MAINTENANCE PENDENTE LITE

Introduction

Maintenance relates to the supply of basic requirements to a dependent spouse, and ‘pendente lite’ is a Latin phrase that means “while a suit is pending” or “while litigation continues.” Thus, ‘maintenance pendente lite’ refers to the supply of living costs and financial assistance to the spouse (either wife or husband) while litigation is underway.

Section 24 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

“Section 24[1]of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 states that if a court believes that either the husband or wife has no source of independent income to provide for his or her support and the required expenses during the proceedings, the court may, on the application of such dependent spouse, require the other spouse to pay”. (i) The cost of the proceedings, (ii) During such procedures, the court will award the monthly sum that it deems appropriate in light of both spouses income. A similar provision is given in Section 36[2] of the Special Marriage Act 1954, with the main distinction being that alimony pendente lite (alimony during the pendency of the case) can only be sought by the woman; it does not apply to the husband. Section 125[3] of the CrPC also covers the husband’s responsibility to give interim support to the wife. Regardless of who started the proceedings, either the husband or the wife may seek interim maintenance for themselves or their children. The primary requirement for providing interim maintenance is that one of the parties to the case does not have enough independent income to support themselves and the proceedings’ necessary costs. Maintenance pendente lite empowers the court to exercise its jurisdiction even if the Respondent denies the factum of marriage.

Objective of the Section

The “maintenance pendente lite provides for the claimant spouse’s support as well as the costs of the case. The purpose of maintenance pendente lite and expenditures under Section 24 of the HMA, 1955 is primarily to offer financial help to the claimant spouse for them to continue with the processes and sustain them. Pendente lite maintenance is granted to either spouse, which means that any spouse can claim support. In Chitra Lekha v. Ranjit Rai,[4] it was determined that the purpose of maintenance pendente lite is to provide financial assistance to the indigent spouse for her or him to maintain himself or herself during the pendency of the proceedings, as well as to have sufficient funds to carry on with the litigation or defend themselves so that they do not suffer unduly in the conduct of the case due to a lack of funds”.

Court’s authority under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955

The courts can make an order forcing one spouse to pay interim maintenance to the other for appropriate reasons. To exercise this discretion, the court considers the income of the spouse who applied for interim support, as well as the income and expenditures of the other spouse who is required to pay such interim maintenance. The Madras High Court ruled in L.R Rajendran v. Gajalakshmi,[5] that interim support shall be a ‘reasonable’ sum. It was also determined that asserting that the wife’s brother is an income earner is irrelevant and an improper reason for refusing interim support to the wife. As a result, the Madras High Court ruled that the lower court’s award of Rs. 150 per month in interim maintenance was fair.

The party’s behavior is a crucial aspect that will impact the court’s judgment. The court will not disregard the party’s behavior. For example, ‘if a spouse ends cohabitation due to their wrongdoing, the court may deny them any remedy under this section. It is important to stress that the court’s discretion is judicial rather than arbitrary. Such judicial discretion must be employed within the scope of Section 24 Hindu Marriage Act 1955 while keeping in mind the purpose of the Act and adhering to the ideal principles of martial law’. In Mukan Kuwar v. Ajit Chand,[6]the court’s discretionary power was ruled to be based on strong legal grounds rather than caprice and humor.

Procedure under Maintenance Pendente Lite

A brief investigation, rather than a full-fledged trial at length, is intended under Maintenance Pendent Lite. If the court judges that the applicant is unlikely to win the dispute, the court cannot refuse to give interim maintenance and expenses are merely on that basis. In Sushila Viresh Chhadva v. Viresh Nagshi Chhadva,[7]the fact that a marriage may be “declared null and void shall not be a ground for denying interim maintenance and expenses of the proceeding to the spouse claiming such interim maintenance”. According to the provision connected to Maintenance Pendente Lite, the application for payment of interim maintenance and litigation fees must be considered within sixty days of the date of delivery of notice on the spouse.

Quantum of maintenance

The amount for such interim maintenance is determined by the following factors: ‘The duration of the marriage, the spouse’s means, and behavior, the ability of the spouse to make money Children’s education and upkeep, other legitimate demands of the claimant’. It should be noted that the Court has broad authority in giving support pendente lite; nonetheless, this power must not be used arbitrarily. In the case of Dinesh Gijubhai Mehta v Usha Dinesh Mehta,[8] the High Court of Bombay concluded that with the determination of a fair sum for interim maintenance. As a result, determining a ‘reasonable amount’ is primarily about striking a balance among numerous opposing claims. The Court went on to say that reasonableness entails ensuring that the woman has the same comforts and luxuries that she did while she lived with her husband, minus the loss caused by separation and the formation of two separate enterprises.

Maintenance to Children

It should be emphasized that the basic aim underlying the provisions of this section is to give support to the needy spouse during the pendency of the procedures. However, in extreme instances, the court may award support for such children who are dependent on and residing with the spouse whose claim has been declared reasonable by the court. In Jasbir Kaur Sehgal v. District Judge, Dehradun,[9] “the Supreme Court ruled that Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, provisions cannot be interpreted narrowly; the wife’s entitlement to seek maintenance pendente lite would encompass her maintenance as well as that of her unmarried daughter living with her.

Expenses of the proceedings

A spouse may seek interim maintenance as well as the costs of the procedures. This clause ensures that the spouse is given sufficient finances to cover the costs of the procedures. The term “expenses of the proceedings” have a broad definition; it covers court costs, lawyer’s fees, expenses expended in obtaining the services of witnesses, Xerox and typing charges, process fees, and so on”. In Prili Parihar v. Kailash Singh Parihar,[10] the Court decided that if the necessity emerged afterward, the court has the competence to grant further costs over what was originally sanctioned by it.

Conclusion

If a ‘court believes that both the husband or the wife has no supply of independent profits to offer for their guide and the desired expenses of the court cases then the Court may, on the application of such based partner, order the opposite partner to pay the expenses of the court cases and the monthly sum at some stage in such proceeding because the Court finds reasonable concerning the income of both the spouse’.

Author(s) Name: Alla Dhanalakshmi (Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, Visakhapatnam)

References:

[1] Hindu Marriage Act 1955, s 24

[2] Special Marriage Act 1954, s 34

[3] Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, s 125

[4] Chitra Lekha v Ranjit Rai AIR 1977 Del 176

[5] L.R. Rajendran v Gajalakshmi AIR 1985 Mad 195 A

[6] Mukan Kuwar v Ajit Chand AIR 1958 Raj 322

[7]Sushila Viresh Chhadva v Viresh Nagshi Chhadva AIR 1996 Bom 94

[8] Dinesh Gijubhai Mehta v Usha Dinesh Mehta AIR 1979 Bom 173

[9] Jasbir Kaur Sehgal v District Judge Dehradun AIR 1997, SC 3397

[10] Prili Parihar v Kailash Singh Parihar AIR 1975 Raj 140

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