The Delhi High Court in its recent order held that it is the obligation of a father to maintain his son under Section 125 of CrPC even when the son attains the age of majority. The high court reasoned this order citing that the entire burden of his education including other expenses would fall entirely upon the mother.
The petitioner No.1 (wife) got married to the respondent (husband) in 1997. A son and daughter were born to the couple in the year 2000 and 2002 respectively. Soon, disputes arose between the parties and the wife filed a petition under Section 125 Cr.P.C for grant of maintenance. Subsequently, the husband filed a suit for divorce. Both the husband and wife are employed in government service.
During the pendency of the divorce petition, the wife also filed another petition under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 seeking maintenance. The Family Court declined maintenance to the wife, however, granted maintenance of Rs 7,000 per month to the two children which was later enhanced to Rs 13,000 per month. This Court vide order dated March 2015, directed the father to pay maintenance of Rs 15,000 each to the children.
In the interim, a decree of divorce was granted in November 2011 and the husband remarried again. He also has a child from second marriage. The estranged wife challenged the decree of divorce, which was pending before the High Court.
Arguments on Individual Income & Expense
According to the affidavit filed by the wife in 2016, it was stated that her monthly income was Rs 43, 792, however, her monthly expenditure was Rs 75,000. On the other hand, the affidavit filed by the husband showed that he earned a gross salary of Rs 96,089 per month.
After an application for grant of interim maintenance claiming a sum of Rs 40,000 was moved by the wife in Family Court, the Court had concluded that since the wife was earning sufficiently for herself, she was not entitled to any maintenance. The Court also apportioned the income of the husband into 4 shares, out of which two shares have been given to the husband himself and one share each i.e. 25% was given to the two children.
Delhi High Court
The Court was hearing a revision petition against the order dated April 2018 passed by the Additional Principal Judge, Family Court declining maintenance to the wife and granting the same only to the two children.
Noting that both the husband and wife were government employees working as Upper Divisional Clerk in Delhi Municipal Corporation and Joint General Manager (HR) with the Airports Authority of India respectively.
A single judge bench comprising of Justice Subramonium Prasad directed the father to pay a sum of Rs 15,000 per month as interim maintenance to the mother from the date of the son attaining majority till completion of his graduation or starts earning, whichever is earlier.The Court observed:
It cannot be said that the obligation of a father would come to an end when his son reaches 18 years of age and the entire burden of his education and other expenses would fall only on the mother. The amount earned by the mother has to be spent on her and on her children without any contribution by the father because the son has attained majority.
Adding further, the court remarked,
The Court cannot shut its eyes to the rising cost of living. It is not reasonable to expect that the mother alone would bear the entire burden for herself and for the son with the small amount of maintenance given by the respondent herein towards the maintenance of his daughter.
The Court also said that the son of the parties would be entitled for maintenance till he completes his graduation or starts earning whichever is earlier and the daughter would be entitled for the maintenance till she gets employment or gets married whichever is earlier.
Section 125 Cr.P.C
Analysing the aforesaid order by the Family Court, the Court was of the view that the object of Section 125 Cr.P.C is to prevent vagrancy and destitution of a deserted wife by providing her for the food, clothing and shelter by a speedy remedy. The court said,
Since the purpose of granting interim maintenance is to ensure that the wife and the children are not put to starvation, the Courts while fixing interim maintenance are not expected to dwell into minute and excruciating details and facts which have to be proved by the parties.
The balance has to be taken care of by the wife i.e. the petitioner No.1 herein, who is also earning and is equally responsible for the child. The respondent has married again and has a child from the second marriage. This Court cannot shut its eyes to the fact that the respondent has equal responsibility towards the child from the second marriage. The further reduction of the amount after the birth of the child from the second marriage of the respondent also cannot be found fault with and the reasoning given by the Family Court does not warrant any interference at this juncture.
However, the Court also said that the Family Court had failed to appreciate the fact that since no contribution is being made by the husband towards the son, the salary earned by wife would not be sufficient for her to maintain herself. The court added,
This Court cannot shut its eyes to the fact that at the age of 18 the education of petitioner No.2 is not yet over and the petitioner No.2 cannot sustain himself. The petitioner No.2 would have barely passed his 12th Standard on completing 18 years of age and therefore the petitioner No.1 has to look after the petitioner No.2 and bear his entire expenses.
In view of this, the Court directed thus:
“The amount earned by the petitioner No.1 will not be sufficient for the family of three, i.e. the mother and two children to sustain themselves. The amount spent on the petitioner No.2 will not be available for the petitioner No.1. This Court is therefore inclined to grant a sum of Rs.15,000/- per month as interim maintenance to the petitioner No.1 from the date of petitioner No.2 attaining the age of majority till he completes his graduation or starts earning whichever is earlier.
MDO Take in General:
- Maintenance of children must be completely separate from the maintenance awarded to estranged wives
- Family Court & Delhi High Court have rightly rejected any amount to a fully-abled working woman in the above case
- Obligation to maintain children should not be only in financial terms
- While our laws make Fathers legally responsible to maintain children, there is no provision of ensuring equal access, equal say and equal time to be spent with children, eventhough primary custody is given to mothers
- Most often, separated fathers are not allowed to even speak with their own children, have no clue which university they have taken admission, however, are still made to pay
- Most children too, have complete disregard towards fathers since they are completely brainwashed by custodial parents with their one-sided story. In such cases, they too become a party to the maintenance petition believing it is their right to demand money even if they choose to keep no contact
- MDO is not suggesting that fathers should be allowed to wash off their hands from any responsibility, however, they must also enjoy fair and equal rights of being a parent and not be reduced to a mere ATM
- Separation between a couple is not due to any one spouse’s fault, however, many women continue with their grudge for life – penalising Men by keeping them away from the love of children