Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: The Division Bench of Manmohan and Sanjeev Narula, JJ., refused to set aside the order of the trial court granting divorce to the respondent-husband.

In the instant appeal, Appellant-wife impugned the Judgment passed by Principal Judge, Family Courts whereby the Court while rejecting the relief sought under Section 12(1)(a) and (c) has allowed the petition of the respondent by granting divorce under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

CRUELTY

Trial Court dissolved the marriage between the parties on the ground of cruelty within the meaning of Section 13(1)(ia) of the HMA.

IMPOTENCY

The nature and the extent of allegations made by the appellant are beyond any controversy. Appellant laid down the allegations under two different compartments:

(i) allegations pertaining to the impotency of the Respondent, and

(ii) allegations with respect to mistreatment, torture and dowry demand against the Respondent and his parents.

The above-stated allegations laid the foundation for the ground of cruelty.

Further, the respondent had brought in evidence to establish before the Court that he was not impotent and the false and untrue allegations were causing him mental stress and amounted to cruelty.

On physical examination by the doctor, the respondent was found to be a normal male adult with fully developed secondary sexual character and organs, normal endocrine and sexual function, and had no problem of impotence.

Trial Court concluded that the credibility of the witness could not be impeached, and since respondent suffered no medical infirmity that could render him incapable of consummating the marriage, the allegation of impotence made by the respondents was not proved.

DECISION

Bench stated that, since the witness was a very highly qualified medical expert with immaculate credentials, his testimony was rightly relied upon by the Trial Court, hence no interference by this Court is required.

Court agreed with the observations of the trial court and stated that the accusations were levelled by the appellant and the onus lay on her to establish the veracity of the same.

Appellant entirely failed to produce any medical or corroborated evidence that could remotely suggest that the respondent was medically unfit to consummate the marriage.

Next Question:

Whether a false allegation of impotence amounted to cruelty within the meaning of Section 13(1)(ia) of the HMA?

Cruelty can be physical or mental. High Court stated that it is primarily contextual, pertaining to human behaviour or conduct with respect to matrimonial duties and obligations.

Bench observed that it is essential to see whether the conduct of the party is of such nature, that a reasonable person would neither tolerate the same, nor be reasonably expected to live with the other party.

Decision of the Supreme Court in V. Bhagat v. D. Bhagat, (1994) 1 SCC 337 was relied upon, wherein it was held that:

“Mental cruelty in Section 13(1)(ia) can broadly be defined as that conduct which inflicts upon the other party such mental pain and suffering as would make it not possible for that party to live with the other. In other words, mental cruelty must be of such a nature that the parties cannot reasonably be expected to live together.”

“…What is cruelty in one case may not amount to cruelty in another case. It is a matter to be determined in each case having regard to the facts and circumstances of that case. If it is a case of accusations and allegations, regard must also be had to the context in which they were made.”

ALLEGATIONS MADE IN PLEADINGS

Bench stated that it is no longer res Integra that false, baseless, scandalous, malicious and unproven allegations in the written statement may amount to cruelty.

“If it is established from the evidence that the allegations were evidently false, then such baseless allegations made in the written statement can amount to cruelty and the Court can pass a decree of dissolution of the marriage.”

In view of the above, Court found no infirmity in the trial court’s observations that the allegation of the Appellant in the Written Statement with respect to the impotency clearly falls within the concept of cruelty as defined under the law.

Bench also observed that,

There can be no justification for any party to retaliate by making untrue and false allegations regardless of how provocative the allegations may be. If the Appellant was hurt by the allegations made by the Respondent, she had her legal remedies against the same. It did not certainly give her a carte blanche to make counter-allegations which were untrue and cause deep humiliation to the Respondent.

Adding to the above, Court stated that the imputations and allegations made by the Appellant in the Written Statement were repeatedly reinforced during the trial by giving suggestions to the Respondent and also to his expert witness during the course of their cross-examinations.

Bench held that,

The cruelty in the instant case is of enduring and profound nature.

Concluding the instant matter, Cout held that the appellant and the respondent have been separated for more than eight years and since the separation continued for a sufficient length at time, it can be presumed that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

It was found that a prolonged and continuous separation and the matrimonial bond was beyond repair. Therefore, refusing to severe the matrimonial ties would cause further mental cruelty to the Respondent.

