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Surendra Kumar Asthana Vs. Smt. Kamlesh Asthana - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily;Civil
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Revn. No. 812 of 1972
Judge
Reported inAIR1974All110
ActsHindu Marriage Act, 1955 - Sections 21, 24 and 28; Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) , 1908 - Sections 115
AppellantSurendra Kumar Asthana
RespondentSmt. Kamlesh Asthana
Appellant AdvocateK.C. Agarwal and ;K.C. Saxena, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateP.K. Darbari, Adv.
DispositionRevision partly allowed
Excerpt:
.....is not disputed and there is good authority for the same that relief under section 24 can be granted in an appeal from a decree or order passed under the act. to this relief the wife is clearly entitled......certain documents to establish that he was a foreign national and not domiciled in india. in the revision application, which came up for hearing before me, sri b. s. darbari, learned counsel for the wife contended that the application under section 151, civil procedure code, read with section 24 of the act should be disposed of first and the interim pendente lite maintenance as well as expenses of this revision be awarded to the wife and that the revision should not be heard on merits till the pendente lite maintenance and expenses were paid by the husband. i have heard counsel for the parties at length on this application and pa the revision.3. there is no doubt that an application under section 24 of the hindu marriage act is an application for an interim relief during the pendency.....
Judgment:
ORDER

G.C. Mathur, J.

1. On January 25, 1972, Smt. Kamlesh Asthana (hereinafter referred to as the 'wife') filed, in the Court of Civil Judge, Agra a petition under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, for restitution of conjugal rights against her husband Sri Surendra Kumar Asthana, the applicant in this revision. At that time and even now the husband is working and residing in Tehran (Iran). After notices were served on the husband, he on March 24, 1972, put in appearance under protest. On March 25, 1972, he filed an application stating that he was a foreign national and was not domiciled in any territory to which the Act extended and that he was not subject to the jurisdiction of Indian courts. He asked for time for filing written statement and prayed that in the mean time the question of jurisdiction be determined. Immediately thereafter on March 28, 1972, the wife filed an application under Section 24 of the Act praying that a pendente lite monthly alimony or monthly maintenance of Rs. 2,000/- per month and a sum of Rs. 1,256/- towards the expenses of the petition may be awarded to her. The application came up for hearing before the Civil Judge on July 6, 1972. On that day the wife insisted that the application under Section 24 of the Act be decided before the question of jurisdiction was considered. The husband on the other hand pressed that the question of jurisdiction be decided first. The Court heard arguments on this question and fixed July 8, 1972 for orders. On July 3, 1972, he passed an order that the application under Section 24 will be decided before the question of jurisdiction can be taken up. Against this order the husband filed this revision in this Court on July 28, 1972. The revision was admitted and the proceedings before the Civil Judge were stayed.

2. During the pendency of the revision the wife filed, on October 9, 1972, an application under Section 151, Civil Procedure Code, read with Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act to grant pendente lite alimony of Rs. 2,000/- per month from January 30, 1972. She also prayed for the grant, provisionally of at least Rs. 2,100/- as costs of the proceedings. It was further stated in the application that the revision and the stay application be not heard until the husband complied with the orders of this application. Counter-affidavit and rejoinder-affidavit have been filed in this application. By an application filed on March 26, 1973, the husband sought to file certain documents to establish that he was a foreign national and not domiciled in India. In the revision application, which came up for hearing before me, Sri B. S. Darbari, learned Counsel for the wife contended that the application under Section 151, Civil Procedure Code, read with Section 24 of the Act should be disposed of first and the interim pendente lite maintenance as well as expenses of this revision be awarded to the wife and that the revision should not be heard on merits till the pendente lite maintenance and expenses were paid by the husband. I have heard Counsel for the parties at length on this application and pa the revision.

3. There is no doubt that an application under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act is an application for an interim relief during the pendency of the proceedings. Such an application has to be decided before the proceedings are finally disposed of. If such an application is allowed and an order for payment of pendente lite maintenance and/or expenses is passed, there is power in the Court to stay further proceedings till the order is complied with. But the Court has also a discretion, even after passing an order under Section 24 of the Act, to continue with the proceedings and to leave the recovery of the amount awarded to other process of law. In the present case I do not think it fit to postpone the hearing of the revision till after an order under Section 24 is passed and is complied with, as that would not be in the interest of the wife and would further delay the proceedings.

4. Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act provides:--

'Where in any proceeding under this Act it appears to the court that either the wife or the husband, as the case may be, has no independent income sufficient for her or his support and the necessary expenses of the proceeding, it may, on the application of the wife or the husband, order the respondent to pay to the petitioner the expenses of the proceeding, and monthly, during the proceedings such sum as having regard to the petitioner's own income and the income of the respondent, it may seem to the Court to be reasonable.'

It may be noticed that under this Section both the husband and the wife can seek relief. The pendente lite relief is to he given to a spouse, who is not in a financial position to maintain himself or herself and to bear the expenses of the litigation, and the relief has to be granted against the spouse who is in a better financial position. The relief can only be granted in a proceeding under the Hindu Marriage Act.

5. Two objections have been raised by Sri K. C. Saxena, learned Counsel for the husband, to the grant of relief under Section 24, namely:--

1. That the Hindu Marriage Act is itself not applicable as the husband is a foreign national and is not domiciled in any area to which the Act applies.

2. That this revision is not a proceeding under the Act, but is merely a proceeding under Section 115. Civil Procedure Code arising out of an order passed not under any provision, of the Act but under the Code of Civil Procedure.

The first objection has also been raised in the main petition before the Civil Judge and the dispute in the revision is whether this question should be decided, before disposing of the application made before the Civil Judge under Section 24 of the Act. The objection is based on Sub-section (2) of Section 1 regarding the extent of the Act. Sub-section (2) reads thus:--

'(2) It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir and applies also to Hindus domiciled in the territories to which this Act extends who are outside the said territories.'

The argument is that since the husband is not domiciled in the territories to which the Act extends and since he is not living in any part of India, the Act does not extend to him and, therefore, neither a petition under Section 9 nor an application under Section 24 of the Act lies against him in the Indian courts. It is neither necessary nor desirable to decide this question at this stage. Relief under Section 24 can, in my opinion, be granted even where a question to the jurisdiction of the court has been raised. In matrimonial cases the ordinary rules of procedure are not applicable.

6. The grant of relief under Section 24 is not dependant either on the merits of the petition or on the decision of any particular issue or issues in the case or upon the ultimate success or failure of the petition. The reason behind the rule in Section 24 for payment of pendente lite maintenance is that, where marriage is admitted, it is the duty of the affluent spouse to maintain the indigent spouse. This duty is unaffected by the pleas raised in the petition even if the plea be to the jurisdiction of the court. If on the face of the petition it is maintainable and the court has jurisdiction to entertain it, then the court has also the power to grant relief under Section 24 even if an objection to the jurisdiction is raised and even before such an objection is decided. Such an objection will be an issue in the case. Likewise, the reason for the provision for payment of expenses is that a wife or a husband, who has no independent income sufficient to meet the necessary expenses of the proceeding, may not be handicapped. Such a spouse should not be left without means of putting her or his case fairly before the Court. It can be no defence to the claim for expenses that a question of jurisdiction has been raised. Expenses can be awarded even before the question of jurisdiction is decided.

7. In England the rules make provision for the giving of security by the husband for the costs of the wife and for the award of alimony pendente lite to the wife our Section 24 is more liberal, in that it provides for the payment of expenses to fight the litigation and not merely for security for costs. It further permits relief to the needy spouse, whether it be the wife or the husband. In England Courts have granted relief even if questions of jurisdiction, similar to one raised in this case, have been raised pending the decision of those questions. In Smith v. Smith, 1923 P 128, Hill, J., held that a husband cannot refuse to pay and give security for his wife's costs of divorce suitor issue as to domicile merely on the ground that he disputes the jurisdiction. A husband who appears under protest to a wife's petition and disputes the jurisdiction on the ground of his having a foreign domicile may be ordered to pay his wife's costs of suit upto the setting down of the issue and to give security for her costs attendant on the issue. The decision of Hill. J., was approved by the Court of Appeal in Johnstone v. Johnstone, 1929 P 165. In Ronalds v. Ronalds, (1875) 3 P and D 259 it was held that the fact that there is a plea to the jurisdiction of the court in a matrimonial suit does not affect the power of the Court to allot alimony pendente lite.

8. Therefore, even where a question of jurisdiction has been raised, the court has, before deciding that question, power to grant relief under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act provided that, on the averments made in the petition, the petition is maintainable and the court, prima facie, has jurisdiction to entertain it. Though the court has this power, it has a discretion under Section 24 till the question of jurisdiction is decided. It would, however, be desirable to allow expenses to the needy spouse to fight out the issue of jurisdiction also, even where the court thinks that the question of pendente lite maintenance should be decided after the issue of jurisdiction has been decided. The first objection raised by Sri K. C. Saxena does not stand in the way of granting relief to the wife in this case under Section 24.

