Report No. 132
Streamlining of the Procedure with the End in view to Expeditious Disposal of a Proceeding Claiming Maintenance
4.1. Proceedings initiated under section 125, Cr. P.C., in order to claim maintenance are meant to be summary proceedings designed in order to afford swift and quick relief to the claimants entitled to maintenance. In actual practice, it is common experience that such proceedings are not being disposed of for a number of years. In some States, presumably on account of the overcrowding of the dockets, the proceedings take about four years to be disposed of in the court of the magistrate itself.1 By the very nature of the proceeding, an expeditious determination as regards the claim for maintenance is of the essence of the matter.
The claimant who is in need of maintenance and is entitled to maintenance under the law can hardly survive for a couple of years in the hope and expectation of a favourable decision without the economic wherewithal for maintenance. The need for devising a summary procedure, which would enable the concerned magistrate to dispose of the matter speedily, is, therefore, self-evident. It appears that Chapter IX pertaining to maintenance does not spell out any such procedure with an eye on this dimension of the matter. It is, therefore, essential to incorporate in Chapter IX such a procedure calculated to shorten the span of the litigation at the trial court stage.
The problem can by and large be tackled at three levels: (1) prescribing a time limit for filing a written statement or statement of objections coupled with conferment of the power on the magistrate to pass an order as prayed on failure of the respondent to file the statement with the prescribed time limit; (2) deciding the matter on affidavits with opportunity to the other side to cross-examine the witnesses of the deponents; and (3) requiring the magistrate as far as practicable to dispose of the matter within six months after hearing it from day to day.
1. B. Das Effect of Interim Maintenance Order passed under section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 93 Cr LJ 71 (1987).