On Wednesday (4th November, 2020), the Supreme Court laid down guidelines for interim compensation and quantum of maintenance in matrimonial cases to ensure uniformity and consistency in practice adopted by different courts.
This decision was delivered by a bench of two judges: Justice Indu Malhotra and Justice R Subhash Reddy. They said that directions were required to be passed to overcome the issue of overlapping jurisdiction and avoid conflicting orders.
Guidelines were issued by the apex court on aspects of –Issue of overlapping jurisdiction, payment of interim maintenance, criteria for determining the quantum of maintenance; date from which maintenance is to be awarded and Enforcement / Execution of orders of maintenance.
The Supreme Court directed that where successive claims for maintenance are made by a party under different statutes, an adjustment or set off of the amount awarded in the previous proceeding/s while determining whether any further amount is to be awarded in the subsequent proceeding would be considered by the court.
The bench said, “It is made mandatory for the applicant to disclose the previous proceeding and the orders passed therein, in the subsequent proceeding. If the order passed in the previous proceeding/s requires any modification or variation, it would be required to be done in the same proceeding.”
The applicant shall disclose the previous maintenance proceeding, and the orders passed thereinin order to avoid conflicting orders in subsequent maintenance proceeding. The bench said that if the order passed in the previous proceeding requires any modification or variation, the party would be required to move the concerned court in the previous proceeding.
The apex court also ruled that on payment of interim maintenance, an affidavit shall be filed by both parties of disclosure of assets and liabilities annexed to the judgment in all maintenance proceedings, including the pending proceedings before the concerned family courts, district courts or magistrate courts throughout the country.
The bench said that the concerned court shall consider the criteria enumerated in the judgment when asked about the criteria for determining quantum of maintenance.
The aforesaid factors were stated to be not exhaustive by the Supreme Court and the concerned Court may exercise its discretion to consider any other factor/s which may be necessary or of relevance in the facts and circumstances of a case.
In all cases, maintenance will be awarded from the date of filing the application.
The Apex Court also said that, “A copy of this judgment be communicated by the Secretary General of this Court, to the Registrars of all High Courts, who would in turn circulate it to all the District Courts in the States. It shall be displayed on the website of all District Courts/ Family Courts / Courts of Judicial Magistrates for awareness and implementation.”
Senior advocates Gopal Sankaranarayanan and Anitha Shenoy were earlier appointed as amicus curiae to assist the court framing guidelines on payment of interim maintenance.