal No.65 of 2008 under Section 23(2) of the  D.V.  Act,  the  appellant-
husband is paying an interim maintenance of Rs.10,000/-  per  month  to  the
respondent-wife and the appellant-husband has so far made  a  total  payment
of Rs.7,50,000/- in the proceedings under D.V. Act, apart from  returning  a
Toyota  Corolla  car  worth  Rs.13,00,000/-  besides  depositing  a  sum  of
Rs.12,00,000/- and a sum of Rs.2,75,000/- towards  untraced  admitted  dowry
articles in compliance with the order passed by the Court.  It  was  further
submitted that the  appellant-husband’s  firms/companies  have  been  either
shut down due to heavy loss and/or under the stage of  winding  up  and  the
appellant-husband is not in a position  to  pay  the  exorbitant  amount  of
Rs.60,000/- per month as maintenance pendente lite to the respondent-wife.

9.    Learned counsel for the respondent-wife at the outset  submitted  that
the principle of providing maintenance is to ensure  the  living  conditions
of respondent-wife similar to  that  of  appellant-husband  whereas  in  the
present case the respondent-wife is yet to receive any money.

10.   We  have  heard  the  matter  at  considerable  length.   Parties  are
entangled in several rounds of litigation  making  allegations  and  counter
allegations against each  other.   Since  various  proceedings  are  pending
between the parties, we are not inclined to go into the merits of the  rival
contentions  advanced  by  the  parties.  The  only  question  falling   for
consideration is whether the  respondent-wife  is  entitled  to  maintenance
pendente lite and whether the amount of  Rs.60,000/-  awarded  by  the  High
Court is on the higher side.

11.   The Court exercises a  wide  discretion  in  the  matter  of  granting
alimony pendente lite but the discretion is judicial and  neither  arbitrary
nor capricious.  It is to be guided, on sound principles of matrimonial  law
and to be exercised within the ambit  of  the  provisions  of  the  Act  and
having regard to the object of the  Act.   The  Court  would  not  be  in  a
position to judge the merits of the rival contentions of  the  parties  when
deciding an  application  for  interim  alimony  and  would  not  allow  its
discretion to be fettered by the nature of the allegations made by them  and
would not examine the merits of the case.  Section 24 of  the  HM  Act  lays
down that in arriving at the quantum of interim maintenance to  be  paid  by
one spouse to another, the Court must have regard  to  the  appellant’s  own
income and the income of the respondent.

12.   At the time of filing application under Section 24 of the  HM  Act  in
December, 2007, the respondent-wife was  doing  her  internship  in  fashion
designing in J.D. Institute of Fashion Technology  and  just  completed  the
course and was not employed at that time.  Only in the month of  May,  2008,
she became a trainee and joined FNL  Magazine  of  Images  Group  as  Junior
Fashion Stylist and was earning an approximate/stipend income of Rs.21,315/-
 per month and due to recession, the same is said to have  been  reduced  to
Rs.16,315/- for three months that is July, August and September in the  year
2009. It is stated that thereafter the respondent-wife  has  become  jobless
and associated with Cosmopolitan Magazine and according to  the  respondent-
wife, she was working as a Stylist and is paid nominal amount of  Rs.4,500/-
per shoot and the said amount is inclusive of expenses like travelling  etc.
 On a perusal of the judgment of the High Court and also  the  affidavit  of
the respondent-wife, it is clear that the respondent-wife has  no  permanent
source of employment and no permanent source of income.

13.   Appellant-husband is stated to be  a  partner  in  the  firms  of  his
family business. It is  also  stated  that  the  appellant-husband  and  his
family  own  several  valuable  properties  and  has  flourishing  business.
Insofar as the properties/income of appellant-husband, the  High  Court  has
made the following observations:-
“38. From the pleading of the respondent before other Courts,  it  has  come
on record that the respondent’s family is having successful and  flourishing
business of electrical and non-ferrous metals for the last 22  years.   They
are successful in their  business.   His  mother  belongs  to  a  family  of
journalists and lawyers….