Hence, the trial court’s conclusion could not be faulted with. [Kirti Nagpal v. Rohit Girdhar, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 1466, decided on 20-11-2020]


Advocates for the parties:

Appellant: Manish Sharma, Ninad Dogra and Jigyasa Sharma

Respondent: Prabhjit Jauhar

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Ajay Mohan Goel J., while rejecting the present criminal revision sought against the compensation and maintenance allowed by the lower court, clarified the legal position on simultaneous remedy under the Domestic Violence Act and the Criminal Procedure Code.

 Brief Facts

Facts of the case are enumerated herewith;

  1. That a petition filed by the respondent herein, under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, stood allowed by the Court of Judicial Magistrate, titled as Palbi Sharma v. Sachin Sharma, vide order dated 23-12-2016, directing the present petitioner to pay monthly maintenance to the tune of Rs 3000 per month to the present respondent/wife from the date of the order.
  2. That, in addition Rs 20000 was also ordered by way of compensation by the Court against the proven acts of cruelty committed by the present petitioner.
  3. That the petitioner was also directed to provide accommodation to the wife, on rent comprising of one room, kitchen bathroom and toilet or in the alternative to provide said accommodation in his own house if he was in a position to do so.
  4. That the petitioner filed an appeal against the abovementioned decision which was dismissed by the Court of Sessions Judge vide judgment dated 29-09-2018.
  5. That the wife also filed an appeal against the order passed by the Court of Judicial Magistrate, which was also dismissed by the Appellate Court vide the same order.
  6. That the wife has not preferred any further petition against the adjudication made in her appeal by the Appellate Court, therefore, this Court is not making any observation qua rejection of the said appeal but, feeling aggrieved by the dismissal of the appeal preferred by the petitioner, the present Court herein addresses this case as filed under Section 397 read with Section 401 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

 Issue

Whether the present criminal revision filed by the petitioner maintainable?

 Decision

While rejecting the present criminal revision, the Court concurred with the findings of the lower court and said that both, the amount granted under Section 125 CrPC, amounting Rs 3500 and an amount of Rs 3000, ordered under Section 12 of the Domestic Violence Act, in addition to the compensation of Rs 20000, awarded against the proven charges of cruelty, stand justified and “by no stretch of imagination, can be said to be on the higher side”. The Court further clarified that, “The provisions of Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code and Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 are distinct and different. Law does not prohibit the wife to proceed under both of the said statutory provisions simultaneously or otherwise.”[Sachin Sharma v. Palvi Sharma,  2020 SCC OnLine HP 2109, decided on 26-10-2020]


Sakshi Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Hot Off The PressNews

The National Human Rights Commission issued notice to the Chief Secretary, Director General of Police and the Director-General of Prisons, Madhya Pradesh after taking suo motu cognizance about the allegations made by women on five cops for gang rape in lockup.

It is mentioned in the news report that a 20-year-old woman has levelled allegations that she was kept in lock-up for 10 days in the month of May this year and was subjected to rape by 5 police personnel including the Police Station Incharge and SDPO of Mangawan area of Rewa district of Madhya Pradesh. The woman, as mentioned in the news report, was an accused in a case of murder and presently she is lodged in judicial custody. The incident occurred in the month of May and it came to the knowledge of the District Judge after a period of five months. Even the prison warden did not have the courage to report the matter to the higher authorities.

It is further added that as alleged by the victim woman, she was subjected to rape between 09-05-2020 to 21-05-2020 while the police contradict, to be arrested on 21-05-2020. The female constable had protested at that time but she was rebuked by her seniors.

The Commission considered the vulnerable position of the victim. She was in police custody when she was allegedly subjected to utmost cruelty and sexual assault by the 5 police personnel. Even a protest made by a female police official went in vain. Very serious allegations have been levelled by the victim woman. Public servants from the law enforcement agencies, who are supposed to safeguard the citizens especially the women and the people from the vulnerable classes of the society have allegedly committed the heinous crime against a woman in their custody.

The Commission directs that the matter may be investigated by a senior police officer, not below the rank of the Deputy Inspector General of Police.


National Human Rights Commission

[Press Release dt. 19-10-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Z.A. Haq and Amit B. Borkar, JJ., while allowing the present criminal application filed under Section 482 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 observed the tendency in the society wherein the relatives of husband are also roped in with vague allegations under Section 498-A of Penal Code, 1860.

In the instant matter, both husband and wife started living separately from sister-in-law and brother-in-law of the husband after their marriage.

