Father seeking maintenance from son left chasing courts

NEW DELHI - A man in his late 60s has been running from pillar to post for the last five years to get Rs.5,000 per month from his estranged son to sustain himself — all due to the failure of a family court in Karnataka’s Bijapur district to realise that it has the power to take a decision on the old man’s plea.

Dawalsab of Bijapur, seeking a monthly maintenance allowance from his son Khajasab, has been left chasing courts across the three-tier Indian judicial system. Both father and son use only one name.

While the Bijapur family court refused to decide on his plea since it did not realise that it had the power to do so, the state high court also failed to rectify the family court’s mistake.

Finally, Dawalsab moved the Supreme Court and a bench of Justice Altmas Kabir and Cyriac Joseph rectified the error, telling the family court last week that it has the power to hear and decide the plea of the father since he lives in the district.

But this ruling by the apex court was of little help to the distraught father as the apex court referred his plea back to the family court to decide his plea all over again.

Dawalsab’s legal battle for his sustenance began five years ago when he moved the Bijapur family court seeking Rs.5,000 a month from his son under section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which covers maintenance for wives, children and parents.

Dawalsab pleaded to the court that “he has become old, has no source of income and is unable to maintain himself”, while “his son was an employee of the Anjuman College, Syndagi in Bijapur district and was well off”.

But the Bijapur family court dismissed Dawalsab’s plea, saying that “it cannot adjudicate the plea” which should have been filed in a magisterial court in Syndagi since his son resides there.

The Bijapur family court gave its decision in 2007 after mulling for nearly three years over its doubts on whether it was empowered to take up the plea of a person residing in its own territorial jurisdiction.

Dawalsab then approached the Karnataka High Court to challenge the Bijapur family’s court decision.

But the high court held that “Bijapur’s family court committed no error of law or material irregularity”.

Ironically, misreading a 2004 apex court ruling, the high court added that “the family court had rightly held that it did not have jurisdiction to entertain the petition, which ought to have been filed at a magisterial court at Syndagi”.

Rectifying the errors committed by the Bijapur family court and the Karnataka High Court, the apex court ruled that the father had approached the right court to begin with and asked him to go there once again.

But if his son’s doggedness to oppose his father’s plea right from the family court to the apex court is any indication, the apex court’s order merely paves the way for another round of three-tier litigation.

(Rana Ajit can be contacted at rana.ajit@ians.in)

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