In a very significant development, which shall immensely help women to know how much her husband is earning as salary, the Gwalior Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court in an extremely laudable, learned, landmark and latest judgment titled Smt Rashi Gupta & Ors. vs. Gaurav Gupta in CRR No. 3519/2018 delivered on April 29, 2022 has observed explicitly that giving an opportunity to the husband to file his salary slip for effective adjudication of the maintenance proceedings cannot be said to be depriving him of his life and personal liberty.
A wife is not a stranger but a life partner, thus she is definitely entitled to know the salary of her husband. The single Judge Bench comprising of Justice GS Ahluwalia of Gwalior Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court held that asking the husband to produce his salary slip in such a proceeding cannot be termed as a violation of his privacy. The husband was directed by the Principal Judge, Family Court, Gwalior to pay Rs18,000/- in total per month to his wife and children as maintenance, but he was allegedly trying to delay the matter on one pretext or the other.
This judgment authored by a single Judge Bench of Gwalior Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court comprising of Justice GS Ahluwalia first and foremost sets the ball rolling by recalling and putting forth in the opening para that,
“On 22/07/2019, the following order has been passed:-
“Shri D.D.Bansal, learned counsel for the petitioners.
Shri M.M.Tripathi, learned counsel for the respondent.
Counsel for the respondent sought time to file reply.
Same is opposed by counsel for the petitioner. It is submitted that as a dilatory tactic, respondent is making attempts to delay the matter. As per the order of Principal Judge, Family Court, Gwalior, Rs. 18,000/- in total per month is to be given to petitioners as maintenance.
Counsel for the respondent is directed to file reply within two weeks positively, else matter should be heard without reply. It is further expected that respondent shall submit the appropriate documents in support of his submission regarding the salary structure of respondent. It is also expected that respondent shall pay regular maintenance amount to petitioner, who are his wife and children.
List the matter on 8/8/2019.””
What follows next is then laid bare in the next para wherein it is disclosed by the Bench that, “In response to the aforesaid order, the respondent has filed his reply but has not filed the salary slip on the ground that compelling the husband to file the salary slip in the maintenance proceedings would be contrary to the protection given under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”
The Bench then, notes that
“Article 21 of the Constitution of India reads as under:-
“21. Protection of life and personal liberty.-
No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.””
The Order says, “Giving an opportunity to the husband to file his salary slip for effective adjudication of the maintenance proceedings cannot be said to be depriving him from his life and personal liberty. Even otherwise, it is clear from the Article 21 of the Constitution of India that the life and liberty of a person can be deprived in accordance with procedure established by law.”
The Bench then, while mentioning about the respondent defence observes,
“The respondent has also taken the defence of Article 20 of the Constitution of India and submitted that no one can be compelled to give evidence against himself. Article 20 of the Constitution of India reads as under:-
“20. Protection in respect of conviction for offences.-
(1) No person shall be convicted of any offence except for violation of the law in force at the time of the commission of the act charged as an offence, nor be subjected to a penalty greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence.
(2) No person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once.
(3) No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.””
The Bench pointed out that while the Court ordered the respondent to comply with submitting the Salary Slip, the respondent submitted that he cannot be compelled to file his salary slip. Citing orders by the Supreme Court in earlier recorded cases, the Bench pointed out that the Court must have due regard to the standard of living of the husband, as well as the spiralling inflation rates and high costs of living. The plea of the husband that he does not possess any source of income ipso facto does not absolve him of his moral duty to maintain his wife if he is able-bodied and has educational qualifications. [Reema Salkan v. Sumer Singh Salkan, (2019) 12 SCC 303 : (2018) 5 SCC (Civ) 596 : (2019) 4 SCC (Cri) 339].
The Bench further stated that a careful and just balance must be drawn between all relevant factors. The maintenance amount awarded must be reasonable and realistic, and avoid either of the two extremes i.e. maintenance awarded to the wife should neither be so extravagant which becomes oppressive and unbearable for the respondent, nor should it be so meagre that it drives the wife to penury. The sufficiency of the quantum has to be adjudged so that the wife is able to maintain herself with reasonable comfort.
Section 20(2) of the DV Act provides that the monetary relief granted to the aggrieved woman and/or the children must be adequate, fair, reasonable, and consistent with the standard of living to which the aggrieved woman was accustomed to in her matrimonial home.
The Delhi High Court in Bharat Hegde v. Saroj Hegde [Bharat Hegde v. Saroj Hegde, 2007 SCC OnLine Del 622 : (2007) 140 DLT 16] laid down the following factors to be considered for determining maintenance:
(d) Maintenance of minor children
The living expenses of the child would include expenses for food, clothing, residence, medical expenses, education of children. Extra coaching classes or any other vocational training courses to complement the basic education must be factored in, while awarding child support. Albeit, it should be a reasonable amount to be awarded for extracurricular/coaching classes, and not an overly extravagant amount which may be claimed.
Further, education expenses of the children must be normally borne by the father. If the wife is working and earning sufficiently, the expenses may be shared proportionately between the parties.
Quite commendably, the Bench then clearly held that the wife cannot be held to be a stranger and she is entitled to know the salary of her husband.”
In brief, this is a very significant, simple and straight forward judgment in favour of the wife by a single Judge Bench of Gwalior Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court comprising of Justice GS Ahluwalia. It is clearly held that asking husband to produce salary slip in maintenance proceedings can’t be termed as violation of privacy. It is also made clear in this judgment that a wife being a life partner is entitled to ask for it and this cannot be denied by the husband. This is what forms the keystone of this notable judgment.
Advocate Sanjeev Sirohi; Meerut, Uttar Pradesh.