Due to quarrels between the non-applicant 2 and her husband, non-applicant 2 filed an FIR with Police Station, which was compromised. On a later date, non-applicant 2 again lodged a complaint with the Women Cell.

Further, the husband of non-applicant 2 filed a complained alleging harassment caused by parents and brother of non-applicant 2.

Non-applicant 2 approached the Judicial Magistrate and filed an application under Section 156(3) of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 and, then the non-applicant 1 lodged FIR against the applicants. The said FIR has been challenged in the present application.

Women Cell i.e. non-applicant 1 submitted that the investigation was complete and there is a prima facie case against the applicants.

Wife i.e. non-applicant 2 contended that the applicants along with her husband harassed her for dowry and there were several complaints filed by her with the Police Station as and when harassment was caused.

Senior Advocate, Anil S. Mardikar along with S.G. Joshi, Advocate, represented the applicants; M.K. Pathan Additional Public Prosecutor for the non-applicant 1 –State and M.N. Ali, Advocate for the non-applicant 2.

Analysis & Decision

In light of adjudicating the present issue, bench considered it necessary to refer Section 498-A of Penal Code, 1860:

498-A. Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty – whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

Explanation – For the purpose of this section, “cruelty” means-

(a) Any willful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or

(b) Harassment of the women where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.”

Cruelty perpetuated to the woman may be physical or mental.

Bench stated that saying, “we are also serving in the police and we have connections with the higher Authorities, or the husband of the non-applicant 2 got no benefit of the education of the non-applicant 2” cannot be stated to be cruelty to the woman.

Nowadays, it has become a tendency to make vague and omnibus allegations, against every member of the family of the husband, implicating everybody under Section 498-A of the Penal Code.

It is necessary for the Courts to carefully scrutinize the allegations and to find out if the allegations made really constitute an offence and meet the requirements of the law at least prima facie.

Bench further cited the following decision of the Supreme Court:

G. Sagar Suri v. State of U.P., (2000) 2 SCC 636, wherein it was observed that the criminal proceedings should not be allowed to be resorted to as shortcut to settle the score.

Indian Oil Corpn. v. NEPC India Ltd., (2006) 6 SCC 736, in this case, Supreme Court deprecated the tendency of using the criminal justice system as a tool of arm twisting and to settle the score, and laid down that the High Court can intervene where the criminal justice system is used as a tool.

Kailash Chandra Agrawal v. State of U.P., (2014) 16 SCC 551, an observation was made that tendency, which has been developed for roping in all relations of the in-laws by the wife in the matter of dowry deaths or such type of similar offences in an over-enthusiasm and anxiety to seek conviction needs to be deprecated.

In the present case, sisters-in-law and brother-in-law were arraigned as accused without there being specific allegation as regards the nature of cruelty, as contemplated by Section 498-A IPC against them.

In view of the impugned FIR and charge-sheet, Court opined that no allegations against the applicants constitute offences alleged.

Therefore, the criminal application was allowed in view of the above-stated.[Shabnam Sheikh v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 1752, decided on 15-10-2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court:  In a case where the appellant had challenged his conviction under Section 306 IPC for driving his wife to suicide, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, Surya Kant and Hrishikesh Roy, JJ set aside the verdict of the Trial Court and the Punjab and Haryana High Court and held that the conclusion that the deceased was driven to commit suicide, by the circumstances or atmosphere in the matrimonial home was nothing more than an inference, without any material support and the same cannot be the basis for sustaining conviction of the appellant, under section 306 of the IPC.

KEY FACTS CONSIDERED BY COURTS

  • The appellant was married to the deceased and they had a son (21/4 years) and a daughter (8/9 months), when the mother committed suicide on 12.8.1997. According to the prosecution case, the deceased was harassed after marriage, for insufficient dowry. The appellant along with his parents was charged under sections 304B and 498A read with section 34 of the IPC.
  • The father of the deceased submitted that “cash loan” of 20,000/- was asked from him by the family of the appellant.
  • appellant is the only son of his parents and they are the owner of a big house with a vegetable garden. The appellant and his father were drivers with Punjab police.
  • during delivery time, the deceased was admitted in the hospital for 10/12 days in November 1996 and her medical treatment was arranged by the husband and the father-in-law.
  • No evidence of any dispute relating to dowry demand or maltreatment of the deceased, during three years of marriage was seen.

TRIAL COURT AND HIGH COURT’s VERDICT

Even while declaring that there is insufficient material to convict anyone under section 304B & 498A IPC, the trial Court opined that although no charge of abetment was framed against the husband Gurcharan Singh, he can be convicted for abetting suicide of his wife, under section 306 IPC.

