A recent judgment by Supreme Court has caused a minor earthquake in manosphere, since the same SC judgment was reported by a major newspaper with the headline that SC has set 25% of husband’s (net) salary as a benchmark amount of maintenance/alimony to wife.
It's not just the youthful and "our opinion" papers like TOI, but even business papers have started reporting similar 'benchmark' type news, basically they are just doing copy-paste reporting from the first news written with a catchy headline:
Immediately, those husbands who are having pending matrimonial litigation started re-calculating what damage this judgment can do to their maximum-get-out-price. Maximum-get-out-price is the mental threshold value of money below which many a husband is willing to give divorce should the wife agree, and above which he prefers to day-dream about quitting his job to reduce or deny maintenance 😀
The full judgment is given later in this post and it is not even a very long judgment that one should rely on newspaper's reporting rather than reading it for oneself. The judgment actually doesn’t say anywhere that Supreme Court thought 25% of salary to be just figure for alimony. That 25% word is used in an HC judgment between the same parties, which is referred to by the SC order. A reference to an HC order can't be taken to mean as SC saying it. That being the case, reporter who reported this ‘breaking’ news is more like creating news to get some eyeballs and hopefully get a raise from the editor. Since most people get their news by reading the headline, and many prefer easy to use thumb rules for making complex life decisions(!), now this ‘rule’ of 25% alimony will be etched in people’s memory, and advocates will have an easier job explaining to husbands why they should settle because anyway they will have to pay 25% alimony at least if they want divorce. If you already believe something, it only takes an authority figure to say it with some seriousness to convince you! If the authority figure wears a sombre looking uniform, so much the better.
A few common myths which are prevalent in matrimonial litigation are busted by example of this case:
- Myth 1: Filing RCR /Section 9 case under HMA can automatically deny or reduce maintenance for husband. In this case, the husband won the RCR decree but subsequent events made that into a zero. Wife had come back and again went away. What’s the guarantee that the same may not happen to any other husband who believes in Ram-Baan aushadhi called RCR/Section 9! The biggest problem with using RCR as a legal tactic is that your wife may actually come back and then finish the job which she could not do properly first time 😀 . Your advocate won’t be able to save you from facing maintenance and other cases then.
- Myth 2: That RCR will save you from 498A. In fact, it is just the opposite in practice. Even in this case, wife promptly filed IPC 498A (just after 4 days of receiving summons) case on husband after he filed RCR. The logic of filing case(s) on husband is very simple from point of view of wife/in-laws party, but people still want to believe what they want to believe. The reason is that once husband files RCR, if the wife doesn’t file any counter legal cases alleging abuse/dowry harassment etc by husband, then it could be considered a tacit admission on her part that the husband’s RCR has some validity. So a DV case at the least if not IPC 498A is almost always certainly filed if husband files RCR. This judgment is old and there was no DV Act at the time, so wife chose the option of filing IPC 498A.
Even though this case refers to incidents from 1990s, the myth of filing RCR which didn’t work then is still continuing even after 20 years or so. Maybe the myth of filing RCR should rest in peace, but it probably won’t anytime soon.
Argument about maintenance to child above 18 years of age:
Arguing that child has attained age of 18 so no maintenance is payable for child at least may be a valid legal argument in cases filed under CrPC 125, but one should remember that alimony under Section 25 of Hindu Marriage Act doesn't refer to children. If any amounts are being paid under Section 25 of HMA to a spouse, then the courts may take into account that some portion of those amounts are being spent on reasonable expenses like higher education of a child above 18 years of age. Logically speaking a spouse getting maintenance cannot be forced to bear all of that expense. It’s better to use common sense and legal technical arguments in ratio of 80:20, otherwise one may be spending lot more on advocates’ fees with very little results. In this case also, going to Supreme Court reduced monthly maintenance from 23,000 to 20,000. Well done! And how much would have been expenses of hiring SC lawyer and trips to Supreme Court in Delhi from West Bengal? Good only for those who believe in paying to lawyers than paying to (ex)-wife.
Full judgment text below:
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 5369 OF 2017
(Arising out of SLP(C) No. 34653 of 2016)
KALYAN DEY CHOWDHURY .....Appellant
RITA DEY CHOWDHURY NEE NANDY .....Respondent
J U D G M E N T
R. BANUMATHI, J.
2. Challenge in this appeal is to the order dated 15.09.2016 passed
by the High Court at Calcutta in RVW No.85 of 2016 in C.O. No.4228
of 2012, reviewing an order dated 02.02.2015 passed earlier in an
application filed under Section 25(2) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955,
thereby enhancing the amount of maintenance from Rs.16,000/- per
month to Rs.23,000/- per month.
3. Parties are entangled in several rounds of litigation. Background
facts in a nutshell are as follows: The marriage of the appellant and
the respondent was solemnized on 10.08.1995 as per Hindu rites and
customs at the appellant’s residence at Kalna. A male child was born
on 04.10.1996 at Chandannagore who is now a major pursuing his
college education. After the birth of child, it is alleged that the
respondent continued in her parent’s house. The appellant-husband
requested the respondent to return to the matrimonial home at Kalna
alongwith the child. It is alleged that instead of acceding to the
request of the appellant-husband and returning back to the
matrimonial home, the respondent-wife insisted that the
appellant-husband shifts to her father’s place at Chandannagore.
