The Supreme Court on Thursday directed a man to support his son financially not only till he turned 18 but till the time he completed his graduation, which is considered as “basic education”.
The bench comprising Justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and MR Shah ordered the man to pay for his son’s education till March 31, 2027, to ensure he has the necessary financial support to complete his graduation.
While modifying an order of the family court, the bench said,
Paying only till he turns 18 will not be sufficient in present times when the first basic degree comes only after one completes his college. You (the man) should pay for his education, at least till he gets his first formal degree from a college.
The couple was married in 1999 and a boy child was born in March 2004.
The man who is an employee in Karnataka government’s health department, got separated from his first wife after their divorce in June 2005, following which the family court in Karnataka’s Bagalkot fixed the maintenance for the child at Rs 20,000 per month.
In September 2017, the family court, had directed the man to pay Rs 20,000 per month towards the maintenance of his son from his first marriage till he turned 18 (until 2022).
The man appealed in the high court, which upheld the maintenance order in December 2019.
The man then moved the apex court, contending his net take home salary was a little over Rs 21,000 and since he had married again and had two children, paying Rs 20,000 to his son from the first marriage will leave him with virtually nothing to maintain his new family.
Arguments By Father
Advocate Chinmay Deshpande, appearing for the man, further pointed out that the couple had separated because the woman was in an adulterous relationship. But the bench was quick to shoot down this submission and said,
You cannot punish the child for this. What does the child have to do all this? And when you married again, you must have known you already have a child that you need to support.
Submission By Mother
Representing the child and his mother, advocate Gaurav Agrawal said that it would be more appropriate if the father were directed to pay a lesser sum every month, but not only till the son turned 18; instead, till he completed his graduation.
The bench called this suggestion “fair”, noting such an order would ensure the necessary financial support for the son to enable him complete his first degree course. It, therefore, reduced the monthly maintenance for the child to Rs 10,000 every month, starting March 1, 2021, while further directing the father to enhance the monthly allowance by Rs 1,000 at the start of every subsequent financial year.
The court ordered that this amount shall be paid for a period of six years or until the child completed his degree course. It also held that Rs 6.64 lakh, which has already been paid by the father, shall be treated as full and final settlement of allowance till date.
- Children of warring or separated parents get most affected when the estranged couple prefers to pamper their ego over the welfare of their child
- As per current rules, a boy child is entitled to maintenance by father until he attains majority (18-years), whereas, a girl child is eligible for maintenance from father until she gets married
- The current set of rules itself are discriminatory as one cannot expect either genders to support themselves financially immediately upon turning 18
- Having said so, conduct of custodial parent also has a huge effect in shaping the future of the child
- If the custodial parent (often mother) fails to maintain contact between the child and the father, or uses the child as a tool to gain more maintenance from husband, it is but natural that Men too, lose emotional connect with their biological children over the years
- Why should only fathers be responsible to maintain children financially? The onus must equally lie on mothers, especially when they go to every extent to retain sole custody of children
- How fair is it for Men to be turned into ATMs, who can be dragged to court only to cough up payments for children – those children who have not even communicated or spoken to their fathers for years
- In our opinion, it must be the duty of each parent to provide basic education to their children irrespective of their personal differences, however, pretext of children should also not be misused to legally extort endless payments from father, even if he can afford
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