COURT REMARK COMES AS BUSINESSMAN BHARAT HEGDE CHALLENGES ALIMONY ORDER SAYING HE HAS ‘NO SOURCE OF INCOME’
Tax avoidance makes it tough to compute alimony: HC
New Delhi, May 1:
A DELHI High Court Bench has found it difficult to compute the alimony to be paid by Bharat Hegde, son of the late politician Ramakrishna Hegde, to his estranged wife Saroj because Hegde, like many other self-employed people, has not fully disclosed his income.
The court said he did not disclose the full income for fear of having to pay income tax.
Hegde is believed to have interests in property and businesses worth Rs 28.5 crore.
“Unfortunately, in India, parties do not truthfully reveal their income. For self-employed persons or persons employed in the unorganised sector, truthful income never surfaces and tax avoidance is the norm,” Justice Pradeep Nandrajog, who was hearing the case, observed.
The Bench was hearing a two-year-old petition filed by Bharat challenging a court order passed on May 13, 2004 directing him to pay Rs 25,000 per month as interim maintenance to his unemployed wife, who had sought divorce on grounds of desertion and cruelty.
The family court passed the order for extending financial support to Saroj after she said “her husband was the son of Shri Ramakrishna Hegde, ex-Chief Minister of Karnataka and an industrialist operating a unit at Peeneya Industrial Estate, Stage-II, Bangalore from where he was earning at least Rs 10 lakh per month”.
Hegde contested the order in the High Court saying he was “unemployed with no source of income and totally dependent on his parents” even as his wife listed more than a dozen prime assets that he owned, mostly in Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai.
Terming the present case as an instance of how “self-employed persons seldom disclose their true income”, the court observed that in such instances judges are forced to bank on their “prudence and wisdom” to work out the likely income of the spouse from the primary data that is made available.
Upholding the May 2004 order for payment of Rs 25,000 as monthly interim maintenance to Saroj until the final conclusion of the divorce proceedings, the Bench considered it “irrelevant” that she had sought to opt out of the marriage owing to her husband’s alleged cruelty and desertion.
“While judging the issue of interim maintenance, conduct or misconduct of either spouse is irrelevant for the reason in every proceedings of divorce, dissolution or judicial separation there is bound to be some allegations or other pertaining to matrimonial misconduct,” the court said.
It further held that the focus of inquiry should solely pertain to the financial means of either spouse. The court took “means” to include status of parties, reasonable wants of the spouse claiming financial support and the income and property of the other party and family members.
“If conduct or misconduct were to be alone considered, no spouse would get interim maintenance,” Justice Nandrajog added.