The Delhi High Court on May 17, 2019, in the case of Vikas Bhutani v. State & Anr, has held that maintenance awarded to a wife is not a bounty and it is awarded to her for her survival.
A single judge Bench of Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva was hearing a petition pertaining to a question whether maintenance should be awarded from the date of the application or that of the order.
In this case, the petitioner husband had challenged the order of the Trial Court whereby the latter had assessed and fixed an amount of Rs. 40, 000 as interim maintenance for respondent wife, who had filed an application under Section 12 of The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
The only contention raised by the learned counsel appearing for the petitioner was that since the respondent was already receiving a sum of Rs.15,000 as interim maintenance under Section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the order of the Trial Court should not have related back to the date of the application but should have been from the date of the order.
Looking into the nature of maintenance awarded, the Delhi High Court rejected the said contention and held that “The object of grant of maintenance is to afford a subsistence allowance to the wife, who is not able to maintain herself, then the award normally should be from the date of the application. For the court to award maintenance from the date of the order there have to be compelling circumstances for the court to take such a view. Maintenance awarded to a wife is not a bounty. It is awarded to her so that she can survive. The fact that time is spent between the date of the application and a final adjudication and an award in favour of the wife, does not mean that she had enough funds to maintain herself. When the trial court comes to conclusion after trial that the wife is entitled to an amount of maintenance the assessment in fact relates back to the date of the application. When the assessment relates back to the date of the application then there have to be compelling circumstances for the trial court to restrict the award of maintenance to a period post the date of the order.”
To further reiterate its point, the High Court referred to its judgment in Rekha Sabharwal & Anr. v. Jitender Sabharwal in which the court held that the maintenance is to relate back to the date of the application and not from the date of the order.
Accordingly, the High Court said that it is clear that maintenance is to be from the date of the application.
As there was no challenge to the quantum of maintenance assessed by the Trial Court, the High Court dismissed the petition by directing the petitioner to pay maintenance at the rate of Rs. 40,000/- per month from the date of filing of the application i.e. March 2014. However, the High Court said that the petitioner would be entitled to an adjustment of the amount that he has already paid in terms of the order passed in the application under Section 125 Cr.P.C. and the interim orders passed by the court.