ALIMONY - QUANTUM THEREOF

 

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CIVIL APPEAL NOs.  5831-5833 OF 2011 

(Arising out of SLP (C) Nos. 20518-20520 of 2009 

Vinny Parmvir Parmar                                   .... Appellant (s)

Versus

Parmvir Parmar                                          .... Respondent(s) 

J U D G M E N T

P. Sathasivam, J. 

1)        Leave granted.

2)        These   appeals   are   filed   against   the   final   order   dated 24.04.2009   passed   by   the   High   Court   of   Bombay   in   Family Court Appeal Nos. 110 of 2004 and 127 of 2004 and the order dated 17.07.2009 in Review Petition Stamp No. 15671 of 2009 whereby the appellant's appeal was dismissed in entirety and the petition filed by the respondent in Family Court for divorce  on   ground   of   cruelty   was   converted   into   divorce   by   mutual consent   and   the   marriage   was   dissolved   by   a   decree   under  Section   13-B   of   the   Hindu   Marriage   Act,   1955   (hereinafter referred to as "the Act"). 

3)    Since   the   parties   have   dissolved   their   marriage   by consent   and   a   fresh   decree   of   divorce   by   consent   has   been directed, the other question adjudicated before the High Court was about the amount of maintenance/permanent alimony in  terms   of   Section   25   of   the   Act.     By   the   impugned   order,   the High   Court   confirmed   the   order   passed   by   the   Family   Court fixing   the   amount   of   permanent   alimony   at   Rs.   20,000/- per month.     While   disposing   of   the   appeals,   as   an   alternative measure, the High Court also fixed the amount of permanent  alimony at Rs. 20   lakhs   in   lump   sum   to   be   paid   by   the husband to his wife within a period of 3 months from the date  of the order.  Being not satisfied with the maintenance fixed at Rs. 20,000/- per month, the appellant-wife filed these appeals  for   enhancement   by   pointing   out   her   difficulties   and   the income of the respondent. 

4)    Heard   Mr.   Nidish   Gupta,   learned   senior   counsel   for   the appellant-wife and Ms. Indu Malhotra, learned senior counsel or the respondent-husband.

 5)     The  only   point   for   consideration  in   these  appeals   is   what would be the reasonable amount the appellant-wife is entitled by way of maintenance from the husband in terms of Section 25 of the Act. 

6)   Considering the fact that  after the marriage the  appellant herein resigned from the post of Air Hostess in Cathay Pacific Airlines and after dispute between them she was not employed and getting regular income, she was staying with her sister at Mumbai   and   also   taking   note   of   the   financial   status   of   the husband, namely, his salary as a Sr. Commander in Air India and rental income from his properties, the Family Court fixed maintenance   at   Rs.   20,000/-   per   month   which   was   affirmed by the High Court.   While arriving at such amount, the Family Court   has   determined   the   income   of   the   husband   as Rs. 1,40,000/-  per month. Discussion:

 7)    Mr.   Nidish   Gupta, learned senior counsel for the appellant,   by   drawing   our   attention   to   various  factual details placed before the Family Court, High Court and in this Court, submitted that from the salary slips it is seen that even after income   tax   deductions   the   respondent's   income   from   salary and allowances alone for the period 01.04.2009 to 31.03.2010 was   Rs.   83,19,031/-.     In   support   of   the   above   claim,   the appellant   has   produced   TDS   certificate   issued   by   his  employer/the   Income-Tax   Department.     According   to   him, apart from the above salary income, the respondent has rental income   between   Rs.   7,20,000 and Rs. 10,80,000   from   his properties.     He   further   highlighted   that   in   addition   to   the  salary and  the  rental  income, the  respondent has  huge  bank deposits,   investment   in   shares   and   mutual   funds.  He also highlighted   that   the   respondent   being   42 years of age   and   a Sr. Commander in Air India has a promising career with bright  chances of further promotions.    With these facts and figures, Mr.   Nidish   Gupta   prayed   for   intervention   of   this   Court   by fixing reasonable amount towards maintenance and welfare of the appellant.  

