Pay ₹10 lakh towards maintenance of minor child or undergo imprisonment for a month, Court tells father

The Madras High Court observed that the child cannot be forced to go without food, education and medical care until the disposal of appeal pending in Supreme Court

November 05, 2022 04:59 pm | Updated 04:59 pm IST - CHENNAI

Photograph used for representational purposes only

Photograph used for representational purposes only

Observing that a minor child cannot be expected to live without food, education and medical care until disposal of a maintenance appeal pending before the Supreme Court, the Madras High Court has directed his father to either pay ₹10 lakh within a month or undergo imprisonment for a month.

Justice P. Velmurugan passed the orders while disposing of a contempt of court petition filed against the man by his estranged wife and seven-year-old son. The petitioners had accused him of wilful disobedience of orders passed by the High Court on October 25, 2021 in a maintenance case.

The couple got married in April 2013 and the child was born in March 2015. They separated, leading to a divorce case filed by the woman while the man insisted on restitution of conjugal rights. In 2016, she also filed a case seeking monthly maintenance of ₹30,000 for her and ₹20,000 for their son.

At that point of time, she produced evidence to prove that her husband was earning ₹1.4 lakh a month. Nevertheless, in December 2019, a Judicial Magistrate’s court at Tambaram ordered payment of only ₹11,000 each to the wife and the child every month and hence they both approached the High Court in 2020 for an enhancement.

The child’s father too filed a revision petition against the Magistrate’s order stating that his wife was capable of earning and therefore she could not seek maintenance. He said, she was earning ₹21,000 a month until resigning the job in 2018. He further informed the High Court of his obligation to take care of his aged parents and an ailing brother-in-law.

Disposing of the two revision petitions by a common order, Justice Velmurugan had in October 2021 directed the man to pay monthly maintenance of ₹15,000 to his wife from the day when she resigned her job in 2018 and ₹20,000 to his son from the day when the maintenance petition was filed before the Magistrate in 2016.

The arrears were ordered to be paid within two months. It was alleging disobedience of this order that the present contempt petition had been moved and the judge was convinced that the father was trying to drag the issue by citing the pendency of an appeal preferred by him before the Supreme Court though he had failed to obtain interim orders.

Stating that the man was now earning more than ₹2 lakh a month, the judge said: “This is not a case where the child can be made to wait for the appeal to attain finality before the honourable Supreme Court. A mere pending of SLP (special leave petition) is not a ground to postpone the compliance of the order of the courts below.”

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