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Rajnesh Vs Neha: A Radical Change In The Legal Proceedings of Deciding The Maintenance

By virtue of Article 141 of the Constitution, the power has been conferred upon the Supreme Court to declare the law of the land binding on the lower courts within the territory of India. The law declared is the principle culled out on reading of a judgment as a whole in the light of the question raised.[1]

Similarly, this article throws light upon one of such landmark judgments of the Apex Court i.e. Rajnesh Vs Neha[2], which has obtained the recognition in a procedural framework of legal proceedings of the matrimonial cases; especially for the decisive stage of the interim maintenance. On 4th November 2020, a division bench of the Supreme Court consisting of Indu Malhotra and Subhash Reddy JJ laid down the comprehensive guidelines in the said judgment to govern the issue of maintenance in matrimonial matters[3].

The profound statement ‘beg, borrow or steal, the husband has to maintain his wife and child, as his first and foremost duty’[4] is pronounced in the judgments by reverent Authorities of Justice[5]. Although stern legal provisions for the grant of maintenance, the malpractice of law was observed and the challenges mentioned below had to be faced.

The procedure used to run in the following steps, turning the whole idea behind deciding the maintenance futile:

  1. Devoid of the guidelines, the Counsel had to move an application for ‘production of documents’, in which the detailed list of the documents used to be demanded and the matter used to be kept for the other side for presenting its Reply.
  2. The other side used to present its reply in affirmation or negation.
  3. The argument used to be held by both the parties and used to get posted for the order of the Hon’ble Court.
  4. After the pronouncement of the order the parties used to produce their document and the Counsel had to proceed further if the insufficient documents used to be produced by the other party.

The said procedure was complex, time-consuming, and mostly used turning infructuous.

The application of ‘production of documents’ used to run under the following provisions before the adjudication of the stage of interim Maintenance termed Exhibit-5

  1. As per Section 91 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, which the Counsel may opt for.
  2. As per order 11 Rule 14 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908, The Hon’ble Court can order the production of the document by any party in the suit. And the court can further proceed with such documents as appear just.
  3. As per Order 11 Rule 16 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908, the notice is given to the party who is in possession of the documents which are specifically mentioned in the plaint or written statement or affidavit.
  4. As per Order 12 Rule 8 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 deals with the production of documents which may or may not be mentioned in the plaint or written statement by the party. A party can issue a notice to the other party which is in possession of the documents to produce the document[6].

A. To avoid the responsibility, the parties conceal, suppress and try to fabricate their real financial status, income-related details, etc.

B. Devoid of the relevant material and veracious facts, the amount of maintenance could not be decided as per the legal provisions and the smooth delivery of justice was getting hindered.

C. There are several statutes and enactments, which quote independent and district remedies to obtain maintenance, which may be availed by a Hindu wife simultaneously, such as-

  1. Under Section 13(1)(ia) and (ib) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 i.e. dissolution of the marriage due to cruelty and desertion invoked with Section 24 and 25.
  2. Under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 i.e. Restitution of Conjugal Rights along with Section 24 and 25.
  3. Under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973
  4. Under Sections 12,18,19,20,22 and 23 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
  5. Under Section 18 (2) a, b of the Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956
  6. Under Section 7 of the Family Court Act, 1984

In the presence of all such remedies, the Jurists used to face a challenge, while considering all the other claims of maintenance made between the same parties. Therefore, multiplicity and analyzing a correct amount of maintenance without any unjustified decision had become complex.

The guidelines stipulated in the well-known judgment Rajnesh Vs Neha, the entire exhaustive procedure was simplified to achieve uniformity, consistency, and efficient delivery of Justice.[7]The radical changes that occurred after pronouncing the guidelines are mentioned in the succinct form below:-

  1. The guidelines include an exhaustive form of an affidavit regarding Assets and Liabilities, which comprises the entire details of the parties pertaining to the financial status.
  2. The affidavit makes it obligatory to disclose the details of the previous cases filed by the parties and maintenance, if awarded in any other case and if not, any voluntary payment made by either party.
  3. The detailed elucidation of self-owned properties and ancestral properties, jointly-owned properties, accounts, fixed deposits, Shares, Debentures and other holdings, ITR reports of three years, Bank statements of three years, and Tax receipts.
  4. Details of Loans, friendly loans and other liabilities, encumbrances, details of dependents, and expenses. Expenses and investments made in the name of children, relatives etc.
  5. There are different schedules stipulated where the parties have to disclose each and every financial detail under every head even if they are foreign nationals, involved in any business or a bureaucrat.

The said affidavit is comprehensive and exhaustive making it mandatory for the parties to provide their veracious details. Most pertinently, it has to be submitted on the solemn affirmation along with the entire true supporting documents in the form of an affidavit. Therefore, ensuring accuracy, eliminating suppression, ambiguities and fabrication, saving the valuable time of the Jurists, aggrandizing the quality of delivering justice, as the maintenance amount is decided after considering the comprehensive background of both the parties. Moreover, it is noteworthy that, if any party submits a fabricated affidavit and perjures himself/herself, may be penalized under Section 340 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 and under Sections 191, 193 of the Indian Penal Code.[8] The said radical and stern guidelines have eliminated many complex steps in the legal proceedings saving time and have brought accuracy while deciding the maintenance.

[1]Fida Hussain Vs. Moradabad Development Authority CIVIL APPEAL NO. 5448 OF 2006

[2][(2021) 2 SCC 324]

[3]https://www.scobserver.in/journal/court-frames-comprehensive-guidelines-on-maintenance/

[4]https://swarajyamag.com/insta/husband-may-beg-borrow-or-steal-to-maintain-wife-and-child-says-punjab-haryana-high-court-in-a-verdict

[5] Justice Jitendra Chauhan in the case Sunita Kumar Vs. Rita,2013

[6]https://blog.ipleaders.in/notice-to-produce-documents-order-12-rule8/#:~:text=Production%20/ rajnesh vs neha/of%20documents% 2D%20%E2%80%9CIt%20shall,and%20the%20Court%20may%20deal

[7]https://citecase.wordpress.com/2021/09/27/rajnesh vs neha-simultaneous-applications-for-maintenance-under-different-statutes/

[8]https://www.mondaq.com/india/crime/878034/perjury-and-indian-laws#:~:text=The%20Indian%20Penal%20Code%2C%201860,as%20SEVEN%20YEARS%20of%20imprisonment.

This article has been written by Adv. Aarti Gore, Practicing Advocate and Pursuing LL.M. from P.E.S. Modern Law College. 

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