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Comment on Rajnesh Vs Neha – Guidelines for Maintenance in Matrimonial matters

B. Soundharya

18 Sept 2022

Rajnesh Vs Neha ((2021) 2 SCC 324)

Rajnesh Vs Neha (2021) 2 SCC 324) is a significant case law vis-à-vis maintenance in matrimonial matters. The Supreme Court in this case has issued directions for the payment of interim maintenance and the guidelines to be adhered to in establishing the quantum of maintenance in matrimonial. In order to resolve the issue of overlapping jurisdiction and prevent conflicting orders from being granted in various cases, it also issued directions that must be followed by family courts, district courts, and magistrate courts across the nation.

Facts of the Case

(a) The Judgment and order dated 24.08.2015 passed by the Family Court, Nagpur, affirmed by the Bombay High Court, Nagpur Bench vide Order dated 14.08.2018 for payment of interim maintenance @ Rs.15,000 p.m. to the Respondent No.1- wife, and Rs.10,000 p.m. to the Respondent No.2-son

(b) The husband is directed to pay the entire arrears of maintenance @ Rs.15,000 p.m., within a period of 12 weeks’ from the date of this Judgment, and continue to comply with this Order during the pendency of the proceedings u/S. 125 Cr.P.C. before the Family Court;

(c) The court ordered that if the Appellant-husband fails to comply with the aforesaid directions of this Court, it would be open to the respondents to have the Order enforced u/S.128 Cr.P.C., and take recourse to all other remedies which are available in accordance with law;

Guidelines / Directions on Maintenance

In this case, the Supreme court concerned that, “The different enactments provide an independent and distinct remedy framed with a specific object and purpose. Inspite of time frames being prescribed by various statutes for disposal of interim applications, we have noticed, in practice that in a vast majority of cases, the applications are not disposed of within the time frame prescribed. To address various issues which arise for consideration in applications for grant of maintenance / interim maintenance, it is necessary to frame guidelines to ensure that there is uniformity and consistency in deciding the same”.

The court reiterated that “a party is not precluded from approaching the Court under one or more enactments, since the nature and purpose of the relief under each Act is distinct and independent, it is equally true that the simultaneous operation of these Acts, would lead to multiplicity of proceedings and conflicting orders. This would have the inevitable effect of overlapping jurisdiction. This process requires to be streamlined, so that the respondent / husband is not obligated to comply with successive orders of maintenance passed under different enactments”.

On the issue of framing guidelines, the National Legal Services Authority was directed to elicit responses from the State Legal Services Authorities of various States.

(i) Issue of Overlapping Jurisdiction

Maintenance may be claimed under one or more of the relevant statutes, since each of these enactments provides an independent and distinct remedy framed with a specific object and purpose. For instance, a Hindu wife may claim maintenance under the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act 1956 (“HAMA”), and also in a substantive proceeding for either dissolution of marriage, or restitution of conjugal rights, etc. under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (“HMA”) by invoking Sections 24 and 25 of the said Act. The court has referred to the Supreme Court case Nanak Chand v Chandra Kishore Aggarwal & Ors (AIR 1970 SC 446) which held that there was no inconsistency between the Cr.P.C. and HAMA. Section 4(b) of HAMA would not repeal or affect the provisions of Section 488 of the old Cr.P.C.

For instance, if in a previous proceeding under Section 125 Cr.P.C., an amount is awarded towards maintenance, in the subsequent proceeding filed for dissolution of marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act, where an application for maintenance pendente lite is filed under Section 24 of that Act, or for maintenance under Section 25, the payment awarded in the earlier proceeding must be taken note of, while deciding the amount awarded under HMA.

In this case the court directed that, “It is well settled that a wife can make a claim for maintenance under different statutes. For instance, there is no bar to seek maintenance both under the D.V. Act and Section 125 of the Cr.P.C., or under H.M.A. It would, however, be inequitable to direct the husband to pay maintenance under each of the proceedings, independent of the relief granted in a previous proceeding. If maintenance is awarded to the wife in a previously instituted proceeding, she is under a legal obligation to disclose the same in a subsequent proceeding for maintenance, which may be filed under another enactment. While deciding the quantum of maintenance in the subsequent proceeding, the civil court/family court shall take into account the maintenance awarded in any previously instituted proceeding, and determine the maintenance payable to the claimant.

To overcome the issue of overlapping jurisdiction, and avoid conflicting orders being passed in different proceedings, the court directed that in a subsequent maintenance proceeding, the applicant shall disclose the previous maintenance proceeding, and the orders passed therein, so that the Court would take into consideration the maintenance already awarded in the previous proceeding, and grant an adjustment or set-off of the said amount. 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.

(ii) Payment of Interim Maintenance

The parties must complete affidavit forms that the court has created in order to disclose their financial situation. Further deadlines were established to prevent delays: the respondent had four weeks to provide their disclosure, and the court in question had to adjudicate on the subject of interim maintenance within four to six months.

(iii) Criteria for Assessing Quantum of Maintenance

1. the status of the parties;

2. reasonable needs of the wife and dependent children;

3. whether the applicant is educated and professionally qualified; whether the applicant has any independent source of income;

4. whether the income is sufficient to enable her to maintain the same standard of living as she was accustomed to in her matrimonial home;

5. whether the applicant was employed prior to her marriage;

6. whether she was working during the subsistence of the marriage; whether the wife was required to sacrifice her employment opportunities for nurturing the family, child rearing, and looking after adult members of the family;

7. reasonable costs of litigation for a non-working wife.

A careful and just balance must be drawn between all relevant factors. The test for determination of maintenance in matrimonial disputes depends on the financial status of the respondent, and the standard of living that the applicant was accustomed to in her matrimonial home. The maintenance amount awarded must be reasonable and realistic, and avoid either of the two extremes i.e. maintenance awarded to the wife should neither be so extravagant which becomes oppressive and unbearable for the respondent, nor should it be so meagre that it drives the wife to penury. The sufficiency of the quantum has to be adjudged so that the wife is able to maintain herself with reasonable comfort.

Apart from the aforesaid factors enumerated hereinabove, certain additional factors would also be relevant for determining the quantum of maintenance payable.

a) Age and employment of parties

b) Right to residence

c) Where wife is earning some income

d) Maintenance of minor children

e) Serious disability or ill health

(iv) Date from which maintenance is to be awarded

The court made it clear that maintenance in all cases will be awarded from the date of filing the application for maintenance

(v) Enforcement / Execution of orders of maintenance

For enforcement / execution of orders of maintenance, the court directed that an order or decree of maintenance may be enforced under Section 28A of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1956; Section 20(6) of the D.V. Act; and Section 128 of Cr.P.C., as may be applicable. The order of maintenance may be enforced as a money decree of a civil court as per the provisions of the CPC, more particularly Sections 51, 55, 58, 60 r.w. Order XXI

Final Directions

The Court directed that:

(i) where successive claims for maintenance are made by a party under different statutes, the Court would consider 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;

(ii) it is made mandatory for the Applicant to disclose the previous proceeding and the orders passed therein, in the subsequent proceeding;

(iii) 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.


To conclude, the two Judge Bench of the Apex Court comprising of Justice Indu Malhotra and Justice R Subhash Reddy issued comprehensive and significant guidelines on payment of maintenance in matrimonial matters. In this most recent, historic, and laudable judgement, it is rightly acknowledged that "Maintenance laws have been enacted as a measure of social justice to provide recourse to dependant wives and children for their financial support, in order to prevent them from falling into destitution and vagrancy."

Author is Honorable Judge B. Soundharya serving as Civil Judge. X court of Small causes, Chennai

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