22 November 2021- When exercising the courts' power under Section 125(3), the Punjab and Haryana High Court observed that a court may impose a composite civil imprisonment when a party does not pay maintenance arrears/allowances for a period of one month only in one shot. The judgment was given by Justice Manjari Nehru Kaul.
In the beginning of this case the petitioner was ordered by the court to face a composite sentence of 12 months of civil imprisonment for nonpayment of maintenance for 66 months. Although aggrieved by this , the petitioner filed for revision in the High Court.
According to Section 125 (3) CrPC, a court can impose only a one month sentence for violation of the maintenance obligation if payment of the arrears is made earlier than the deadline for payment. The court also referred the case of Shahada Khatoon & ors Vs Amjaf Ali & ors (1999) 5 SCC 672 where it was ruled that the power of magistrate are limited and they can’t impose a sentence exceeding more than one month for the default payment. Furthermore, the Apex court had noted that if the default persists even after the expiry of one month, the aggrieved party would need to approach the Magistrate concerned again to have the amount and the manner of imprisonment ordered for the delinquent husband enforced.
As a result , the High Court held that a defaulter cannot voluntarily undergo composite civil imprisonment for more than one month, regardless of whether the arrears and other issues claimed in a single application by the aggrieved party are for more than one month.