Unemployment and low income cannot be cited as excuses to escape payment of maintenance to wife and children under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the Karnataka High Court has held.
In a judgment passed on November 17, a single-judge Bench of Justice Jyothi Mulimani said that a father has a personal obligation to maintain his minor child and cannot shirk that responsibility saying he is working as a coolie.
“It is needless to observe that a father is under a personal obligation to maintain his minor child. Hence, factors like unemployment, earning a meagre income cannot be an excuse for not maintaining wife and children. He cannot shirk his responsibility from maintaining the family his minor son under the garb of doing a coolie job,” the Court said.
The Court was dealing with a revision petition filed by one Sunil, seeking to set aside a Family Court order which directed him to pay Rs. 3,500 to his minor son till he attains majority.
After obtaining a divorce by mutual consent, the husband and wife went their separate ways. Their minor child was the under the care and custody of the mother. Contending that his father neglected and refused to pay maintenance despite having sufficient means, the minor son through his guardian mother-initiated proceedings under Section 125 of CrPC seeking maintenance.
The Family Court found that child’s mother had established that the father wilfully neglected and refused to maintain his child. Therefore, he went on to pass a maintenance order. Seeking to set aside this order, the petitioner approached the High Court.
Advocate K Prasanna Shetty, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that the order of the Family Court suffers from serious infirmities and the same is liable to be set aside.
He submitted that the Family Court failed to appreciate the oral and documentary evidence available on record. It was added that the judge ought to have dismissed the claim petition filed by the son on the ground that his parents have already obtained a decree of divorce.
Lastly, he submitted that his client is doing coolie work and earning a meagre income. Therefore, he is not able to pay the maintenance as ordered by the Family Court.
After noting the contentions, the Court observed that the real question to be answered is whether the excuse given on behalf of the petitioner – that he is working as coolie and hence unable to pay maintenance – can be accepted.
Finding no merit in the contentions raised by the petitioner, the Court held that a Hindu man “is under a legal obligation to maintain his wife, his minor sons, his unmarried daughters and his aged parents, whether he possess any property or not.
“The obligation to maintain these relations is personal, legal and absolute in character and arises from the very existence of the relationship between the parties,” the court added.
The order also emphasised the nature of relationship between a parent and a child.
“Strengthening the parent-child relationships requires work, mutual understanding and efforts. Parenting is a tough job, but by maintaining a close relationship and open communication with your children, parents can stay connected to them during all stages of life.”
As a last-ditch attempt, Shetty submitted that the child has attained the age of majority and hence, the father (petitioner) is not liable to pay any maintenance to him.
In this regard, the Court observed that the claim for grant of maintenance allowance was made in the year 2013, when the son was studying in 8th standard. The Family Court order was passed in the year 2014, the same year this revision petition was filed.
“Had the father agreed to the amount as ordered by the Family Court, his own son would have used the said amount for his own education and had come up in his life holding a better position in the society.”
On these grounds, the Court refused to interfere with the Family Court order on maintenance and dismissed the present plea.