According to a Supreme Court ruling, a husband cannot abdicate the responsibility of paying maintenance to his estranged wife after divorce. The court gave the man one last opportunity to clear an outstanding amount of Rs. 2.6 crore. If the main fails to pay the mentioned sum, he will be imprisoned.
The bench of Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, Justices AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian told the man: “Husband cannot abdicate from his responsibility to provide maintenance to his wife and it is his duty to provide the maintenance. In case the amount is not paid, orders of arrest and imprisonment may be passed against the respondent on that date”.
The bench gave the man 4 weeks to pay out the entire outstanding along with the monthly maintenance regularly. “Failing which, the respondent may have to be punished and sent to the civil prison,” added the bench.
The Supreme Court gave its ruling in the case of a husband, who claims to be working on a project of national security in the telecom sector. The man was ordered to pay his wife monthly maintenance of Rs. 1.75 lakh and other past arrears of the same maintenance amount from 2009 which amounted to Rs. 2.60 crore. Off this 2.60 crore, a sum of Rs. 50,00,000 has already been paid.
The Supreme Court bench lost its faith in the man as he had repeatedly failed to follow the apex court’s order. The bench also remarked how a person with that kind of credibility is associated with a national security project.
During the hearing, the man appeared before the court of law through video conferencing. He claimed that all of his financial resources are depleted as he has put it in research and development in the above-mentioned project related to the telecom sector.
Senior advocate Basava Prabhu appeared for the grieved wife and said that despite the court’s ruling that stated that the husband should pay the monthly maintenance and the arrears, the husband has failed to do so and has been living a lavish lifestyle.
Basava also said that the husband has enough money to himself and accused the man to be siphoning off his funds that are invested in a Germany-based company. When the husband reaffirmed the notion of him working on a national security project, the bench asked how a person with that kind of case is involved in a project of national security.
The Supreme Court bench for this case also said that it may order a separate investigation against the husband and the consequences of such an investigation will be disasterous. The bench said that it is better if he makes the payment which was committed to the wife in 2018 in the next 2-3 weeks.
The accused husband also went on to claim that his wife is using her influence and contacts to tarnish his image. To this argument, the bench said that it is not influenced by the media and it is going straight by the facts of the case. “The facts, in this case, suggest that you have not complied with our orders. You have lost your credibility. You pay the money in one week or go to jail,” said the bench.
Rohit Sharma, who represented the husband, said that it won’t be in the court’s best interest if the man is sent to jail and even the wife will receive no maintenance in such a case. To this argument, the bench told Sharma that it would serve in the interest of justice.
At the request of the husband’s counsel Rohit Sharma, the bench gave the husband 4 weeks to pay the outstanding amount. The bench asked the husband to take a bank loan or borrow some money to pay the maintenance and arrears to his wife within one week to avoid imprisonment.
The case dates back to 2009 when the aggrieved wife filed a case against her husband under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act in the Chennai metropolitan magistrate court.
The court had then instructed the man to pay a sum of Rs. 2 crore as maintenance to his wife, Rs. 50 lakhs for compensation for deserting her for 12 years, Rs. 50 lakh for being in an extramarital affair, Rs. 50 lakhs, for deserting his wife to face the court cases alone, Rs. 50 lakh for forcing her to take another job in a media company, Rs. 50 lakh for mental torture and agony he caused his wife for openly living with another woman, and Rs. 50 lakh for not paying equal rent of their shared household.
The husband filed an appeal against the order on which the Sessions court instructed him to pay a sum of Rs. 1 lakh/month towards maintenance from the date of petition filing that was January 6, 2009, and Rs. 75,000 per month for accommodation from the previously mentioned date.
The Chennai High Court upheld the order of the Sessions Court after which the man filed an appeal in the Supreme Court. The appeal was dismissed by the apex court on October 26, 2017. The husband was directed to pay the maintenance and arrears within six months.
The wife filed another review petition in 2018 and the husband was instructed to clear his arrears of maintenance by the 10th of every month.
A review petition was filed in 2018 by the wife and the husband was directed to clear the arrears of maintenance ₹ 1.75 lakh by the 10th day of every month. However, the man failed to do so which lead to the Supreme Court giving a harsh statement in February 2020.