NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Friday said a husband cannot abdicate the responsibility of paying maintenance to his estranged wife and gave a last opportunity to a man to clear entire outstanding of Rs 2.60 crore along with monthly payout of Rs 1.75 lakh to his wife, failing which he would be imprisoned.
The man, who claimed to have been working on a project of national security in the telecom sector, said that he had no money and sought two years to pay the money.
The top court said however that he has lost credibility by failing repeatedly to follow the court's order and wondered how a person with this kind of case was associated with a project of national security.
A bench of Chief Justice Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian told the man, a Tamil Nadu resident, "Husband cannot abdicate from his responsibility to provide maintenance to his wife and it is his duty to provide the maintenance".
It ordered, "Accordingly by way of last chance, we permit the respondent (man) to make payment of the entire outstanding amount along with the monthly maintenance regularly to his wife within a period of four weeks from today, failing which, the respondent may have to be punished and sent to civil prison".
The top court listed the matter after four weeks to see whether its order has been complied.
"In case the amount is not paid, orders of arrest and imprisonment may be passed against the respondent on that date".
It noted that the man has been directed by the trial court and the decision upheld by the top court and the high court to pay money to his wife under two heads which include monthly maintenance of Rs. 1.75 lakh and the other is the past arrears of maintenance from the year 2009 which amounts to approximately Rs 2.60 crore, of which Rs 50,000 has been paid.
During the hearing, senior advocate Basava Prabhu Patil appearing for the woman, said that despite the top court directing the husband to pay the arrears and monthly maintenance amount while deciding the review petition he has not been paying it and instead leading a lavish lifestyle.
The bench told advocate Rohit Sharma, appearing for the husband, that he has not complied with even a single order of the courts and if he does not make the payments within two-three weeks, he will be sent to jail.
Sharma said that no interest will be served if he is sent to jail and even the wife will not get the maintenance, to which the bench told him it would serve the interest of justice.
The husband, who himself appeared before the court through video conferencing, said he has put all his money in research and development in a project related to national security in the telecom sector.
The bench said that it may order an investigation against him but then the consequence will be disastrous for him and it would be better if he makes the payment, which has been committed before the court in 2018, in two-three weeks.
Patil said that he has enough money and is trying to siphon off his funds invested in his five companies to a Germany based company.
When the husband again reiterated that he is working on a project of national security which would protect hacking of telecom networks from China, the bench said, "With this kind of case, how is this person involved in a project of national security".
The annoyed bench asked the man to borrow money or to take loan from a bank and pay the maintenance and arrear amount to his wife within one week or he will be straightaway sent to jail.
The husband claimed that his wife is a very influential person and has good contacts in the media, which she was using to tarnish his image.
The bench said, "We are not influenced by the media, we go by the facts of each case. The facts in this case suggest that you have not complied with our orders. You have lost your credibility. You pay the money in one week or go to jail".
The bench, however, on the request of the husband's counsel gave him four weeks to pay the outstanding amount.
The wife had filed a case under Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act before the metropolitan magistrate court in Chennai in 2009.
The court allowed the wife to share the house, until the husband made alternative arrangements for her permanent residence.
It directed the husband, to pay Rs 2 crore as maintenance to the wife; Rs 50 lakh compensation for deserting her for 12 years; Rs 50 lakh for living in extramarital life; Rs 50 lakh for leaving his wife to face the court cases; Rs 50 lakh to force to take a job in a media company; Rs 50 lakh for mental torture and agony by openly living with foreign women and Rs 50 lakh for not paying rent to the shared household.
On the appeal filed by the husband against the order, the Sessions court directed him to pay Rs 1 lakh per month towards maintenance from the date of filing the petition which is January 6, 2009 and Rs 75,000 per month for residential accommodation from the said date.
The high court upheld the order of Sessions court on December 2, 2016, after which the husband filed the appeal in the top court, which was dismissed by the top court on October 26, 2017 with a direction that within six months he would pay the maintenance and arrears.
Thereafter a review petition was filed in 2018 by the wife and the husband was directed to clear the arrears of maintenance Rs 1.75 lakh by the 10th day of every month.