Case Analysis: Bal Raj v. Priya and Others

Order Dated: 12.11.2021
Case Details: A defaulter cannot be sentenced to more than one month of composite civil imprisonment: High Court of Punjab and Haryana
Case brief:
The Punjab and Haryana High Court ruled on Friday that a magistrate court cannot impose composite civil imprisonment for more than a month at a time in the exercise of its powers under Section 125(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
Justice Manjari Nehru Kaul was hearing a revision plea filed by one Bal Raj, who was appealing a family court ruling that sentenced him to 12 months of composite civil jail. After the petitioner failed to pay the maintenance amount for 66 months, the family court issued an order to that effect.
The Court was of the opinion that a magistrate court may only impose a one-month term unless the arrears were paid sooner. The Supreme Court held in Shahada Khatoon and others v. Amjad Ali and Others that “…no sentence exceeding the maximum, namely one month, can be imposed for default, and if the default persists even after the expiry of one month, the aggrieved party’s only remedy would be to approach the Magistrate concerned again after the expiry of one month for enforcing her claim of maintenance for sending the delinquent husband.”
“A review of the aforementioned leaves no manner of question that for failure of payment of maintenance for each month, the Court can impose a maximum term of one month only, unless of course, the payment of the arrears is paid sooner,” the Court said after reading Section 125 CrPC.
The High Court concluded that the defaulter (petitioner) cannot be sentenced to more than a month of composite civil imprisonment under any circumstances, regardless of whether the arrears claimed in a single application by the aggrieved party are for a longer time.
The Court thus overturned the family court’s decision, calling it “wholly unsustainable and contrary to accepted law.”
The petitioner was represented by Manoj Kumar Pundhir, and the respondents were represented by Munish Mittal.

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