Justice H. S Madaan, Punjab High Court concluded that the imprisonment of a man for non payment of maintenance is only a means to an end and imprisonment does not discharge his duty to pay the maintenance amount.

It was observed: Sentencing a person to jail is a ‘mode of enforcement’. It is not a ‘mode of satisfaction’ of the liability. The liability can be satisfied only by making actual payment of the arrears. The whole purpose of sending to jail is to oblige a person liable to pay the monthly allowance, who refuses to comply with the order without sufficient cause, to obey the order and to make the payment. The purpose of sending him to jail is not to wipe out the liability which he has refused to discharge. Monthly allowance is paid in order to enable the wife and child to live by providing with the essential economic necessities. Neither the neglected wife nor the neglected child can live without funds for purchasing food and the essential articles to enable them to survive. The first and foremost duty of the husband is to maintain the wife and the child. He may beg, borrow or steal.

Click to view judgement: