Punjab and Haryana High Court: Lisa Gill, J., held that to permit a spouse to record conversations with an unsuspecting partner and to produce the same in a court of law, to be made the basis of deciding a petition under Section 13 of the Act cannot be permitted.
Order of the Family Court
The instant revision petition had been file by the petitioner-wife against the order of the Family Court whereby the husband of the petitioner, respondent herein, had been allowed to prove the Compact Disc pertaining to conversation between him and the wife subject to the condition of its correctness.
A petition was filed by the petitioner’s husband under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for seeking divorce on the ground that his wife had been treating him with cruelty. With an intention to expedite the proceedings, the respondent-husband had moved an application seeking permission to submit his supplementary affidavit by way of examination-in-chief along with CD and transcriptions of conversations so recorded in the memory cards/chips of the respective mobile phones.
The said application was allowed by the Family Court observing that the husband was allowed to prove the CD pertaining to the conversations between him and his wife subject to the condition of correctness and that strict principles of evidence are not applicable to the proceedings before the Family Court by virtue of Sections 14 and 20 of the Family Court Act.
Are Recordings of Private Conversation between Husband and Wife permissible as Evidence?
The petitioner contended that the evidence sought to be led by the husband was completely beyond pleadings, therefore, absolutely impermissible as the said CD’s were a clear cut infringement and downright invasion of the her privacy thus a violation of Article 21 of the Constitution, as the conversations had been recorded without her knowledge and consent.
The petitioner argued that the Family Court had given a complete go bye to Section 65 of the Evidence Act, 1882 because if recording had been done through a mobile phone, CD’s of the recording and transcripts thereof in any case, could not be accepted as evidence thereof. Moreover, there was non-compliance of Section 65-B of the Act, 1882.
Right to Privacy v/s Recordings of Personal Conversation as Evidence
Admittedly, there was no mention of the conversations recorded by the husband between the years 2010 to 2016 in the said petition. It was thus evident that the husband was well aware of these conversations which could very well have formed part of the pleadings at the very outset, but clearly did not find mention. Furthermore, there was no averment regarding these conversations in the amended petition or even in the affidavit tendered in examination-in-chief. Therefore, the Bench opined that the CD’s in question could not be permitted in evidence.
Opining that acceptance of the CD in question would amount to a clear breach of fundamental right of the petitioner-wife i.e., right to privacy, as had been held the Supreme Court in People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India, (1997)1 SCC 301. Furthermore, the Bench said,
“It cannot be said or ascertained as to the circumstances in which the conversations were held or the manner in which response elicited by a person who was recording the conversations, because it is evident that these conversations would necessarily have been recorded surreptiously by one of the parties.”
In Tripat Deep Singh v. Paviter Kaur, 2018 (3) RCR (Civil) 71, it was held that conversations between husband and wife in daily routine cannot be made the basis of or considered for deciding a petition under Section 13 of the Act. Reference to Section 122 of the Evidence Act, had been succinctly dealt with by the Rajasthan High Court in Vishal Kaushik v. Family Court, 2015 SCC OnLine Raj 445, wherein the Court had heal that,
“The exception to privileged communication between husband and wife carved out in Section 122 of the Indian Evidence Act, which enables one spouse to compel another to disclose any communication made to him/her during marriage by him/her, may be available to such spouse in variety of other situations, but if such communication is a tape recorded conversation, without the knowledge of the other spouse, it cannot be, admissible in evidence or otherwise received in evidence.”
Keeping in view the factual matrix of the case, the Bench opined that it could not be said the Family Court is not bound by strict rules of evidence and is at liberty to accept the CD in evidence which is a clear cut infringement of the right of privacy of the wife.
Therefore, acceptance of the CD by the Family Court was held to be unjustified and the impugned order was set aside. The application filed by the respondent-husband for submitting the said CD was dismissed and the instant revision petition was allowed. The Family Court was directed to take steps for expeditious disposal of the petition filed under Section 13 of the Act, preferably within six months. [Neha v. Vibhor Garg, CR No. 1616 of 2020, decided on 12-11-2021]
Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.
For the Petitioner-wife: Rajan Bansal, Advocate
For the Respondent-husband: Sumeet Goel, Sr. Advocate with Anubhav Bansal, Advocate