A divorce case, lodged against an Indian Airlines (IA) pilot, has scaled new heights as far as maintenance amounts, granted by any court in the country to an estranged wife and her child, go.
The high court on Thursday upheld a family court’s decision to award Payal Kapoor and her year-old son a monthly maintenance of Rs 25,000 each, following her formal separation from husband Sanjay.
This tops an earlier Kerala High Court directive, involving Rs 25,000 as monthly maintenance to an estranged wife and child and marks a milestone in the first flush of high-payment divorce settlements, following an amendment to rules dictating divorce.
The maintenance limit was Rs 1,500 till 2001, when the Supreme Court ordered that the amount be made “unlimited”.
Now, the amount payable to the estranged wife depends almost entirely on the judge’s discretion which, in turn, is proportionate to the husband’s monthly income.
The Payal-Sanjay case notched up two more firsts — it marked the first instance of the family court accepting copies of certain postings on the Internet as viable legal evidence; and the family court judge opted for a contemporary interpretation of certain provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act.
Payal used to live at Futnani Chambers, in central Calcutta. She married Sanjay, an IA pilot, in March 2000. The wedding took place in Delhi and the couple later shifted to Bangalore. Right from the start, Sanjay was unfaithful to her, Payal’s lawyer Pradip Ray told family court judge Arup Das. Ray added that his client would be “tortured” whenever she protested. Ultimately, she was driven out of her Bangalore home in November 2001 and returned her parents in Calcutta. Payel was then eight-months pregnant.
A son was born in early 2002. Soon after, Payal filed two separate suits, for divorce and maintenance, at a family court in Calcutta.
The family court last month ordered Sanjay to pay Payal and their son Rs 25,000 every month, prompting the pilot to move high court, as he felt that the city-based family court did not have the jurisdiction to decide the case. According to divorce laws, the suit can be filed in the city where an estranged couple married or the place where they stayed or the place where the respondent (husband or wife) stay permanently.
Judge Das, however, bypassed the Hindu Marriage Act rules. The convenience of the estranged wife had to be considered, especially as she was now the mother of a child, the judge observed, while slapping the maintenance amount on Sanjay.
Justice Shubhra Kamal Mukherjee of the high court on Thursday upheld this verdict.