IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT PATNA
CR. WJC No.810 of 2010
MANOJ KUMAR PATEL @ MANOJ PATEL SON OF JOKHI PATEL, RESIDENT OF MOHALLA NONIA TOLA, CHAKKI
PAKRI, P.S. SHIKARPUR, DISTRICT-WEST CHAMPARAN,BETTIAH——PETITIONER .
1. STATE OF BIHAR THROUGH HOME SECRETARY,BIHAR, PATNA.
MUNITA DEVI WIFE OF MANOJ KUMAR PATEL, D/O MADAN PD. PATEL
RAMBABU @ SONI SHYAM KISHORE, BOTH SONS OF MANOJ KUMAR
PATEL ALL ARE RESIDENTS OF SAGAR POKHARA, P.S.BETTIAH TOWN, DISTRICT-WEST CHAMPARAN—–RESPONDENTS..
For the petitioner:- Mr. R.S.Sahay Mr. J.J.Sahay,Advs.
For the State:- Mr. Kaushal Kishore Jha, SC-
Petitioner is the husband of Respondent no.2 Munita Devi and father of respondent Nos. 3 and 4. Respondent no.2 and her children, respondent nos. 3 and 4 were deserted by the petitioner; as such she filed a petition under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure for maintenance of herself as well as her two children, from the petitioner. The case was registered as Maintenance case No. 308M/2005 and heard by Principal Judge, Family Court, West Champaran, Bettiah. The case, on contest was decided in favour of respondent nos. 2 to 4 and vide order dated 16.12.2009 the petitioner was directed to pay maintenance of Rs. 1000/- Per month to all three (respondent nos. 2 to 4) from the date of filing of maintenance case i.e. 27.9.2005. The order passed by the Family Court granting maintenance in favour of respondent nos. 2 to 4 was challenged by the petitioner by filing Criminal Revision No. 248 of 2010 which is still pending in the High Court. However, despite the fact that there was no stay order passed in favour of the petitioner, he did not pay a single penny to his legally wedded wife and children. He has also filed matrimonial suit (Divorce No. 188 of 2007) which is pending for adjudication. Since the monthly maintenance amount was not being paid to the respondents, as such respondent no.2 filed a petition before the Principal Judge, Family Court, West Champaran, Bettiah in order to get the maintenance order complied. Notice was issued to the petitioner to show cause, as such he appeared before the Court and made a prayer for staying the operation of the order passed in the maintenance case or for a direction that the petition be considered along with matrimonial divorce case.
On perusal of the order-sheet of the maintenance case No. 308M/2005, it transpires that in response to show cause notice, the petitioner appeared before the Principle Judge, Family Court, West Chmparan and on 20.4.2010 the petitioner as well respondents were heard. One months time was allowed to the petitioner either to bring stay order or to make payment of entire arrears amount as well as month to month maintenance amount to the respondents. On 22.5.2010, when again the matter was taken up, both the parties were heard. Since, no stay order could be obtained by the petitioner from the High Court, as such the petitioner was asked to deposit the entire arrears of maintenance amounting to Rs. 1,65,000/-. Petitioner showed his reluctance in making payment, as such warrant of arrest was issued against the petitioner and in exception of it he was taken into custody. The matter was again directed to be listed on 5.6.2010. On 22.5.2010 petitioner has filed a petitio for staying the operation of order dated 16.12.2009, passed in maintenance case allowing maintenance in favour of respondents, but that was rejected and an order for taking the petitioner into custody was passed as provided under Section 125(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. On 2.6.2010 again the matter was taken up and the petition filed by the petitioner challenging the order taking into custody was taken up for consideration. Petitioner had challenged the order stating that he could not have been ordered to be imprisoned without taking recourse to the procedure for recovery of fine as provided under Section 421 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. There should have been a proper order of sentencing, before taking him in custody. However, the Principal Judge, Family Court, West Champaran, Bettiah, rejected the plea taken by the petitioner stating that Section 125(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure in itself is a complete provision which provides that in case of failure to comply with the order for payment of maintenance amount warrant of arrest can be issued, till the realization of the amount. There is no necessity to follow the procedure provided for levying fines. The person may be sentenced for the whole or any part of each month?s non payment of maintenance amount in execution of the warrant. For unpaid maintenance amount the person concerned may be imprisoned for a term of one month or until payment is sooner made. Only required for issuance of warrant for the recovery of any amount due under this section is that there must be an application filed by the aggrieved wife / children before the court for realization of such amount within a period of one year from the date on which it became due. The Court if satisfied that there is just ground for not making payment of such amount was on filing such application, no warrant can be issued. Since, there was no ground available in favour of the petitioner and he refused to make payment the maintenance amount without there being any reasonable ground for it, the provision under Section 125(3) was applicable. Section 125 (3) Cr.P.C. provides jurisdiction to the court for issuance of warrant of arrest and for taking into custody in execution of it.
