The Supreme Court on Friday gave a final opportunity to a man to clear Rs 2.6 crore arrears of maintenance, along with monthly maintenance of Rs 1.75 lakh, to his estranged wife, failing which he may be sent to jail.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, said: "Accordingly, by way of last chance, we permit the respondent 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 (husband) may have to be punished and sent to civil prison."
The bench observed the husband has been seeking time to make payment for over two years now. Counsel appearing for the woman said he has sufficient resources to pay but he is unwilling, though the man insisted that he had no money and sought time to pay.
The top court has posted the matter after four weeks, and warned the man that imprisonment orders may be passed on next hearing if he does not pay.
"It is not disputed by the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the respondent and the respondent himself that he has been directed to pay money to his wife under two heads: one is the monthly maintenance of Rs 1,75,000 and the other is the past arrears of maintenance from the year 2009 which amounts to Rs 2.60 crore (approx), out of which an amount of Rs 50,00,000 has been paid to the wife," the top court said in its order.
Counsel for the woman told the court that despite directions to pay, he has not complied but instead is leading a lavish lifestyle.
As counsel for man argued that if his client goes behind the bars, then the wife will not get maintenance, the bench retorted that it will serve the interest of justice.
Stressing that a husband cannot relinquish his responsibility to provide maintenance to his wife, the bench directed the man to borrow money or to take loan and clear the outstanding in connection with the maintenance of his estranged wife.
"To see if the respondent (husband) has complied with this order, the matter(s) shall be listed before this Court at the end of four weeks. In case the amount is not paid orders of arrest and imprisonment may be passed against the respondent on that date," it said.