In a judgment that will change the way a wife is compelled to gather information about her estranged husband’s assets & income before seeking maintenance, the Punjab & Haryana HC on Monday directed Family Courts across Punjab, Haryana & Chandigarh to insist on affidavit of assets, income & expenditure.
Once again a highly biased judgement in favour of women comes from the High Court. This time the matter is about ensuring women, irrespective of any other facts, getting complete right to legal extortion from their husbands in the name of ‘Maintenance’.
- The High Court issued nine commandments to be followed in all matrimonial cases, including the ones under the Hindu Marriage Act, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, Criminal Procedure Code, Hindu Adoption & Maintenance Act, Special Marriage Act, Indian Divorce Act, Guardian & Wards Act, & Hindu Minority & Guardianship Act
- Justice Gurvinder Singh Gill made it clear that a deliberate attempt by a party to conceal vital information or mislead the court wouldn’t only invite penal action, but also leave it open to the court to consider drawing an “adverse inference” against the party
- Justice Gill also made it clear that the direction for filing an affidavit could be issued even in pending cases if parties were not forthcoming about the information
- The courts could even consider appointment of a local commissioner for visiting the place of residence or business of a party to assess the standard of living & social status
- The requirement could be dispensed with in case the parties belonged to the “lowest strata of society”, its furnishing could cause unnecessary inconvenience or not serve any fruitful purpose
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The directions came after Justice Gill observed that helpless wives were left collecting documents and evidence on spouse’s financial status for seeking appropriate maintenance. The “modified format of the affidavit was incorporated in judgment dated Dec 6, 2017, in the case of “Kusum Sharma versus Mohinder Kumar Sharma”.
A wife alienated from her husband can seek maintenance under Section 125 of the CrPC. Justice Gill asserted,
Invariably, there is colossal delay in disposal of cases pertaining to maintenance… In a large number of cases, it is noticed that the delay occurs as the hapless wife is left fending for herself, collecting documents & evidence as regards the financial status of her husband so as to seek appropriate maintenance.
In his detailed order, Justice Gill also added that the spouse might not be working on a salaried job, could be self-employed, working in an unorganised sector or running own business, wherein the tendency to conceal correct information to avoid income tax was generally noticed. The wife was also constrained to approach revenue authorities for information on land held by husband, or seek information under the RTI.
Justice Gill further added approaching authorities to procure income tax returns was a “Herculean task”. Forcing a party to collect information in such manner resulted in delays against the spirit of legislation, which provided for 60-day timeframe for disposing of the pleas.
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- At the outset, if the wife is educated and physically fit enough to run pillar to post for hacking or finding out her husband’s income, she is also fit enough to go and find respectable work for herself
- The court is completely turning a blind eye to the woman’s income and asset details that she too invariably conceals, to ensure she can squeeze the maximum free income out of a failed marriage
- Despite men placing evidence of woman’s education, income and property on record, the courts merely fail to recognise the same and purely focus on awarding or shall we say rewarding women tax free life long sums in the name of Maintenance and women empowerment
- Surely, there will be women who are needy, but courts apply same theory for all marriages, be it for a 10-year marriage with children and to the ones which did not even exist for one month
- The judge is also concerned for a ’60-day period’ within which maintenance cases have to be disposed off
- However, why do courts not give stringent judgements where women purposely drag maintenance and enhancement of maintenance cases for years/decades to ensure they can claim amounts on present current incomes of their husbands
- It’s high time, courts stop playing this Gender victimisation card and if they really want to ensure good support for women, they must come up with ‘fixed maintenance term’ after separation, so that some wives do not stand with a begging bowl in courts forever