The Delhi High Court has observed that a spouse who has a reasonable capacity to earn but chooses to remain unemployed and idle without sufficient explanation should not be permitted to saddle the other partner with the one-sided responsibility of meeting expenses by providing maintenance.
The high court made the observation while reducing the amount of monthly maintenance from Rs 30,000 to Rs 21,000 to be paid by a man to his estranged wife under the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA).
It said the woman claimed to have no independent source of income but has a reasonable educational background being a graduate from Delhi University.
“She appears to have voluntarily undertaken social work as claimed despite there being no impediment to undertaking meaningful employment.
“The spouse having a reasonable capacity of earning but who chooses to remain unemployed and idle without any sufficient explanation or indicating sincere efforts to gain employment should not be permitted to saddle the other party with one-sided responsibility of meeting out the expenses,” a bench of justices V Kameswar Rao and Anoop Kumar Mendiratta said.
The bench said the maintenance does not have to be provided with mathematical precision but to give relief to the spouse who is unable to maintain and support during the pendency of proceedings and to ensure that the party should not suffer due to paucity of source of income.
It said the provision for maintenance under the HMA is gender neutral and sections 24 and 25 of the Act provide for the rights, liabilities and obligations arising from marriage between the parties.
The high court was hearing an appeal by the man challenging a trial court’s order directing him to pay Rs 30,000 monthly maintenance to his estranged wife and litigation expenses of Rs 51,000.
He said earlier the trial court had asked him to pay Rs 21,000 monthly to the woman but it was later enhanced to Rs 30,000 without any change in circumstances.
The man said he was getting Rs 47,000 in-hand salary and had to support his family and it would not be possible for him to pay Rs 30,000 per month.
The man claimed that the woman was working in a hospital here and was earning Rs 25,000 monthly.
The woman, however, said she was merely working as a social worker and was not drawing any salary from the hospital.
The couple got married in 2018 but the woman returned to her parental home in July 2020 owing to differences between them.
The high court noted that the net salary received by the man after deductions and recoveries is Rs 56,492 and there was nothing on record to infer that deductions as per the pay slip had been initiated by him only after the commencement of litigation between the parties to escape maintenance.
“In the facts and circumstances, while considering the quantum of maintenance, the liabilities of the appellant (man) along with his duties towards other family members cannot be ignored,” it said.
The high court said maintenance of Rs 21,000 per month to the woman till disposal of the petition before the trial court would be reasonable and it shall be paid along with litigation expenses or arrears in terms of the family court’s order.
Considering the inflation and rising prices, the maintenance during the pendency of divorce proceedings shall be enhanced by Rs 1,500 per month for each succeeding year till the disposal of the plea, it said.