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SC directs payment of monthly maintenance, arrears to harassed woman

New Delhi: After a prolonged high-cost litigation, a woman has at last succeeded getting justice from the Supreme Court, which taking a serious view of her husband depriving her of Rs.2.5 lakh monthly maintenance, asked him to pay Rs.1.60 crore arrears before his case could be taken up by the sessions court.

The husband, businessman Prashant Ojha, has been litigating against the maintenance order passed by a magistrate’s court July 5, 2012 directing payment of Rs.2.5 lakh from June 4, 2009, when the woman had moved the court seeking maintenance from her estranged husband.

The woman married Ojha were married April 20, 2007 but on Aug 14 that year, she was thrown out of her matrimonial home. Ojha pressurised her to agree for the dissolution of their marriage by mutual consent but did not succeed. He took legal recourse for getting a divorce but did not succeed.

On June 4, 2009, the woman filed a complaint before a magistrate’s court under the provision of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. The magistrate’s order awarded her an amount of Rs.2.5 lakh towards monthly maintenance which included rental charges for alternative accommodation. The court said that the maintenance order would be effective from June 4, 2009, when the woman had moved the court, and the husband was asked to pay the arrears by Dec 5, 2012.

This order was challenged by Ojha before the sessions court which had Jan 10, 2013, stayed its execution, but subject to the condition that he would pay the entire arrears till the date he had moved the sessions court.

Since Ojha did not pay the arrears as directed by the it, the sessions court, on an application by the wife, dismissed his appeal. Thereafter, the matter travelled to the high court and the apex court – three times – before the latter’s Sep 18 order directing the payment of maintenance as was decided by magistrate by its May 7, 2012.

Expressing concern on the plight of women who are subjected to various kinds of harassment by their husbands, the apex court said: “This is an unfortunate case where the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 are rendered simply a pious hope of the parliament and a teasing illusion for the appellant (wife)”.

“We are of the opinion that the conduct of the respondent (Ojha) is a gross abuse of the judicial process.”

Referring to the appeal pending before the high court, the court said that it was sure that whatever may be its decision, the matter would finally come before it, thereby delaying the conclusion of the litigation. It however said that the interest of justice would be better served if Ojha’s appeal before the sessions court against the magistrate’s order awarding monthly maintenance of Rs.2.5 lakh was heard and decided on merits.

“We also direct that the maintenance order passed by the magistrate be executed forthwith in accordance with law. The executing court should complete the process within 8 weeks and report compliance in the high court. We make it clear that such hearing by the sessions court should only be after the execution of the order of maintenance passed by the magistrate,” the apex cour said.

The top court order also clarified that in the event of the husband succeeding in the appeal challenging the maintenance order, either in full or part, the sessions court can make appropriate orders regarding the payments due to be made by him in the execution proceedings.