According to this Oct 2014 judgment of Delhi HC, it is mandatory now in Delhi for anyone filing divorce petition and claiming interim maintenance under Section 24 of Hindu Marriage Act (HMA), to submit affidavit disclosing income, expenditure, assets, liabilities. Justice J R Midha who issued this judgment was also behind the 2011 judgment which gives format of affidavit of income, assets etc. in another HMA 24 case.
Taking note of the undue delay in granting maintenance and alimony in divorce cases under the Hindu Marriage Act, the Delhi High Court has directed the lower courts to ensure that the trial in the matrimonial dispute cases be completed within six months as prescribed by the Act.
The headline as usual is misleading. Delhi HC merely wants interim maintenance under HMA 24 to be disposed within 6 months, the cases will take as long as our adjournment-happy family courts want them to take. Usually only after 5 years have passed in a case, the family courts take up those with a bit more priority due to high court’s pressure. But before 5 years are over, tareekh pe tareekh (adjournment after adjournment) is the standard operating procedure.
Observing that most people resorted to “parallel proceedings” under the better known maintenance provisions under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure code, the court noted that parallel proceedings took more time and deprived the weaker spouse of maintenance.
So called weaker spouse (read women) resort to parallel proceedings to keep husbands busy in the courts, so that they become frustrated of running around in courts and agree to ‘mutual’ consent divorce and lumpsum payment to wives. This seemingly simple strategy is encouraged by advocates and the judges who keep the cases pending for many years and take sometimes 2 years to give an interim order. Tire them out is the mantra. Since it is women who file parallel proceedings by choice, it’s part of their strategy to frustrate husbands and also try to collect double maintenance. If the courts don’t discourage this practice, then they should at least not do commentary about it!
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The court in its order has now directed that the spouse who files for divorce is required to file his or her affidavits with details of income, assets and expenditure, as required by Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, at the same time as the divorce plea, if they want to claim maintenance.
So this means that women who file for divorce will also have to give their affidavits of income, expenditure , assets, liabilities at time of filing divorce petition itself. They can be liable to perjury proceedings under CrPC 340 if husbands spend time on collecting evidence and discovering the lies told in their affidavit, rather than collecting citations of no maintenance to qualified wife judgments.
Further, in order to protect the spouse who is the respondent in divorce proceedings, and is usually the party which claims maintenance, the court has said lower courts could consider directing the petitioner to deposit money to be paid to the respondent as litigation expenses.
Court is wrong here. Usually whether a divorce if filed by man or woman, it’s the woman who claims interim maintenance and legal expenses. But the intention is clear here, that if a man files for divorce, then be ready to file affidavit of income/assets and also be ready to pay deposit money in court. When the woman files for divorce, she will have to file income/assets affidavit but may not need to deposit any money because husbands anyway don’t ask for interim maintenance or legal costs.