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Matrimonial Disputes: From Pens to Property, Delhi HC Wants Spouses to List Every Penny Spent

Representative image

Representative image

The HC said a detailed affidavit of assets, income and expenditure of both the spouses is necessary to determine their true income and to fix maintenance, permanent alimony and right in joint properties.

Brand of mobile, wrist watch, pen, wages of maid, expenditure incurred on functions and festivals are among a long list of details which a husband and wife, embroiled in matrimonial dispute, will now have to disclose in the affidavits to be placed before the courts to determine their true income.

The directive came from the Delhi High Court which said on Thursday that a detailed affidavit of the assets, income and expenditure of both the spouses is necessary to determine their true income and to fix maintenance, permanent alimony and right in the joint properties.

Justice JR Midha, who was of the view that matrimonial jurisdiction deserves special attention and maintenance applications should be decided expeditiously, asked the subordinate courts to expedite the maintenance proceedings and make an endeavour to decide them within the prescribed time.

"It is the duty of the court to ascertain the true income of the parties and then pass the appropriate order relating to maintenance. Truth is the foundation of justice. Dispensation of justice, based on truth, is an essential feature in the justice delivery system. People would have faith in courts when truth alone triumphs. Justice based on truth would establish peace in the society,” the high court said in its 79-page judgement.

The court said it was of the view that the mandatory filing of the affidavit of assets, income and expenditure by the parties in a detailed prescribed form should be incorporated in the statutes, as in the developed countries and asked the central government to consider the suggestion.

It appreciated the assistance rendered by senior advocate Sunil Mittal, amicus curiae Anu Narula and Law Researcher Akshay Chowdhary for extensive research on corresponding law in other countries.

The court said it has examined the formats of the affidavits of assets, income and expenditure to be filed by the parties in matrimonial litigation in the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, Ireland, Australia, Singapore and South Africa and has incorporated some important questions and documents in the format.

The high court had in 2015 issued directions and formulated an affidavit of assets, income and expenditure to be filed by the husband and wife at the very threshold of matrimonial litigation.

Later, the directions and format was modified by the court in May and December 2017. It again modified the directions and format of the affidavit in its Thursday's verdict to make them more comprehensive and useful.

As per the modified affidavit, a salaried person is required to disclose the particulars of his employment including salary, dearness allowance, commissions, bonus, perks, other benefits and income tax.

The verdict said that a self employed person has to disclose the nature of business/ profession, share, net worth, number of employees, annual turnover, gross profit, income tax and regular monthly withdrawal.

The parties are also required to disclose income from other sources, like agriculture, rent, interest on bank deposits, investments, profits on sale of assets, particulars of immovable properties, financial assets including bank accounts, DEMAT accounts, safety deposit lockers, loans, insurance policies and foreign investments.

In movable assets, they have to disclose motor vehicles, mobiles, computer, laptop, electronic gadgets, gold, silver and diamond jewellery, intangible assets and properties acquired by the family members or inheritance.

The affidavit further requires them to disclose their standard of living, credit/debit cards, membership of clubs, social media accounts, domestic helps and their wages, mode of travel in city and outside, category of hotels, hospitals for medical treatment, frequency of foreign travel, brand of mobile, wrist watch, pen, expenditure ordinarily incurred on functions, festivals and marriage of family members. They also have to disclose expenditure on housing, household and medical, maintenance of dependents, transport, entertainment and vacations.

The high court made it clear that the courts shall ensure that the filing of affidavits by the parties is not reduced to a mere ritual or formality and if the party does not truly disclose all his/ her assets and income, the court may order interrogatories or inspection of documents.

It said the courts are at liberty to pass appropriate directions to do complete justice between the parties and in cases belonging to the lowest strata of the society or case of a litigant who is a permanently disabled/paralytic, it may dispense with the requirement of filing of the affidavit or modify the information required.

"These modified directions/guidelines shall apply to all matrimonial cases including cases under Hindu Marriage Act, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, Section 125 CrPC, Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, Special Marriage Act, Indian Divorce Act, Guardians and Wards Act and Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act," the high court said.

It directed the family courts to send the list of pending maintenance cases which are more than one year old and it shall contain the name of the case, date of institution, number of hearings that have taken place and reasons for delay.

"List be prepared according to the seniority, that is, the oldest case shall be mentioned first. Principal judge, family court shall compile the lists of all family courts and send them to the Registrar General of this court by December 31 for being placed before this court," it said.