“Supreme Court Conveys Astonishment Over High Court’s Decision to Decrease Wife’s Maintenance to Just Rs.1,000 Per Month”


In a recent development, a Division Bench of the Supreme Court expressed profound astonishment while hearing an appeal, as it scrutinized a judgment from the Jharkhand High Court. The High Court decision had significantly reduced the maintenance amount originally awarded by the Trial Court, slashing it from Rs. 5,000 per month to a mere Rs. 1,000 per month. The Supreme Court unequivocally stated that it found no reasonable justification for such a drastic reduction in the maintenance amount.

Justices Vikram Nath and Ahsanuddin Amanullah remarked, “It is shocking that the maintenance amount has been so drastically reduced to a petty amount of Rs. 1,000/- (Rupees One Thousand) per month for a lady to maintain herself.”

In response to this disconcerting situation, the Supreme Court set aside the impugned order and reinstated the Trial Court’s decision, which had originally awarded Rs. 5,000 per month as maintenance under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

Briefly, the background of the case involved the husband (respondent) filing a criminal revision before the High Court against the Principal Judge, Family Court, Girigih’s order, which had granted ex-parte maintenance of Rs. 5,000 per month to the wife (petitioner).

The husband argued that the order had been passed without serving him notice and without affording him an opportunity to be heard. He also claimed to be a financially challenged priest in a village temple who earned his livelihood through part-time tuition. Consequently, he asserted that he could not afford to pay Rs. 5,000 per month. Conversely, the petitioner contended that the order was not passed in ignorance of the respondent, as both parties had participated in mediation proceedings. Subsequently, she had to leave her matrimonial home due to cruelty.

The High Court, after considering these arguments, arrived at the decision to substantially reduce the maintenance amount. It questioned the assessment of the husband’s income, which had been pegged at Rs. 25,000 per month from priesthood and tuition, along with an additional income of Rs. 5 lakh per annum from agriculture. The High Court found these income estimates to be highly unrealistic, particularly in the semi-urban area where the husband resided. It suggested that a fair estimate of his income should not exceed Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 7,000 per month.

In justifying its decision, the High Court relied on the precedent set in the case of Rajnesh v. Neha (2021) 2 SCC 324, emphasizing the need to consider the parties’ status and their capacity to provide support when determining maintenance. It emphasized that maintenance assessments should be based on factual circumstances and should take into account various factors presented to the Court.

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