The Maintenance Orders Enforcement Act, 1921

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The Maintenance Orders Enforcement Act, 1921 was enacted on 5th October 1921. The act precisely deals with enforcement of maintenance orders passed by court of justice. Section 1 of the act provides for definitions. Under the Act word ‘maintenance order’ means a decree or order passed by a court of justice in exercise of its civil or criminal jurisdiction for periodical payment of sums of money towards maintenance of wife or other dependants of the person against whom such order is made. The act is applicable to countries with whom India has signed a reciprocating treaty and such country shall be called as reciprocating territory under the act.

Maintenance Orders Enforcement Act, 1921 under section 3 describes ‘reciprocal arrangements’. Incase the Government of India is satisfied that a legal provision in connection to enforcement of maintenance orders passed by courts of India, is existent in a territory other than India, the Central government after notification in the official Gazette shall notify such territory as reciprocating territory. The Maintenance Orders Enforcement Act, 1921 shall apply in such territory.

Incase of an order with respect to maintenance, is made under section 4 sub clause (1) by any court situated in reciprocating territory the order shall have same impact as if passed by an Indian court. The certified copy of such order shall be transmitted to proper authority of Central Government who shall further forward copy of the order to concerned officer of the court in India for registration. The order shall be registered in a prescribed manner. Incase the order passed by the court of reciprocating territory is of superior jurisdiction, the High Court shall register such an order and incase the court passing the order is a court other than superior jurisdiction, a Court of summary jurisdiction shall record such an order. The section shall be applicable all the cases whether decided before or after enforcement of the Act.

When an order under the act is passed by a Court in India against resident of reciprocating territory, the court shall send the order to the Central Government. The Central Government shall take necessary steps to further transmit the certified copy of order so passed to proper authority of the reciprocating territory. It shall be made applicable on all the orders passed before and after enactment of the act.

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Section 6 and section 7 of the Act deals with powers of summary court to make rules in cases where an order is passed by courts within India or is passed by a court of reciprocating territories. Sub clause (1) of section 6 lays whenever necessary, person residing in reciprocating territory shall make himself available for court proceedings. Incase such person wilfully neglects the proceedings in Indian courts after careful scrutiny of evidence shall pass necessary orders. The orders shall be provisional unless confirmed by a competent court of the reciprocating territory. The evidence of witnesses in cases filed for maintenance shall be reduced into writing and be signed by them. The person residing in reciprocating territory against whom an order is passed shall be summoned. The government shall make necessary arrangements for transmission of such an order to the reciprocating territory.

Incase an order is made against a person residing in India by a court in reciprocating territory, the order so made too shall be a provisional order having no effect until confirmed by summary court of India. Certified copy of such order along with evidence and grounds of opposition shall be sent to the Central Government. The Central Government may send the documents to the officer of summary court with directions of issuance of summon against such person. It shall also be mandatory for such person to show cause, why the order should not be confirmed. The person to whom summons are issued can raise defence which he would have raised at time of proceedings of the case. The contentions so made shall be transmitted to proper authority of the reciprocating territory. Incase a person on whom summons are served fails to appear before the court or incase appears fails to satisfy the court that the order ought not to be confirmed the court may confirm the order passed by the court of reciprocating territory. The documents transferred by reciprocating territory shall deem to be signed by concerned authority unless proved contrary. The High court in such cases shall enforce all the orders and officers of summary court shall perform all the necessary duties.

The Maintenance Orders Enforcement Act, 1921 is an act to ensure carrying out of judicial orders passed in maintenance matters whether by Indian courts on residents of reciprocating territory or by courts of reciprocating territories on Indian nationals.

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by Vibhuti Nakta