The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that in a dispute between husband and wife the liability and responsibility of the father to maintain the child continues till the son attains the age of majority.
The top court, which exercised its plenary power under Article 142 to confirm the divorce decree awarded to the husband and wife by the family court and the High Court directed that the child be provided Rs 50,000 maintenance by the father.
It also noted that the estranged couple has not been staying together since May 2011 and therefore it can be said that there is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage between them.
A bench of Justices MR Shah and AS Bopanna said, "therefore, in the facts and circumstances of the case and in the exercise of powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India, the decree passed by the Family Court, confirmed by the High Court, dissolving the marriage between the appellant-wife and the respondent-husband is not required to be interfered with on account of irretrievable breakdown of marriage".
It said that at the same time, the husband, an Army officer, cannot be absolved from his liability and responsibility to maintain his son till he attains the age of majority.
"Whatever be the dispute between the husband and the wife, a child should not be made to suffer. The liability and responsibility of the father to maintain the child continues till the child/son attains the age of majority. It also cannot be disputed that the son has a right to be maintained as per the status of his father", the bench said.
The top court noted that the mother is not earning anything and she is residing at her parental house at Jaipur and therefore, a reasonable/sufficient amount is required for the maintenance of her son including his education and other expenses which shall have to be paid by the husband, irrespective of the decree of dissolution of the marriage between the wife and the husband.
It further noted that the amount which was being paid under the order passed by the Army authorities on November 15, 2012, has also been stopped by the respondent-husband since December 2019.
"The respondent-husband is directed to pay Rs.50, 000 per month with effect from December 2019 to the appellant-wife towards the maintenance of the son as per the status of the respondent herein. The arrears @ Rs. 50,000 per month from December 2019 to November 2021 shall be paid within a period of eight weeks from today", it said.
The bench said that the current maintenance of Rs. 50,000 per month from December 2021 onwards be deducted from the salary of the husband by the Army Authorities, which shall be directly credited in the bank account of the mother.
"The appellant-mother is directed to furnish the bank details to the Army Authorities within a period of one week from today. It is further ordered that if the arrears Rs. 50,000 per month commencing from December 2019 till November 2021, as ordered hereinabove is not paid by the respondent-father within a period of eight weeks from today, in that case, the recovery of arrears plus monthly maintenance shall be worked out by the Army Authorities and the same shall be deducted in equal monthly installments from the salary of the respondent-father, so as not to exceed 50 per cent of the total monthly pay and allowances of the respondent", it said.
The bench said that having gone through the findings recorded by the Family Court as well as by the High Court, on "cruelty" and "desertion" by the appellant-wife, "we are of the view that there are concurrent findings recorded by the Family Court as well as the High Court on "cruelty" and "desertion" by the appellant-wife, which as such are on appreciation of evidence on record".
It said that the wife has made several complaints against the husband to his employer - Army Authorities making serious allegations of extra-marital affairs.
"On the basis of the complaints made by the appellant-wife, an enquiry was initiated by the Army Authorities and the Army Authorities exonerated the respondent-husband of the allegation of extra-marital affairs", it said.
The bench noted that the marriage between the couple was solemnised on November 16, 2005, and the husband was serving as an Army Officer as Major. It noted that out of the said wedlock, the couple had one son born in 2008, who is now aged 13 years.
After the dispute arose between the couple, the wife had filed several complaints against the husband before his employer-Army Authorities including the extra-marital affairs of the husband.
The husband filed a case against the wife before the Family Court, Jaipur In 2014, seeking a decree of divorce and dissolution of marriage on the ground of cruelty and desertion by the appellant-wife.
The family court in its judgment dated May 19, 2018, passed a decree for dissolution of the marriage between the appellant and the respondent on the ground of cruelty and desertion by the appellant-wife. The said decree was later confirmed by the High Court.