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In rendering a judgement concerning enhancement of maintenance, Justice RMT Teeka Raman of the Madras High Court has showed initiative to promote digital e-disbursement of the maintenance amount in family dispute cases.
The matter emerged in the form of a revision petition preferred by the wife/petitioner. The trial court had initially awarded a sum of Rs. 10,000 per month to be paid as maintenance to the petitioner. Later, the High Court would increase the same to Rs. 25,000 per month.
In the instant case, Justice Raman held that the maintenance amount had been arrived at taking for granted the testimony forwarded by the respondent’s father, who had been given power of attorney by his son/respondent.
The Court made special note of the fact that the respondent had never appeared in person before the court at any time. It relied on the case of RR Pauvya v. C Kanagavel and went on to hold,
“…in the matters of marriage, issues of relationship can be spoken to only by the spouses themselves and not the evidence of the father. The trial Court has committed an error in relying upon the evidence of the father in the absence of evidence of the respondent/husband….
…adverse inference has to be drawn against the respondent/husband for not producing the evidence before the Court about his income to arrive at a conclusion and for awarding maintenance.”
Given this factor, and Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act, the Court accepted the uncontroverted submission of the petitioner that the respondent was earning enough for it to enhance the maintenance to the petitioner further. The Court, therefore, increased the maintenance amount to Rs. 50,000 per month.
Notably, the Court also passed orders to disburse the maintenance amount through digital payment methods in the interests of expediency. Given that the government is promoting a ‘Digital India’ and, in the same vein, the Supreme Court has promoted an e-court system, the Court directed that lower courts update their procedure on par with digitisation schemes.
The judge has gone on to detail the procedures to be followed in terms of expediting the process of depositing the maintenance amount with the Court and thereafter with the bank, following which payment/disbursement of the maintenance amount is to be made.
It was noted that the comprehensive e-court project of the Supreme Court did not cover payment through the digital mode. For this reason, the judge directed the instant order be placed before the e-Court committee of the High Court for administrative sanction to district judicial authorities, to further the digitisation of maintenance cases and, thereby, timely delivery of justice.
Copies of the order were also directed to be circulated for reference to all courts in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.