One of the main challenges for drangpons today is the lack of a clear rule defining what constitutes the income of an individual when deciding alimony in matrimonial cases.

After more than an hour’s debate, drangpons at the annual judicial conference yesterday could not come to a consensus on the issue.

The chair of the conference Supreme Court Justice Rinzin Penjore following requests from the floor concluded to ask the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to issue an order to clarify the matter.

When a couple divorce the law entitles the spouse to a 20 percent, in case of a child, of the income of the individual asking for the divorce or guilty for causing it.

One of the main contentions was whether or not to include the allowance of salaried-individuals as income.

Civil servants are entitled to numerous allowances such as housing and altitude allowances. Those serving in different institutions have different allowances even including an allowance for vegetables.

Most judges go by the salary sheet of the individual in calculating the alimony. They said the net income of the individual is used as the basis for the alimony. However, some judges said there are complications in this practice.

For civil servants, Provident Fund, Group Insurance Scheme, Tax deducted at source, and health contributions are mandatory deductions and are excluded from calculating alimony.

Some drangpons said that litigants argue that provident fund should also be included in considering the alimony. “The person in the end benefits from the pension, so that is why it should be shared with the children,” a drangpon said.

Others said housing allowance too should be included in the calculation. The opposing argument was that while some get Nu 2,000 housing allowance the actual rent could be far more in which case there is no benefit from the allowance to the individual. Then there are others who get the allowance and reside in their private homes.

High Court justice Lungten Drubgyur said that a research finding of the High Court stated that only consistent income of the individual could be taken as the income to base the alimony.  He said that the judges should differentiate between ad hoc income and consistent allowance or income at the time.

Few other suggestions arose on including taking the Income Tax Act’s definition of income, or including income from shares and dividends.

Phuentsholing drangrab said that the difference in interpretations caused misunderstanding among litigants and people compare the verdicts from courts and complain. “This has led to people blaming the judiciary for inconsistent judgments,” the drangrab said.

Some drangpons said that considering the net taxable income to decide the basis to calculate the alimony might not be fair.

Taking the net taxable income for the alimony is unreasonable as numerous deductions including children’s education expenses are made in drawing out the net taxable income.

Drangpon Pasang Wangmo said that deliberating on such issues bearing in mind the best interest of the child is important.

Most of the cases registered with courts every year are matrimonial cases. Of the 7,910 cases registered in 2016, 1,420 were matrimonial cases.

Tshering Palden