-Report by A.K. Sooraj
The Delhi High Court in the case of Rashmi Sehrawat vs Praveen Sehrawat held that the failure to comply with the orders of maintenance, even after giving several opportunities, amounts to contempt of court.
The contempt petition was filed by the petitioner, wife stating that the Respondent, husband was in wilful disobedience and deliberate non-compliance with the order dated 18.09.2019 passed by the Mahila Court, New Delhi ( Trial Court), whereby the Respondent was directed to pay a monthly maintenance amount of Rs. 35,000, including rent, for the two minor sons and the Petitioner from the date of application to the disposal of the case. This contempt petition was filed by the Petitioner on 24.08.2020, given the absolute non-compliance of the said order dated 18.09.2019. The petition alleged that since the date of the order, the Respondent has not made any payments. The aforementioned order of 18.09.2019 had been challenged by both parties, and the cross-appeals were dismissed by the Additional Sessions Judge, New Delhi in an order dated 12.11.2020. A finding was returned by the Appellate Court that the monthly income of the Respondent is Rs. 65,000. The Appellant Court directed the Respondent to pay to the Petitioner an amount of Rs. 5000 per month for the maintenance of each child and apart from that he was directed to pay Rs. 10000 per month for the school fees of each child. In addition, the Respondent was directed to pay Rs 10000 per month for the Petitioner towards the maintenance and Rs. 5000 towards the rent. The Appellate Court determined the sum total of the monthly amount of maintenance as Rs. 45000 subjects to the variation on account of school fees.
ARGUMENTS OF THE PETITIONER:
The learned counsel for the petitioner submitted that there was Rs. 15,45,000 in maintenance arrears as of the current date for the petitioner and her young children. He said that this did not include the minor children’s unpaid school expenses. He claims that the Respondent in this case has a sizable rental revenue of 10–12 lakhs per month based on instructions from the Petitioner. According to him, the respondent in this case and his family are the owners of 32 units in Mahipalpur. He further refers to the Petitioner’s averments, which allege that the Respondent sold the Greater Noida villa for Rs. 49,00,000 in 2018. He claims that the Trial Court had directed the Respondent to present an account of the relevant transaction and specifics of how the relevant sum had been spent. He claims that the Respondent has purposefully disobeyed the aforementioned directive and has not yet supplied it. He added that the minor children were being harassed for fee demands and made fun of by the relevant school as a result of the Respondent’s actions in failing to pay their tuition on time.
ARGUMENTS OF THE RESPONDENT:
The learned counsel for the Respondent claimed in a computation that the amount of arrears due and payable as of 01.02.2023 was Rs. 8,52,333. The Petitioner disputed the computation and the statement of payments attached, refusing to accept the entries made therein. On February 15, 2023, he restated his arguments from February 13 to the effect that the petitioner could not continue the current contempt proceedings since she had submitted an execution petition that was still being decided by the Trial Court. He also added that the non-compliance with the orders was not wilful or intentional. He claimed that despite his best efforts, the Respondent was unable to pay the arrears under the conditions of the maintenance order due to the Respondent’s meagre income.
The current matter has been listed 32 times. Even as of the date the decisions were reserved, the amount of accepted maintenance arrears owed by the Respondent was Rs. 8,52,333 (which, according to the Petitioner, should be Rs. 15,45,000). The Respondent had not made the payments of the admitted arrears even after repeatedly, seeking time from this Court to clear the same. the Respondent is a 50-year-old professional, holding a degree and therefore, in accordance with the judgement in Anju Garg vs Deepak Kumar Garg, 2022 SCC OnLine 1314, capable of earning and maintaining his wife and children. Respondent had numerous opportunities and undertakings, but he had failed to follow the maintenance directives. The Respondent was adjudged to have committed contempt of court and was subject to punishment under Section 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, as the Court was of the opinion that the Respondent was defiant and wilfully and intentionally disobeyed the undertakings made to the Court and orders made by the Trial Court, Appellate Court, and the Court in these proceedings. The Court sentenced the respondent, contemnor, Mr. Praveen Sehrawat, to undergo two months of simple imprisonment along with a fine of Rs. 2000, and in default of the payment of the fine, he shall further undergo fifteen days of simple imprisonment. Following the judgement in Sonali Bhatia vs Abhivansh Narang, the Court directed that the Respondent exhibit his apology by complying with the orders of the Trial Court as modified by the Appellate Court, and directions issued by the Court makes payment of entire arrears of maintenance within ten (10) days and undertakes to continue to pay the maintenance until the order dated 12.11.2020 continues to remain in force, and tenders an unconditional apology to the Court, the Court shall consider recalling the punishment of Respondent undergoing simple imprisonment, provided the respondent complies with the aforesaid directions within 10 days. However, he was instructed to appear before the Jail Superintendent at the Central Jail, Tihar, New Delhi, on April 20, 2023, if he does not abide by the aforementioned instruction within the time allotted.
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