8)    In reply to the same, Ms Indu   Malhotra, learned senior counsel   for   the   respondent-husband   submitted   that   the figures furnished by the appellant before the courts below as well as in this Court are exaggerated.  In any event, according to her, the income shown above includes allowance and other  benefits which cannot be construed as actual salary or income

as   claimed.     She   also   pointed   out   that   apart   from   the   salary from Air India he owns 1 acre of land in Pune and 1 Bedroom flat in Mumbai.   All other properties, according to the learned senior counsel, belong to his father and he is not entitled for anything from it at this moment.  She further highlighted that at   present   respondent-husband   has   married   and   having   a child   apart   from   taking   care   of   his   parents.     She   finally submitted that the amount determined by the Family Court as affirmed by the High Court is quite reasonable and, therefore, there   is   no   valid   ground   for   interference   by   this   Court exercising jurisdiction under Article 136 of the Constitution of India. 

 9)     Before   considering   the   rival   claims   based   on   facts   and figures,   it   is   useful   to   refer   to   Section   25   of   the   Act which reads as under:-

           " 25. Permanent alimony and maintenance.- (1) Any court exercising   jurisdiction   under   this   Act   may,   at   the                  time   of passing   any   decree   or   at   any   time   subsequent   thereto,   on application  made   to it  for   the                         purpose  by   either   the  wife  or the husband, as the case may be, order that the respondent shall   pay   to                             the   applicant   for   her   or   his   maintenance   and support such gross sum or such monthly or periodical sum for a             term not exceeding the life of the applicant as, having regard to the respondent's own income and other property, if                     any,   the   income   and   other   property   of   the   applicant,   the conduct of the parties and other circumstances of             the case, it may seem to the court to be just, and any such payment may be secured, if necessary, by a charge on the                 immovable property of the respondent.

               (2)   If   the   court   is   satisfied   that   there   is   a   change   in   the circumstances of either party at any time after                 it has made an order   under   sub-section   (1),   it   may,   at   the   instance   of  either party, vary, modify or                         rescind any such order in such  manner as the court may deem just.

                (3) If the court is satisfied that the party in whose favour an order has been made under this section has remarried                     or, if such party is the wife, that she has not remained chaste, or, if   such   party   is   the   husband,   that   he                       has   had   sexual intercourse with any woman outside wedlock, it may at the   instance of the other party vary,                         modify or rescind any such        order in such manner as the Court may deem just." 

10)    In Shri Bhagwan Dutt vs. Smt. Kamla Devi and Anr. (1975)   2   SCC   386,   though   this   Court   has   considered   the  amount  of maintenance  payable to wife under Section 488 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, the principle laid down  is applicable to the case on hand.  In para 19, this Court held:

      "19. The object of these provisions being to prevent vagrancy and destitution, the Magistrate has to find out as to what is required by the wife to maintain a standard of living which is neither luxurious nor penurious, but is modestly consistent with the status of the family. The needs and requirements of the   wife   for   such   moderate   living   can   be   fairly   determined, only   if   her   separate   income,   also,   is   taken   into   account  together with the earnings of   the   husband and his commitments." 

11)     In  Chaturbhuj  vs.  Sita   Bai,  (2008) 2 SCC 316, which also   relates   to   maintenance   claim   by   deserted   wife under Section   125   of   the   Code   of   Criminal   Procedure,   1973. The following   statement   in   para 8 is relevant   which   reads   as under: 

      ".....Where the personal income of the wife is insufficient she can claim maintenance under Section 125 CrPC. The test is  whether   the   wife   is   in   a   position   to  maintain   herself   in the way   she   was   used   to   in   the   place   of   her   husband.   In Bhagwan   Dutt  v.  Kamla Devi  it was observed that the wife  should   be   in   a   position   to   maintain   a   standard of   living  which is neither luxurious nor   penurious but what is consistent with status of a family. The expression "unable to maintain herself" does not mean that the wife must be  absolutely destitute before she can apply for maintenance under Section 125 CrPC." 

12)     As   per   Section   25,   while   considering   the   claim   for  permanent   alimony   and   maintenance   of   either   spouse,   the respondent's own income and other property, and the income and other property of the applicant are all relevant material in addition to the conduct of the parties and other circumstances of the case.  It is further seen that the court considering such claim   has   to   consider   all   the   above   relevant   materials and determine the amount which is to be just for living standard. No   fixed   formula   can   be   laid   for   fixing   the   amount   of  maintenance.     It   has   to   be   in   the   nature   of   things   which depend on various facts and circumstances of each case.  The court has to consider the status of the parties, their respective needs,   the   capacity   of   the   husband   to   pay,   having   regard   to reasonable   expenses   for   his   own   maintenance   and   others whom   he   is   obliged   to   maintain   under   the   law   and   statute. The courts also have to take note of the fact that the amount of   maintenance   fixed   for   the   wife   should   be   such   as   she  can live in reasonable comfort considering her status and mode of life she was used to live when she lived with her husband.  At the   same   time,   the   amount so fixed cannot be excessive or affect the living condition of the other party.  These are all the broad   principles   courts   have   to   be   kept   in   mind   while determining maintenance or permanent alimony.  

