In light of several instances of delays by family courts (FCs) in considering applications filed by wives seeking interim maintenance from their husbands under the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, the High Court of Karnataka has set a deadline for FCs, to rule on the plea, while setting six months as the outer limit.
Although Section 24 of the Act states that applications for maintenance should be dealt with “as far as practicable” within 60 days, the High Court said that the term “as far as practicable” is construed to mean that the courts can also be dealt with after six days Orders issued could be months. In some cases it was two years, three years or even four years after the application was submitted.
“This delay in examining these requests for alimony would destroy the very soul of the provision intended to grant assistance to the wife… Simply because the provision directs the request to be processed within 60 days as far as possible, it cannot be extended by the courts to such an extent that the wife would not see the amount of alimony for ages,” the High Court found.
Judge M. Nagaprasanna made these observations while noting that a FC in the city of Bengaluru had granted provisional compensation in August 2022 to an application made by the wife in February 2020 and therefore took 30 months to rule on the application.
The High Court said that the notice of application for interim relief under Section 24 of the Act should be issued immediately and the email/WhatsApp notice should also be a valid service in the eyes of the Act.
Also, FCs should give the husband two months to object to the wife’s application, who should also have two months to file declarations of assets and liabilities in support of the claim, the High Court said.
The FC should later examine the parties’ allegations, hear them and issue orders accordingly, at the latest within four months thereafter, the High Court said, clarifying that the FC should refrain from granting unnecessary adjournments.
Any delay beyond six months should only be for reasons set out in writing by the FC in the order to be made, the High Court said.
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