An estranged wife will be entitled to receive alimony maintenance from the date on which she applies to a court of law for grant of the same, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
A bench of Justices Indu Malhotra and R Subhash Reddy, concluding that there is no uniform law on the matter, said “In the practical working of the provisions relating to maintenance, we find that there is significant delay in disposal of the applications for interim maintenance for years on end. It would therefore be in the interests of justice and fair play that maintenance is awarded from the date of the application.”
The court found that there is no provision in the Hindu Marriage Act with respect to the date from which an order of maintenance may be made effective. “Similarly, Section 12 of the Domestic Violence Act, does not provide the date from which the maintenance is to be awarded,” it said and added that the “Section 125(2) Cr.P.C. is the only statutory provision which provides that the Magistrate may award maintenance either from the date of the order, or from the date of application”.
“In the absence of a uniform regime, there is a vast variance in the practice adopted by the Family Courts in the country, with respect to the date from which maintenance must be awarded. The divergent views taken by the Family Courts are: first, from the date on which the application for maintenance was filed; second, the date of the order granting maintenance; third, the date on which the summons was served upon the respondent,” the order pointed out.
“Even though a judicial discretion is conferred upon the Court to grant maintenance either from the date of application or from the date of the order in S. 125(2) Cr.P.C., it would be appropriate to grant maintenance from the date of application in all cases, including Section 125 Cr.P.C,” the court said.
“The rationale of granting maintenance from the date of application”, the bench said, “finds its roots in the object of enacting maintenance legislations, so as to enable the wife to overcome the financial crunch which occurs on separation from the husband.”
“Financial constraints of a dependant spouse hampers their capacity to be effectively represented before the Court. In order to prevent a dependant from being reduced to destitution, it is necessary that maintenance is awarded from the date on which the application for maintenance is filed before the concerned Court,” it said.
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