Delhi High Court: In a case wherein, the appeal was filed under Section 19 of the Family Courts Act, 1984 by the appellant against the impugned order dated 31-03-2022 vide which the application filed by the appellant under Order VII Rule 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (‘CPC’) was dismissed, the Division Bench of Suresh Kumar Kait and Neena Bansal Krishna*, JJ., set aside the impugned order and allowed the application under Order VII Rule 11 of CPC and rejected the petition filed by the respondent under Section 12-(1)(c) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (‘the HM Act’).
In the instant case, the appellant and the respondent got married as per the Hindu customs on 4-10-2009. Before marriage, it was represented by the appellant’s family that they would demand no dowry and the respondent was led to believe that she would accompany the appellant to New Zealand after marriage.
Thereafter, on 5-10-2009, the respondent as per custom, went to her parental house and the appellant had promised to come the next day for registration of marriage and completion of VISA formalities. However, neither the appellant nor his parents turned up. It was further alleged by the respondent that from the first day of negotiation for marriage, the appellant had started demanding cash and a BMW car from the respondent. The respondent alleged that since she refused to accede to these demands, the appellant abused her and no cohabitation took place between them. Thus, it was alleged that the appellant constituted an act of fraud against the respondent.
Thereafter, the respondent filed a petition under Section 12-(1)(c) of the HM Act, for annulment of marriage. After the final arguments was addressed, the appellant filed the application under Order VII Rule 11 of CPC for rejection of the annulment petition. However, the Principal Judge, Family Court dismissed the application preferred by the appellant.
Thus, the appellant filed the present appeal against the impugned order.
Analysis, Law, and Decision
On considering the issue that whether an application under Order VII Rule 11 of CPC was maintainable at the stage of final arguments, the Court opined that while determining the application under Order VII Rule 11 CPC, only the allegations made in the petition could be considered. The Court further stated that an application under Order VII Rule 11 of CPC could be filed at any stage of trial, with the only condition being that the findings had to be confined to the allegations made in the petition and the documents relied upon by the petitioner.
The Court referred to T. Arivandandam v. T.V. Satyapal, (1977) 4 SCC 467, Hardesh Ores (P) Ltd. v. Hede & Company, (2007) 5 SCC 614 and Shakti Bhog Food Industries Ltd v. Central Bank of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 482 and opined that the observations of the Principal Judge, Family Court that entire evidence had been recorded and part final arguments had been addressed, so the application filed under Order VII Rule 11 of CPC was highly belated, could not be sustained.
The Court referred to Raghunath Gopal Daftardar v. Vijaya Raghunath Gopal Daftardar, 1971 SCC OnLine Bom 52 and Harbhajan Singh v. Brij Balab, 1963 SCC OnLine Punj 139 and opined that under the Hindu Law, not every misrepresentation or concealment of a fact should amount to ‘fraud’ as envisaged under Section 12-(1)(c) for annulment of a marriage. The fraud must be material as to the nature of ceremony or to any material fact or circumstance concerning the respondent.
The Court opined that neither the close scrutiny of the petition nor the respondent’s submission could establish any ‘force or fraud’ as to the nature of the ceremony or as to any material fact or circumstance. The Court further opined that there being no instance of force or fraud, the annulment petition under Section 12-(1)(c) of the HM Act was filed without disclosing any cause of action.
The Court observed that scrupulous adherence to Order VII Rule 11 of CPC could curtail litigation like the present one, which aside from clogging the litigation that could have been nipped in the initial stage itself, also kept the parties embroiled in litigation with a false hope of some relief, which was never to come their way. The Court stated that this leads to dejection amongst the litigants towards the system and also prolonged acrimony between the parties which was not conducive to a robust judicial system and a peaceful society.
The Court directed that the Family Court Judges must make judicious use of the provision of law for expeditious disposal of petitions and discard frivolous litigation at the threshold.
[Assem Aggarwal v. Ashi Kumar, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 5007, decided on 18-08-2023]
*Judgment by- Justice Neena Bansal Krishna
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For the Appellant: Neha Jain and Shivani Sharma, Advocates;
For the Respondent: Prabhjit Jauhar, Advocate with Rosemary Raju, Gauri Rajput and A. Singh, Advocates.