The Punjab and Haryana High Court on September 5, 2018, in the case of Rajesh v. Sunita and Ors. held that the first and foremost duty of the husband is to maintain his wife and the child for which he may beg, borrow or steal.
The observation came while Justice H.S. Madaan dismissed a petition challenging a family court’s order directing the petitioner to undergo civil imprisonment for twelve months on account of non-payment of arrears of maintenance allowance amounting to Rs.91,000/- to his wife.
The petitioner had contended that he could be sentenced to undergo civil imprisonment for one month only as per the law.
The court relying upon the authority Sunit Kumar v. Rita and others held that there is no such limitation and courts can award sentence up to a maximum of one month for each month of default committed by the person ordered to pay maintenance and the maximum limit of sentence of one month referred to in sub section (3) of section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, will be applicable for each month of default.
The court also observed that sentencing a person to jail is a 'mode of enforcement' and not a 'mode of satisfaction' of the liability. Undergoing imprisonment in default of maintenance does not wipe out the liability which subsists till the payment is made.