Counsel appearing for the petitioner submits that on simple reading of the provision under Section 125(3) Cr.P.C., it is apparent that before issuance of warrant of arrest or taking the defaulter into custody, he should be given proper opportunity to show the reason for non-payment and only in case the Court is satisfied that without any obvious reason the direction of the Court has been flouted, any order regarding issuance of warrant of arrest could have been passed. The period of imprisonment in any case could not have been exceeded beyond one month as for each period of default; there should have been fresh application and fresh order of custody for the unpaid maintenance amount for each month. In this regard the counsel for the petitioner placed reliance on a decision reported in the case of Ashok Prasad Vs. State of Bihar (2000 (1) PLJR 578) and also in the case of Shahada Khatoon and others vs. Amjad Ali and others (1999 (5) SCC 672). However on perusal of the impugned order, it transpires that the Court below has placed reliance on a decision of the Apex Court reported in the case of Kuldip Kaur vs. Surinder Singh (AIR 1989 SC 232), wherein it has been held that a person cannot be released from the custody till he makes the payment.
In the decision reported in (1999) 5 SCC 672, the short question which arose for consideration was whether the single Judge of Patna High Court has correctly interpreted the provision under sub-section (3) of Section 125 Cr.P.C., by directing the Magistrate that he can only sentence for a period of one month or until payment, if sooner made. The Apex Court held that the language of sub-section (3) of Section 125 Cr.P.C. is quite clear and it circumscribes the power of the Magistrate to impose imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month or until the payment, if sooner made. This power of the Magistrate cannot be enlarged and therefore the only remedy would be after expiry of one month. For breach of non-compliance with the order of the Magistrate the wife can approach the Magistrate again for similar relief. By no stretch of imagination can the Magistrate be permitted to impose sentence for more than one month. In that view of the matter, the High Court was fully justified in passing the impugned order and we see no infirmity in the said order to be interfered with by this Court.
