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Denying maintenance to estranged wife, child worst offence: Delhi High Court

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The Delhi High Court on Monday ruled that denying maintenance to an estranged wife and child is the worst offence, even from a humanitarian perspective. 

The bench of Justice Asha Menon was dealing with a plea filed by a husband seeking quashing of the trial court order directing him to pay a sum of Rs 20,000 as a consolidated amount towards the interim maintenance of his wife and their child till disposal of that matter.

Referring the instant petition to be an “abuse of the process of court”, Justice Menon observed there is no merit in the petition and dismissed the same with a cost of Rs 20,000.

“The power of the Court under Section 482 CrPC is an extraordinary power, to be used sparingly, carefully and with caution and only when the continuation of the criminal proceedings will lead to mis-carriage of justice or there was a disclosure of abuse of process of the court,” noted the Court. 

The counsel for the petitioner contended that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, his earnings had come down and he could not be asked to pay Rs 20,000 out of Rs 28,000 to the wife and the child as he has to meet his expenses, including the payment of rent of the premises he was residing in, and to look after his parents who were partly dependent on him.

Expressing concern over the man denying a fair standard of living to his wife and child, the Court observed thus:

“The malafide intentions of an estranged husband is to depress his income as much as possible, for sadistic pleasure, of seeing the agony of someone, who has no choice, but to be dependent on him, may be dictated by egoistic propensity to also possibly teach his wife a lesson for not falling in line with whatever be his dictates.”

“Matrimonial relationships can come to an end for a variety of reasons including ego clashes. It is time that there is a change in the attitude when litigation is filed by one spouse against the other. To introduce bitterness in the litigation serves nobody’s purpose. The creation of Family Courts, the entire set up of Counseling Centres, and the availability of mediation whether before litigation or during litigation, are all intended for a more amiable and less torturous resolution of matrimonial and family problems. The legal fraternity must encourage quick resolution by these methods. Their role would be of immeasurable value in rescuing lives from the brink of ruination and annihilation,” the court  observed further.

It also added, “To deny maintenance to an estranged wife and child is the worst offence, even from a humanitarian prospective. Yet, it is a sad truth that husbands force their wives to file execution petitions to delay payments, even after a court of law has determined her entitlement, albeit, even if as an interim measure.”

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