Bom HC | Performing second marriage during pendency of an appeal is a breach under S. 15 of HMA, but would it amount to civil contempt? HC analyses

Bombay High Court: A.S. Kilor, J., held that contravention of the provision of Section 15 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 does not amount to willful disobedience of ‘other process of a Court’ under the provisions of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971.

Willful Disobedience

The petitioner sought action under Section 12(3) of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971 against the respondent for alleged willful disobedience of ‘other process of a Court’ by performing marriage in contravention of the provision of Section 15 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

Facts 

Respondent preferred a petition under Section 13 of the Act, 1955 against the petitioner for dissolution of marriage on the ground of cruelty and desertion.

Civil Judge had dismissed the petition holding that the respondent failed to prove cruelty and desertion.

Decree of Divorce

The respondent questioned the Judgment and decree which was allowed and thereby declared the marriage between the petitioner and respondent stands dissolved by a decree of divorce.

Petitioner filed the second appeal which is pending before the Court.

While the appeal was in pendency, the contempt petition had been filed alleging that the respondent had performed second marriage in contravention of the mandate of the provision of Section 15 of the Act, 1995 which is willful disobedience of ‘other process of a Court’ as provided by Section 1(b) of the Act, 1971.

Counsel for the petitioner, T.G. Bansod and S.S. Jagtap Counsel for the respondent.

Bench considered the following questions:

“(i) Whether the performance of second marriage by the respondent on 20-03-2016 during the pendency of appeal is unlawful in view of prohibition stipulated under Section 15 of the Act, 1955, and if yes ?

(ii) Whether contravention of Section 15 of the Act, 1955 amounts to willful disobedience of ‘other process of a Court’ as provided in Section 2(b) of the Act of 1971 ?”

Court referred to Section 15 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, which reads as follows:

“Divorced persons when may marry again — When a marriage has been dissolved by a decree of divorce and either there is no right of appeal against the decree or, if there is such a right of appeal, the time for appealing has expired without an appeal having been presented or an appeal has been presented but has been dismissed, it shall be lawful for either party to the marriage to marry again.”

High Court noted that the respondent ignored the prohibition and performed the second marriage under an incapacity to marry, stipulated under Section 15 of the Act, 1955.

Ejusdem Generis

Further, to find out the import of the expression ‘other process of a court’ which is a general term, the principle of Ejusdem Generis would be helpful to apply, in the present matter.

Civil Contempt — Section 2(b) of the Contempt Act, 1971

“Civil contempt means willful disobedience to any judgments, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a Court or willful breach of an undertaking given to a Court.”

The expression ‘willful disobedience of process of a Court’ used under Section 2 (b) of the Act, 1971, must also be related to the disobedience of some command issued by the Court during the process of a Court which includes various stages between the filing of any proceeding to a final decision by the Court.

Bench stated that at any stretch of imagination it cannot be said that contravention of the provision of Section 15, amounts to willful disobedience of ‘other process of a Court’ under the provisions of the Act, 1971.

High Court in view of the above held that during the pendency of the appeal, the performance of second marriage would be a breach of prohibition stipulated under Section 15 of the Act, 1955, but in any case, it would not amount to disobedience of any command of the Court consequently such act would not fall within the ambit of the expression ‘willful disobedience of other process of a Court’ under Clause (b) of Section 2 of the Act, 1971.

No Civil Contempt

In view of the observations laid above, Court stated that the second marriage performed by the respondent in contravention of Section 15 of the Act, 1955 would not fall within the purview of clause (b) of Section 2 of the Act, 1971 and hence no civil contempt has been committed.

Accordingly, the contempt petition was dismissed. [Kanchan v. Prashant Manikrao Bagade, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 911, decided on 08-09-2020]

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