39. From the material placed on record by the  petitioner,  prima  facie  it
appears to the Court that even the respondent has not made  full  disclosure
about his income and correct status of the family in  the  affidavits  filed
by him.  The statements made by him are contrary to the  statement  made  in
the bail application.  Prima  facie,  it  appears  to  the  Court  that  the
respondent is hiding his income by trying  to  show  himself  as  a  pauper,
however, the documents placed on record  speak  differently.   At  the  same
time the family members have a  reasonably  flourishing  business  and  many
properties as admitted by him.  It has now become a matter of  routine  that
as and when an application  for  maintenance  is  filed,  the  non-applicant
becomes poor displaying that he is not residing with the family  members  if
they have a good business and movable and immovable properties in  order  to
avoid payment of  maintenance.   Courts  cannot  under  these  circumstances
close their eyes when tricks are being played in a clever manner.”



14.   Section 24 of the HM Act empowers the Court in  any  proceeding  under
the Act, if it appears to the Court that either the wife or the husband,  as
the case may be, has  no  independent  income  sufficient  for  her  or  his
support and the necessary  expenses  of  the  proceeding,  it  may,  on  the
application of any one  of  them  order  the  other  party  to  pay  to  the
petitioner the expenses of the proceeding and  monthly  maintenance  as  may
seem to be reasonable during the  proceeding,  having  regard  to  also  the
income of both the applicant and the respondent.  Heading of Section  24  of
the Act is “Maintenance pendente lite and  expenses  of  proceedings”.   The
Section, however,  does  not  use  the  word  “maintenance”;  but  the  word
“support” can be interpreted to mean as Section 24 is  intended  to  provide
for maintenance pendente lite.

15.    An  order  for  maintenance  pendente  lite  or  for  costs  of   the
proceedings is conditional on the circumstance that the wife or husband  who
makes a claim for the same has no independent income sufficient for  her  or
his support or to meet the necessary expenses of the proceeding.  It  is  no
answer to a claim of  maintenance  that  the  wife  is  educated  and  could
support herself.  Likewise, the financial position of the wife’s parents  is
also immaterial. The Court must take into consideration the  status  of  the
parties and the capacity of the spouse to pay maintenance  and  whether  the
applicant has any independent income sufficient  for  her  or  his  support.
Maintenance is always dependent upon factual situation;  the  Court  should,
therefore, mould the claim for maintenance determining the quantum based  on
various factors brought before the Court.

16.   In the present case, at the  time  of  claiming  maintenance  pendente
lite  when  the  respondent-wife  had  no  sufficient  income   capable   of
supporting herself, the High Court was justified  in  ordering  maintenance.
However, in our view, the maintenance amount of Rs.60,000/- ordered  by  the
High Court (in addition to Rs.10,000/- paid under  the  proceedings  of  the
D.V. Act) appears to be on the higher side and in the interest  of  justice,
the same is reduced to Rs.25,000/- per month. The maintenance pendente  lite
of Rs.25,000/- is to be  paid  to  the  respondent-wife  by  the  appellant-
husband (in addition to Rs.10,000/- paid under the proceedings of  the  D.V.
Act).

17.   The order impugned herein is set aside and the appeal is allowed.  The
amount of Rs.60,000/- awarded as maintenance pendente  lite  is  reduced  to
Rs.25,000/- per month which is in addition to  Rs.10,000/-  paid  under  the
proceedings of the D.V. Act.  The appellant-husband is directed to  pay  the
arrears w.e.f. 01.02.2012 till the disposal of the divorce petition,  within
four  weeks  from  today.   The  appellant-husband  shall  continue  to  pay
Rs.25,000/- per month in addition to Rs.10,000/- paid under the  proceedings
of the D.V. Act on or before 10th of every English calendar month  till  the
disposal of the divorce petition.  If  the  appellant-husband  has  paid  or
deposited any amount of maintenance pursuant to the order of the High  Court
dated 21.02.2014, the same shall be set-off against the arrears to  be  paid
by the appellant-husband.  The respondent-wife is  at  liberty  to  withdraw
the amount, if any, deposited  by  the  appellant-husband  pursuant  to  the
order dated 21.02.2014.  We make it clear that we  have  not  expressed  any
opinion on the merits of the matter.  In  case  the  appellant-husband  does
not comply with the order, as above, including for payment  of  arrears,  he
would be visited with all consequences  including  action  for  contempt  of
Court.



                                                             ...……………………….J.
                                              [KURIAN JOSEPH]


                                                              .………………………..J.
                                              [R. BANUMATHI]
New Delhi;
March 30, 2017

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