4. Appellant filed an application under Section 9 of the Hindu
Marriage Act, 1955 for restitution of conjugal rights against the
respondent-wife in Matrimonial Suit No.370 of 1997 before the District
Judge, Burdwan on 23.12.1997. On receipt of summons in the above
matrimonial suit on 9.02.1998, the respondent-wife lodged an FIR
bearing P.S. Case No.25 dated 13.02.1998 under Sections 498A and
406 IPC against the appellant and his parents at P.S.
Chandannagore. The appellant and his parents were granted
anticipatory bail by the Sessions Judge, Burdwan on 20.05.1998 in
the FIR filed by the respondent-wife. The respondent-wife also filed a
maintenance case being Misc. Case No.24/98 under Section 125
Cr.P.C. against the appellant-husband claiming maintenance for
herself and the minor son.
5. On 10.08.2000, the Additional District Judge, Burdwan passed
decree of restitution of conjugal rights in favour of the
appellant-husband. However, the respondent did not reconcile and
preferred an appeal against the said decree of restitution of conjugal
rights before the High Court being F.A. No.198 of 2001. In the High
Court, by an order dated 24.05.2001 an interim arrangement was
made directing the appellant herein to go to the parental home of the
respondent-wife at Chandannagore and take back the wife and the
child to his residence at Kalna and make necessary arrangement for
living with his wife and child separately from the parents of the
husband in the first floor of the matrimonial home. Subsequently, the
interim arrangement was recalled. The interim arrangement did not
work and the appeal filed by the respondent-wife was allowed on
6. In the year 2003, respondent-wife filed a Matrimonial Suit
No.533 of 2003 before the District Judge Hooghly against the
appellant-husband under Section 10 of the Act for judicial separation.
According to the appellant, though he filed written objections denying
allegations made against him, he could not attend the hearing and it is
alleged that he was manhandled in the court premises by some men
of the respondent-wife. Ex parte decree for judicial separation was
ordered on 19.05.2006, as a consequence of which decree for
permanent alimony was also ordered under Section 25 of the Hindu
Marriage Act to the respondent-wife amounting to Rs.2,500/- per
month and Rs. 2,000/- per month to the minor son.
7. In the meanwhile, the appellant-husband and his parents were
acquitted of all the charges by the Additional District and Sessions
Judge, 2 Fast Track Court, Serempore on 20.07.2006 in the case
filed alleging dowry harassment. Being aggrieved by the order
hereinabove, the respondent-wife filed a revision petition being CRR
No. 3087 of 2006 before the High Court at Calcutta which came to be
dismissed on 21.03.2011.
8. The appellant-husband filed a divorce petition being Matrimonial
Suit No.71 of 2007 which was renumbered as Suit No.193 of 2010
under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act for dissolution of
marriage. In the said divorce petition, the respondent-wife filed an
application for permanent alimony under Section 25 of the Act. By an
order dated 19.05.2006, passed by the Additional District Judge, 1 st
Court, Hooghly in Matrimonial Suit No.533 of 2003, enhanced the
amount of maintenance to Rs. 8,000/- per month in F.A. No. 193 of
9. On 10.10.2010, the respondent filed an amendment application
before the Court being Misc. Case No.2 of 2010 in Matrimonial Suit
No.533 of 2003 under Section 25(2) of the Act praying for
enhancement of maintenance amounting to Rs.10,000/- per month for
herself and Rs. 6,000/- for her minor son. V ide order dated
10.10.2012, the said application was allowed and maintenance at the
rate of Rs.6000/- each was ordered for the respondent and her minor
10. Aggrieved by this order, respondent-wife preferred a revision
petition under Article 227 of the Constitution of India before the High
Court being C.O. No.4228 of 2012. During its pendency, the
Matrimonial Suit No.193 of 2010 was decreed and the marriage
between the parties came to be dissolved by the order of the
Additional District Judge, 1 Fast Track Court, Serampore on
30.11.2012. Post-divorce, the appellant herein re-married and has a
male child born out of the second wedlock.
11. By an order dated 02.02.2015, the High Court disposed of the
above revision petition by directing the appellant-husband to pay a
sum of Rs.16,000/- towards the maintenance of the respondent-wife
as well as her minor son. Aggrieved by this order, the
respondent-wife preferred a Special Leave Petition (C) No.12968 of
2015 which was disposed of as withdrawn with liberty to approach the
High Court by way of review. Pursuant to the above order,
respondent-wife filed a review application being RVW No.85 of 2016
arising out of CO NO.4228 of 2012. Upon hearing both the parties, by
order dated 15.09.2016, the learned Single Judge of the High Court
modified the order under review and enhanced the amount of
maintenance from Rs.16,000/- to Rs.23,000/- which is the subject
matter of challenge in this appeal.
