The Supreme Court, invoking its inherent powers under Article 142, directed the sale of a man’s ancestral property in Manmohan Gopal v. State Of Chhattisgarh, Miscellaneous Application Nos. 858-859 of 2021 in Criminal Appeal No.(s) 85-86 of 2021 to fulfill his outstanding maintenance dues of Rs. 1.25 Crores to his wife. In a case presided over by Justice Ravindra Bhat and Justice Aravind Kumar, the Court cited previous judgments, such as Subrata Roy Sahara v. Union Of India [2014] 12 SCR 573 and Delhi Development Authority v. Skipper Construction 1996 (2) Suppl. SCR 295, to underscore its authority to issue appropriate directions and decrees in the pursuit of complete justice.

The wife, In this case, filed applications to recover both arrears of maintenance and monthly maintenance. She contended that, as she was residing with her widowed mother and dependent on her for financial support, the Court should instruct the family court to resolve her petition under Section 125(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) within 6 months. Section 125(3) empowers a Magistrate to issue a warrant or impose a sentence on an individual who fails to comply with maintenance payment orders without sufficient cause.

The legal disputes between the husband and wife resulted from the deterioration of their marriage. The wife had levied criminal charges against her husband, who subsequently had his anticipatory bail application rejected. As a result, he refrained from participating in the criminal and maintenance proceedings. The husband faced criminal charges under Sections 420, 406, 468, 34, and 120B of the Indian Penal Code. These charges also extended to the father-in-law and mother-in-law, who were likewise denied anticipatory bail and were instructed by the Court to deposit Rs. 40 lakhs toward the arrears of maintenance. However, they were eventually granted bail.

In the family court’s maintenance case, the Court granted interim maintenance of Rs. 1,00,000 per month in 2016, which was later raised to Rs. 1,27,500 per month.

Despite multiple court orders demanding payment of maintenance by the husband and father-in-law, they failed to comply. The Court took note of the husband’s financial capacity:

“The past history of this case, and the orders of this court have demonstrated the utter obduracy of Varun Gopal, who abandoned the wife, and virtually fled to Australia. The documents placed on record… reveal that considerable amounts of money were remitted to Varun Gopal over a period of time.”

The wife claimed that her husband, as the sole heir of his father, was set to inherit 11 shops in ancestral property and that Rs. 1.25 Crore was owed to her in maintenance arrears.

The Court Issued several directives, including the sale of six shops to recover the amount due to the wife. If these directions were not adhered to within the stipulated time frames, the Registrar of the Delhi High Court was tasked with seeking alternative options, either transferring title to the premises in the wife’s name or proceeding with their sale. All amounts realized in this process were to be disbursed to the wife.

The Court also decreed the total amount owed to the wife in connection with the sale of the shops. This ruling exemplifies the Court’s commitment to ensuring that maintenance obligations are met, even if it requires the sale of ancestral property to settle the outstanding dues.

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