Counsel for the petitioner placing reliance on a decision of Division Bench of Patna High has submitted that the provision of sub-section (3) of Section 125 Cr.P.C. has been considered in the reported decision 2000 (1) PLJR 578. The facts in the reported decision were identical to the facts of the present case. Petitioner of that case had also filed a petition for his release and for holding that his detention in the custody is illegal. The petitioner- husband had been arrested on 7.8.1995 in execution of warrant of arrest issued on 1.8.1995 by the Judicial Magistrate for default in payment of maintenance amount and its? arrears. Since then, after every 14 days he was being remanded to judicial custody and continuously for three and half years he was in custody, the Division Bench while interpreting the jurisdiction of the Court under Section 125(3) Cr.P.C. held as follows:-
” From a reading of Section 125(3) Cr. P.C. it is clear that if any person who has been ordered to pay maintenance under section 125(1) Cr.P.C. fails without sufficient cause to comply with the order, the Magistrate may take such steps for realization of amount which are provided for levying fines and after execution of distress warrant it is found that any amount has remained unpaid the Magistrate may sentence such person for the whole or any part of each month?s allowance remaining unpaid to imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month or until payment, if sooner made. So it is clear that the Magistrate has first to satisfy that the order has not been complied by a person without sufficient cause and if he finds that there is failure of the compliance of the order without sufficient cause he will issue a distress warrant for levying the amount due for every breach of the order in the manner provided for levying fines. It is further provided that after execution of distress warrant if the Magistrate finds that any amount has remained unpaid he may sentence such person for the whole or part of each month?s allowance remaining unpaid to imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month or until payment whichever is earlier. The manner provided for levying fines is prescribed under section 421 Cr.P.C. So, two conditions before sentencing a person to imprisonment for non-payment of maintenance allowance are required. First the Magistrate must be satisfied that the person without any sufficient cause is not paying the maintenance and violating the order and secondly to issue warrant for levying the amount due in the manner provided for levying fines and after its execution to ascertain the amount which has remained unpaid. If any amount is found to have remained unpaid the Magistrate may sentence such persons to imprisonment for a period of one month for the whole or any part of each month?s allowance remaining unpaid. In other words, if after issuance of warrant for levying the amount due in the manner provided for levying fine it is found that no amount has remained due, the question of sentencing the persons to imprisonment does not arise. So the Magistrate, has to see the result of execution of warrant issued for levying amount due.”
We find that the Court below has placed reliance on a decision reported in the case of Smt. Kuldip Kaur Vs. Surendra Singh and another ( AIR 1989 SC 232). But the question for consideration before the Apex Court in the matter was whether, in case of person refusing to comply the order of the Court to maintain his neglected wife or children, without reasonable cause, will be absolved of his liability, merely because he prefers to go to jail. Considering every aspect of the provisions under Sub-section (3) of Section 125 Cr.P.C., it was held that sentencing a person to jail is „mode of enforcement? and not „mode of satisfaction?. The liability can be satisfied only by making actual payment of arrears. The Supreme Court directed the defaulting husband be put in jail till he makes the payment of maintenance allowance. However, there is no finding whether this period can be only one month or more than one month.
On the other hand, counsel appearing for the State has raised objection regarding maintainability of the application of habeous corpus challenging legality of the detention, stating that since the petitioner is detained in jail for flouting the order of the Court under Section 125(3) Cr.P.C. and there is a provision for issuance of warrant of arrest under sub-section 3 of Section 125 Cr.P.C. for issuance of warrant of arrest and taking into custody, due to non-payment of arrears as well as monthly maintenance amount, the detention cannot be considered as illegal detention and writ of habeous corpus is not maintainable.
Counsel for the State has submitted, at best, the petitioner can challenge the legality of the order by filing criminal revision application before the appropriate forum. He has placed reliance on a decision reported in the case of Kanu Sanyal Vs. District Magistrate, Darjeeling (AIR 1974 SC 510), where the finding has been recorded as follows;- “Where a person is committed to jail custody by a competent Court by an order which prima facie does not appear to be without jurisdiction or wholly illegal.”
On consideration of different decisions on which reliance has been placed by the parties and the provision under Section 125(3) Cr. P.C., we find that the issue has been settled by the Apex Court in (1999) 5 SCC 672 and by decision reported in 2000(1) PLJR 578. The Principle Judge, Family Court, after taking the petitioner in custody has not passed any fresh order for extension of the period in custody for fresh default of each month. Since the condition for keeping in custody as provided under Sub-section (3) of Section 125 Cr.P.C. has not been observed by the principle Judge, Family Court, the detention of petitioner beyond one month?s period cannot be held to be legal. Once it is held that the detention is illegal, there cannot be any question regarding maintainability of the writ application. Keeping in view that the petitioner has remained in custody beyond one month?s period, in the facts and circumstances of the case, his detention is illegal. Accordingly direction is being issued for release of the petitioner forthwith in connection with Maintenance Case No. 308M/2005, if not wanted to remain in custody in any other case.
The writ application stands allowed.