12. Learned counsel for the appellant Mr. Pijush K. Roy submitted
that in exercise of review jurisdiction, the High Court ought not to have
enhanced the maintenance amount from Rs.16,000/- to Rs.23,000/-.
It was further submitted that the appellant-husband is posted at Malda
Medical College, Malda, West Bengal and gets a net salary of
Rs.87,500/- per month and while so, the appellant would find it
difficult to pay enhanced maintenance amount of Rs.23,000/- per
month to the respondent-wife. It is also submitted that the respondent
is a qualified beautician and Montessori teacher and earns
Rs.30,000/- per month and the son has also attained eighteen years
of age and hence the enhanced maintenance amount of Rs.23,000/-
per month is on the higher side and prayed for restoring the original
order of Rs.16,000/- per month.
13. Per contra, learned counsel for the respondent-wife Ms.
Supriya Juneja submitted that the High Court on perusal of the pay
slip and the expenditure of appellant-husband has arrived at the right
conclusion of granting Rs.23,000/- as maintenance to the respondent.
The learned counsel has also further submitted that even though the
son has attained majority and since the son is aged only eighteen
years and is presently studying in a college and for meeting the
expenses of higher education and other requirements, enhanced
maintenance amount of Rs.23,000/- per month is a reasonable one
and the impugned order warrants no interference.
14. We have considered the rival contentions and perused the
impugned judgment and other materials on record.
15. Section 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 confers power upon
the court to grant a permanent alimony to either spouse who claims
the same by making an application. Sub-section (2) of Section 25 of
Hindu Marriage Act confers ample power on the court to vary, modify
or discharge any order for permanent alimony or permanent
maintenance that may have been made in any proceeding under the
Act under the provisions contained in sub-section (1) of Section 25.
In exercising the power under Section 25 (2), the court would have
regard to the “change in the circumstances of the parties”. There
must be some change in the circumstances of either party which may
have to be taken into account when an application is made under
sub-section (2) of Section 25 for variation, modification or rescission
of the order as the court may deem just.
16. The review petition under Order XLVII Rule 1 CPC came to be
filed by the respondent-wife pursuant to the liberty granted by this
Court when the earlier order dated 02.02.2015 awarding a
maintenance of Rs.16,000/- to the respondent-wife as well as to her
minor son was under challenge before this Court. As pointed out by
the High Court, in February 2015, the appellant-husband was getting
a net salary of Rs.63,842/- after deduction of Rs.24,000/- on account
of GPF and Rs.12,000/- towards income-tax. In February, 2016, the
net salary of the appellant is stated to be Rs.95,527/-. Following Dr.
Kulbhushan Kumar vs. Raj Kumari and Anr. (1970) 3 SCC 129, in
this case, it was held that 25% of the husband’s net salary would be
just and proper to be awarded as maintenance to the
respondent-wife. The amount of permanent alimony awarded to the
wife must be befitting the status of the parties and the capacity of the
spouse to pay maintenance. Maintenance is always dependant on
the factual situation of the case and the court would be justified in
moulding the claim for maintenance passed on various factors. Since
in February, 2016, the net salary of the husband was Rs. 95,000/- per
month, the High Court was justified in enhancing the maintenance
amount. However, since the appellant has also got married second
time and has a child from the second marriage, in the interest of
justice, we think it proper to reduce the amount of maintenance of
Rs.23,000/- to Rs.20,000/- per month as maintenance to the
respondent-wife and son.
17. In the result, the maintenance amount of Rs.23,000/- awarded to
the respondent-wife is reduced to Rs.20,000/- per month and the
impugned judgment is modified and this appeal is partly allowed. The
maintenance of Rs.20,000/- per month is payable to the
respondent-wife on or before 10 of every succeeding english
calendar month. No costs.
[MOHAN M. SHANTANAGOUDAR]
April 19, 2017
ITEM NO.1A COURT NO.7 SECTION XVI
S U P R E M E C O U R T O F I N D I A
RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS
CIVIL APPEAL NO.5369/2017 @
Petition(s) for Special Leave to Appeal (C) No(s). 34653/2016
(Arising out of impugned final judgment and order dated 15/09/2016
in CO No. 4228/2012 15/09/2016 in RVW No. 85/2016 passed by the
High Court Of Calcutta)
KALYAN DEY CHOWDHURY Petitioner(s)
RITA DEY CHOWDHURY NEE NANDY Respondent(s)
Date : 19/04/2017 This matter was called on for pronouncement of
For Petitioner(s) Mr. Rajan K. Chourasia,Adv.
For Respondent(s) Mrs Sarla Chandra,Adv.
Ms. Mehaak Jaggi, Adv.
Hon'ble Mrs. Justice R. Banumathi pronounced the
reportable judgment of the Bench comprising Her Lordship
and Hon'ble Mr. Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar.
The appeal is partly allowed. The maintenance of
Rs.20,000/- p.m. is payable to the respondent-wife on or
before 10 of every succeeding English Calendar Month.
Application, if any, also stands disposed of.
(USHA BHARDWAJ) (RENU DIWAN)
AR-CUM-PS ASSISTANT REGISTRAR
Signed reportable judgment is placed on the file.