Supreme Court lays down maintenance rules

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The Supreme Court in a judgment on Wednesday ruled that wives and minor children will now be able to receive maintenance from the date of filing an application for maintenance, ensuring uniformity of grant of maintenance available under various legislations as well as filling a lacunae that existed in the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA) as well as Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act (HAMA) which did not specify when maintenance order would be enforceable.

A bench of Justices Indu Malhotra and R Subhash Reddy said directions are required to be passed to overcome the issue of overlapping jurisdiction and avoid conflicting orders.

The need for uniformity in this aspect was noted by the SC to help serve the interests of women fighting protracted legal battles for divorce, custody and maintenance with no financial means to secure their litigation expenses.

To ensure such a situation does not play to the disadvantage of women, the bench said, “Financial constraints of a dependant spouse hampers their capacity to be effectively represented before the Court. In order to prevent a dependant from being reduced to destitution, it is necessary that maintenance is awarded from the date on which the application for maintenance is filed before the concerned Court.”

The Court directed a copy of its judgment to be communicated to all High Courts and District Courts.

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