Delhi High Court: An appeal was filed by the appellant challenging an order dated 25-07-2022 whereby her application under Section 151 CPC filed in a petition under the Hindu Marriage Act seeking dissolution of marriage on account of cruelty which has been dismissed by a Family Court Judge. A division bench of Sanjeev Sachdeva and Manoj Jain, JJ., held that no new instance of cruelty has been cited in the subject petition and merely because the appellant had knocked the doors of the Court for redressal of her grouse and grievances, it would not imply that she had inflicted any cruelty upon her husband. Hence, the Court dismissed the petition for dissolution of marriage.
The appellant got married to the respondent on 16-02-2012 as per Hindu rites and customs. However, their marriage was in turmoil and the matrimonial discord between the two resulted in the filing of various cases by them, against each other. The respondent had earlier also filed two petitions seeking the dissolution of marriage on grounds of cruelty. During the pendency of the new petition, appellant filed an application under Section 151 CPC seeking dismissal of the petition on the ground that the new petition was based on the same cause of action which had been averred by the respondent when he had filed the previous petition seeking divorce in the year 2013.
The appellant claimed that since the previous petition was withdrawn by the respondent unconditionally and without assigning any reason whatsoever, he was barred by law from filing a fresh petition on the same cause of action. It was also contended that when the previous petition was withdrawn by him, he had neither sought nor was granted any liberty to file a fresh petition on the same cause of action and, therefore, his act of filing the new petition was a clear abuse of process of law and thus, the new petition was liable to be dismissed.
Counsel for the respondent submitted that there was never any application moved by him under Order XXIII Rule 1 CPC and moreover, the cause of action mentioned in the previous petition and the cause of action averred in the new petition are not absolutely the same and mere identity of some of the issues would not mean that the new suit is not maintainable or that it is barred by issue estoppel or res judicata. Thus, the filing of the new petition is unmistakably permissible in law and there was no legal impediment, therefore, the learned trial court was fully justified in dismissing the application.
The Court noted that it is a case where the respondent had voluntarily abandoned the previous suit altogether and in such a situation, he is automatically precluded from instituting any fresh petition in respect of the same cause of action. As per Order XXIX Rule 1(4), in case of abandonment of any claim or withdrawal without permission to file afresh, the party concerned is altogether estopped from instituting any fresh suit in respect of same subject matter. Thus, if a cause of action enables a person to ask for “a larger and wider relief” than that to which he limits his claim, he cannot afterwards seek to recover even the balance by independent proceedings in view of Order 2 Rule 2 CPC.
On perusal of averments and details of previous petitions, the Court further noted that merely because appellant had taken recourse to law by initiating legal action before a court of law, it would not amount to cruelty. Taking recourse to law, cannot be, by any stretch of imagination, labeled as an instance of cruelty. Moreover, there is no finding by any Court that may even remotely indicate that such action was frivolous or vexatious or that it was an abuse of the process of law.
The Court explained that in the facts of the present case, the appellant had merely filed one application before the Magisterial Court concerned where her complaint under Protection of Woman from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 was pending, and obtained a stay order from the Court on 17.12.2016 seeking a restraint on the respondent herein from entering her house. Such an act cannot be labeled as an act of cruelty as she had merely taken recourse to the law. Moreover, as per the appellant, the respondent never ever challenged said order. Further, merely because the respondent had become unemployed after 07-12-2018 would also not amount to cruelty.
The Court concluded that it is manifestly evident that broad instances of cruelty remain the same and since the respondent, of his own volition, chose not to pursue his previous petition, which was already at the stage of trial and since the claim in the aforesaid petition was abandoned by him unconditionally, he cannot now seek divorce on the same grounds. A careful perusal of all the grounds taken in the new petition would, as already noted, clearly suggest that his petition is based on the same cause of action. The only additional ground taken is that the appellant took recourse to law. Thus, mere taking recourse to law by filling petitions/ applications before a court of law, by his estranged spouse, would not, in itself, give him any fresh ground to file a new petition.
The Court held that the new petition is based on the same cause of action and, therefore, its institution is barred under Order XXIII Rule 1(4) CPC as also on the principles of issue estoppel and cause of action estoppel. No new instance of cruelty has been cited in the subject petition and merely because the appellant had knocked the doors of the Court for redressal of her grouse and grievances, it would not imply that she had inflicted any cruelty upon her husband.
[Nidhi Jain v. Ankit Jain, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 4369, decided on 27-07-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For the Appellant: Appellant in person;
For the Respondents: Mr. Arush Bhandari, Advocate with respondent in person.