A costly divorce

January 19, 2009

Husbands contesting maintenance claims beware! If the matrimonial court finds that you concealed real income to pay less to your estranged wife, it can from now on order maintenance entirely based on her standard of living before the separation and #8230; and it could prove much more costly. This is how the Delhi High Court asked Karun Raj Narang, a top official with the healthcare company Eastern Medikit Ltd to pay Rs 1,25,000 per month interim maintenance to his wife Radhika in place of Rs 40,000 per month awarded by a lower court.

Narang was also directed to provide a new Honda City car with petrol and a driver at his own cost for the day-to-day requirements of Radhika and their three children. The husband is also to provide her a two-bedroom house with a drawing and dining rooms with an extra room in any of the colony in South Delhi, specifying that it should not be more than five to seven km away from the school of their children.

The Bench accepted Radhika’s submission that before the matrimonial dispute she was Director of the company owned by the Narangs and enjoyed all facilities, including a chauffeur driven car but was removed from the post after she moved court seeking maintenance. “Courts have to ascertain the true circumstances of a given case while awarding maintenance.

Where the income of the husband is concealed and it is difficult to ascertain the correct position, the court may fix the amount based on factors which were in existence before the souring of the relation as we have done in the present case,” said Justices Mukul Mudgal and Manmohan. Radhika’s lawyer Y P Narula told the court that the amount awarded by the lower court was wholly inadequate keeping in view the husbands income, his assets and also the lifestyle to which both the parties had been used to during the period they were together.

Narula pointed to the observations by the lower court that the husband had withheld his income and his interests in various companies. “The purpose of providing maintenance in our view is meant to secure to a wife as far as possible the status and facilities enjoyed by her prior to her separation from her husband.

The determinations of maintenance not being governed by any rigid rules give enough discretion to the court to do justice”, said the court. Appearing for Narang, senior lawyer KTS Tulsi said though the wife had based their case on the existence of the joint family property, yet all the maintenance had to be paid by the husband.

He also pleaded that since Narang did not own the company, entire property did not belong to him. Citing a Supreme Court judgment, Tulsi also submitted that landed property cannot be considered for maintenance.

But the court was not convinced.