Father Cannot Be Absolved From Liability To Maintain His Son – SC Directs Army Officer To Maintain His Son While Confirming Divorce
A two-judge Bench of Justice MR Shah and Justice AS Bopanna has held that a father cannot be absolved from his liability and responsibility to maintain his son till he attains the age of majority.
The Court also held, "Whatever be the dispute between the husband and the wife, a child should not be made to suffer."
Advocate Ms.Neela Gokhale appeared for the Appellant during the proceedings before the Court, while the Respondent did not appear.
An appeal was preferred by the Appellant-Wife assailing the judgment of Rajasthan High Court which had dismissed the appeal of the Appellant and upheld the decree passed by the Family Court dissolving the marriage between the Appellant and the Respondent on the ground of cruelty and desertion by the former.
In this case, the Appellant-Wife had filed a number of complaints against the Respondent-Husband before his employer - Army Authorities by alleging that the Respondent had extramarital affairs. Due to this, the Respondent-Husband was exonerated. This was followed by the Respondent-Husband filing a divorce case against the Appellant-wife. The two also had a son out of their wedlock.
The Appellant contended before the Supreme Court that despite the order of status quo passed by the Apex Court, the Respondent-Husband had remarried and this was the reason he chose not to appear during the proceedings before the Court.
It was further contended by the Appellant-Wife that the marriage may continue to remain dissolved on account of irretrievable breakdown of marriage since both husband and wife were living separately since May 2011 and the husband had already remarried.
The Appellant prayed before the Court to direct the Respondent-Husband to pay maintenance to the former and their minor son as they did not have any means of maintaining themselves and had no independent income to sustain them.
The Apex Court noted that since both parties were living separately since May 2011, it could be said that there was an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage between them. Further, it was reported that the Respondent-Husband had remarried. Hence, there would be no useful purpose to enter into the merits of the findings recorded by the Courts below on cruelty and desertion by the Appellant-Wife, the Bench opined.
Further, the Court observed, "However, at the same time, the respondent-husband cannot be absolved from his liability and responsibility to maintain his son Pranav till he attains the age of majority."
"The liability and responsibility of the father to maintain the child continues till the 5 child/son attains the age of majority. It also cannot be disputed that the son Pranav has a right to be maintained as per the status of his father," the Court added.
Additionally, the Bench held, "It is reported that the mother is not earning anything. She is residing at her parental house at Jaipur. Therefore, a reasonable/sufficient amount is required for the maintenance of her son including his education etc. which shall have to be paid by the respondent-husband, irrespective of the decree of dissolution of marriage between the appellant-wife and the respondent-husband."
Furthermore, the Apex Court directed the Respondent-Husband to pay Rs. 50,000 per month to the Appellant-Wife towards the maintenance of their son from December 2019. Also, it was ordered by the Court that if the arrears of Rs. 50,000 per month commencing from December 2019 till November 2021 were not paid by the father, in such a case, the arrears along with monthly maintenance be paid by the Army Authorities by deducting the same in EMIs from the salary of the father.
Accordingly, the Court disposed of the appeal.