13)     It is not in dispute that before their marriage,   the appellant-wife was working as Air Hostess with Cathay Pacific Airlines and getting sizeable income.  It is also brought to our  notice   that  after  marriage, at  the  instance  of  the  respondent, she   resigned   from   her   job.     The   particulars   furnished   also show   that   at   present   she   is   living   with   her   sister   at   Mumbai and she does not possess any immovable property at Mumbai.  

14)  According to the respondent-husband, at the time of filing of petition under Section 25, she suppressed her employment and income thereon and on this ground her entire case has to be rejected.  The fact remains, though she was employed for a shorter   period   which   was   not   stated   so   subsequently, she clarified that she had earned only an amount of Rs. 1.5 lakhs from casual assignments from July, 2004 to September, 2009. She also asserted that her income was not fixed or regular and she   is   struggling   to   take   up   casual   assignments   of   interior decoration   even   though   she   was   not   formally   trained for   the same. She   also   explained   that   at   particular   time   her employment   with   JJ   Valaya   Couture   was   only   transitory in nature and was not permanent, it was not a source of regular and permanent   income   for   her   and   that   she   had   not   been issued even any letter of appointment setting out the terms of  employment   and   she   further   explained   that   at   the   relevant time she was earning an ad hoc remuneration of Rs. 20,000/- per month.  There is no reason to either reject or disbelieve her explanation.     In   the   same   way,   though   she   had   highlighted salary   income   of   the   respondent,   admittedly,   those   figures include   allowances   and   other   payments   under   various   heads of   salary.     The   respondent has   also   placed   certificates from income tax authorities such as Form 16C etc.    

 15)    In  the  light  of the  details furnished by  both  the  parties, we   are   of   the   view that the amount   of Rs.1,40,000/- determined as net monthly income of the respondent-husband is not acceptable. Equally,   direction   for   payment   of maintenance   at   the   rate   of   Rs.   20,000/-   per   month   to the appellant-wife   is   also   inadequate.     It   is   relevant   to   point   out that the status of the appellant before her marriage is also one of   the   relevant   factors   for   determining   the   amount   of maintenance.It is not in dispute that   before   her   marriage with   the   respondent,   she   was   working   as   an   Air   Hostess   in Cathay   Pacific   Airlines and   after   marriage she resigned from the   said   post. Considering   the   conditions prescribed   in Section 25   of   the   Act   relating   to claim of   permanent alimony/maintenance   and   the   fact   that   the   appellant   is   not permanently employed as on date and residing with her sister at Mumbai, taking note of the respondent's income from salary as   Sr. Commander   in   Air   India,   other   properties   standing   in his   name,   age   being   42   years,   future   employment   prospects and also considering the fact that the respondent re-married, having a child and also to look after his parents, we feel that the ends of justice would be met by fixing maintenance at the rate   of   Rs.40,000/- per   month instead of Rs.20,000/- per month as fixed by the Family Court and affirmed by the High Court. The   same   shall   be   payable   from   the   date   of   her application and continue to pay in terms of Section 25 of the Act.  The respondent is granted one year time from 01.08.2011 to   pay  all   the   arrears  payable in six equal instalments.     It  is made clear that if there is any change in the circumstance of either party, they are free to approach the Court concerned to modify or rescind.   As suggested and fixed by the High Court, in   the   alternative,   we   fix   the   amount   of   permanent alimony/maintenance at Rs. 40 lakhs in lump sum to be paid by   the   respondent   within   a   period   of   six   months   from 01.08.2011 which will forfeit   all her claims.   The respondent is  free  to  opt  any  one   mode  to  comply with  the  same. If the respondent   opts   the   first   method, the same   is   subject to the conditions   prescribed   in   sub-Section   (3)   of   Section  25 of the Act. The   appeals   are   allowed   to   the   extent   mentioned hereinabove.  No order as to costs. 

                               (P. SATHASIVAM)..........................J 

                               (DR. B.S. CHAUHAN) ...................J.

 

NEW DELHI;

JULY 20, 2011.                             

 

 

 

 

 

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