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Deciding Maintenance of Spouse of Army

Currently, the Army pays up to 33 per cent of pay and allowances as maintenance on the spouse's application. The orders to pay the allowance are routinely passed by officers at the level of GOC-in-C of a Command.

Maintenance to Army wives by AFT Tribunal

 

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The Chandigarh bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) on Friday said that Army authorities cannot impose maintenance allowance upon defence personnel in matters of estranged couples as it falls under the domains of the civil courts.

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The AFT bench of Justice M S Chauhan and Lt Gen ManishSisal restrained the powers of Army authorities to impose cuts on salaries and allowances of defence personnel to pay the same as maintenance to spouses. The bench held that the power of maintenance can only be exercised by competent civil courts after proper examination of evidence, a proper hearing and not through non-speaking orders passed by military authorities based on an affidavit submitted by the spouse.

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The AFT bench passed the orders on a petition filed by Major Amit Kumar Mishra whose spouse had been granted 27.5 per cent of his salary as maintenance. While setting aside the order of military authorities, the AFT observed that the spouse is free to take the recourse of a civil court to claim maintenance.

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In 2015, recommendations on similar lines had been made by a Committee of Experts constituted by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) which were accepted in August 2016. However, no action was taken to implement the accepted recommendations of the Committee.

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The tribunal was witnessing a rise in litigation over the issue in the past few years with the Army granting maintenance to spouses on almost all applications without providing reasons or discussing evidence. The bench added that the exercise could only be carried out under the Criminal Procedure Code and applicable Marriage Acts, rather than the defence services getting into what may fundamentally be a civil or private dispute between a husband and his wife.

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Over the past five years, there has been a massive rise in litigation on the subject with the army granting maintenance to spouses on almost all applications through non-speaking orders without providing reasons or discussing evidence or counter-claims.

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The MoD panel had observed that exceptional provisions were being invoked in routine and the defence services did not have the wherewithal or the ability to examine the veracity of allegations and counter-allegations of both parties. It had also said that such cases were matter of evidence that only civil courts could weigh and deal with.

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This post is written by our guest writer Sumitra Nair from Pune University. For more info on AFT Chandigarh/Chandimandir related service matters please dial 99888-17966 or write to us at satish@legalseva.net

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