KUALA LUMPUR, May 10 – The Kuala Lumpur High Court had on 8th May 2019 sentenced an ex-husband to prison for a period of 3 months after he was found to be in contempt of court for failing to pay maintenance and education fees for his children pursuant to a Decree Nisi Order obtained in 2011.
Judge Dato’ Sri Mariana Binti Haji Yahya delivered the sentence of imprisonment after finding Kanagasingam Kandiah, 62 had willfully and persistently been in breach of orders made against him to pay maintenance payments to his ex-wife and children.
According to Counsel for the Petitioner, Dato’ Seri Rajan Navaratnam, as a result of the persistent willful disobedience of the court orders by the ex-husband, the Petitioner wife had filed an application for leave to commence committal proceedings as a result of the ex-husband’s continued refusal to pay maintenance payments and the children’s school and education fees in accordance with the court orders, which had led to severe and grave hardship to the wife and children.
Rajan urge the High Court to impose a custodial sentence so as to send strong and clear message that court orders given and in particular to cases involving Matrimonial and Divorce Proceedings where the livelihood of dependents are involved, must not be ignored and should not be disobeyed failing which it would tantamount to the public losing confidence in the justice system and this would additionally bring disrepute to the judicial institution.
Disobeying court order is in contempt of court
“The Courts are the last bastion of hope for litigants and to allow the respondent a lenient sentence would send the wrong message to the public at large that litigants can willfully disobey court orders with no severe repercussions. This would lead to chaos in society and the public would lose hope and confidence in this country’s honorable judicial institution.”
“By imposing a custodial sentence, it would remind people that those who flout orders of the Court will face severe consequences as orders of court must be obeyed or else there would be a breakdown in the due administration of justice and there would be no respect for the law”, said Rajan in court.
Judge Mariana after considering the offence committed by the ex-husband and his plea in mitigation held that in the circumstances, the sentence of imprisonment of 3 month was appropriate as the ex-husband’s acts were serious in that there was continued willful disobedience.
Kanagansingam’s counsel, Mr. Rajinder Singh Veeriah and Mr. Clinton Gomez had sought for a stay of execution pending an appeal against the decision to impose a custodial sentence but this was objected to by Rajan on the basis that an appeal does not automatically operate as a stay and further that there were no special circumstances or grounds put forth by the Respondent’s counsels to warrant a stay of execution.
The judge dismissed the application for stay and accordingly, the respondent was taken to Kajang Prison to serve out his sentence.
Good precedent to set for the benefit of suffering women and children
Earlier this month, the Islamic Affairs Minister Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa said that Putrajaya will form special shariah court with powers to force errant husbands to pay up alimony (nafkah) owed to their ex-wives in all Federal Territories. While Islamic law is a state matter, Putrajaya hopes this court will serve as an example for other states, he said further.
As for civil divorce cases, this case now serves as a precedent that parties whom willfully refuses to comply with court orders for maintenance payments may be sentenced for imprisonment.