9. The second objection is based on the use of the words 'in any proceeding under this Act' and it is contended that a revision application under Section 115, Civil Procedure Code, is not a proceeding under the Act. It is to be noticed that the Act does not directly provide for an appeal or a revision from orders passed in proceedings under it. Section 21 of the Act provides that subject to the other provisions contained in the Act and of the rules made by the High Court all proceedings under the Act shall be regulated, as far as may be, by the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Section 28 provides that all decrees and orders made by the court in any proceeding under this Act shall be enforced in like manner' as the decrees and orders of the court made in the exercise of its original civil jurisdiction are enforced, and may be appealed from under any law for the time being in force. Appeals from decrees and orders made under the Act lie under the Code of Civil Procedure. Likewise, revisions also lie against orders made in proceedings under the Act under the Code of Civil Procedure. It is not disputed and there is good authority for the same that relief under Section 24 can be granted in an appeal from a decree or order passed under the Act. I can see no reason why then relief under Section 24 cannot be granted in a revision against an order passed in a proceeding under the Act. The words 'in any proceeding under this Act' have been used in a wider sense to include all proceedings arising out of orders passed in petitions filed under the Act. To hold otherwise would defeat the very purpose of Section 24. Inmy opinion, it is competent for this Court to grant relief on an application under Section 24 even in a revision filed under Section 115, Civil Procedure Code, against an order passed in proceedings under the Act The second objection raised by Sri K. C. Saxena is also without force.

10. The application filed by the wife under Section 24 in this revision may now be considered The first relief prayed for in this application is for the award of alimony or maintenance pendente lite of Rupees 2,000/- per month. This relief is co-extensive with the relief prayed for by the wife in the application under Section 24 made before the Civil Judge. It is desirable that the award of this relief be considered by the Civil Judge and not by this Court. The second prayer in the application under Section 24 in this Court is that expenses of the hearing of the revision be awarded to the wife. To this relief the wife is clearly entitled. It is to be kept in mind that the award is of expenses and not of costs of the revision. The expenses to be awarded are not to be determined in accordance with the schedule of fees and costs in the High Court Rules or according to the valuation of the case. The Court has to determine what are the reasonable expenses which the wife is likely to incur or has incurred in the litigation. In the present case the Counsel for the wife has come from Agra and the case has been heard on three dates. In these circumstances, I think the wife should be awarded Rs. 500/- towards her expenses of this revision.

11. Coming now to the revision Itself, I am of the opinion that the wife is entitled to have her application under Section 24 for award of expenses to be considered before the issue of jurisdiction is decided. She is entitled to have her expenses for the hearing on the question of jurisdiction. This is a fairly complicated issue and is likely to take sometime for hearing. In the circumstances, I think the husband should pay Rs. 500/- to the wife towards the expenses for the hearing of the issue on the question of jurisdiction.

12. Though hormany the relief for the grant of maintenance pendente lite should also be heard before the question of jurisdiction is decided but the circumstances of the present case indicate that that would not be in the interest of the wife. In the present case the husband is living outside India and outside the jurisdiction of the Indian courts and there is likely to be difficulty in enforcing orders passed against him. The husband has raised a serious question about the maintainability of the petition and about the jurisdiction of the Court. Already morethan a year and a half has elapsed since the filing of the petition under Section 9 of the Act. If an order for maintenance pendente lite is passed and the proceedings are stayed till compliance is made, it will delay the proceeding further which will in no way help the wife. It is in the interest of the wife that the proceedings should be concluded as early as possible. In these circumstances I feel that it would be desirable that the question of payment of maintenance pen-dente lite should be considered by the Civil Judge after deciding the question of jurisdiction.

13. The revision is partly allowed and the order passed by the Civil Judge is modified. The application filed by the wife under Section 24 for expenses is allowed to this extent that the husband shall pay a sum of Rs. 500 towards the expenses of the wife for the hearing of the issue relating to the jurisdiction. The application filed by the wife under Section 24 for the award of maintenance pendente lite shall be considered after the issue of jurisdiction has been decided. The husband shall deposit the sum of Rs. 500/- awarded as expenses for the hearing of the revision in this Court and the sum of Rs. 500/- awarded for the hearing of the issue relating to the jurisdiction in the Court of the Civil Judge within one month from today. The Civil Judge will expeditiously decide the issue relating to the question of jurisdiction and then consider the application under Section 24 for the payment of maintenance pendente lite. There will be no order as to costs of this revision.


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