The Trial Court also concluded even if Rs. 20,000/- was asked for purchase of plot three years after marriage and few days later the unnatural death takes place, the death cannot be related to demand of dowry.

However, posing a question to itself as to why a young lady with two small children would commit suicide unless she has been pushed to do so, by the circumstances in the matrimonial home, the Trial Court observed that the expectation of a married woman will be love and affection and financial security at the hands of her husband and if her hopes are frustrated by the act or by wilful negligence of the husband, it would constitute abetment within the meaning of section 107 IPC, warranting conviction under section 306 IPC.

The High Court also endorsed the Trial Court’s view that deceased was pushed to commit suicide by the circumstances and the atmosphere in the matrimonial home.

SUPREME COURT’s OBSERVATION

On ingredients to establish offence of abetment under Section 107

As in all crimes, mens rea has to be established. To prove the offence of abetment, as specified under Sec 107 of the IPC, the state of mind to commit a particular crime must be visible, to determine the culpability. In order to prove mens rea, there has to be something on record to establish or show that the appellant herein had a guilty mind and in furtherance of that state of mind, abetted the suicide of the deceased. The ingredient of mens rea cannot be assumed to be ostensibly present but has to be visible and conspicuous.

“In order to give the finding of abetment under section 107 IPC, the accused should instigate a person either by act of omission or commission and only then, a case of abetment is made out.”

On facts and circumstances of the case

Cruelty

In the present case there is no direct evidence of cruelty against the husband or the in-laws. There is nothing on record to show which particular hope or expectation of the deceased was frustrated by the husband. Evidence is also lacking on wilful neglect of the appellant, which led to the suicidal death.

Whereas contrary evidence is available to suggest that care and treatment was given to the deceased in the matrimonial home and in the hospital, and during the three years of marriage, there was no instance of maltreatment, attributable to dowry demand.”

Dowry

The demand of Rs. 20,000/- for purchase of a plot (in front of the residence which might have incidentally become available for sale just at that time), after three years of marriage, was ruled out by the trial Court as the possible cause for the suicidal death.

“Thus, a loan may have been sought by the accused which could not be given. But there is nothing to show that the deceased was harassed on this count, in the matrimonial home.”

Expectations from husband and in-laws

Insofar as the possible reason for a young married lady with two minor children committing suicide, in the absence of evidence, conjectures cannot be drawn that she was pushed to take her life, by the circumstances and atmosphere in the matrimonial home.

“What might have been the level of expectation of the deceased from her husband and in-laws and the degree of her frustration, if any, is not found through any evidence on record. More significantly, wilful negligence by the husband could not be shown by the prosecution.”

It must also be noted that both children born to deceased are being brought up by the appellant’s family ever since the death of the mother on 12.8.1997. The maternal grandparents, even while pointing fingers against the accused, never raised any issue on their grandchildren being brought up in the home where their daughter died an unnatural death.

Conclusion

The Court noticed that in the present matter both the Trial Court as well as the High Court never examined whether appellant had the mens rea for the crime, he is held to have committed.

“The conviction of Appellant by the Trial Court as well as the High Court on the theory that the woman with two young kids might have committed suicide, possibly because of the harassment faced by her in the matrimonial house, is not at all borne out by the evidence in the case.”

On the other hand, it is apparent that no overt act or illegal omission is seen from the appellant’s side, in taking due care of his deceased wife. The evidence also does not indicate that the deceased faced persistent harassment from her husband.

“The Trial Court and the High Court speculated on the unnatural death and without any evidence concluded only through conjectures, that the appellant is guilty of abetting the suicide of his wife.”

Hence, the conviction of the appellant, under section 306 of the IPC cannot be sustained.

[Gurcharan Singh v. State of Punjab, CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.40 OF 2011, decided on 02.10.2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: C.V. Bhadang, J., addressed an application regarding the transfer of Criminal Miscellaneous Application regarding the dissolution of marriage on the ground of cruelty.

Facts pertinent to the matter are that the marriage of husband and wife ran into rough weather and led to the applicant/husband to file for divorce on the ground of cruelty, pending before the Family Court.

Whereas, the respondent/wife filed a case against the applicant for various reliefs under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 which also pending before the Magistrate.

Applicant has prayed for the transfer of the said case to Family Court.

Counsels in the present matter: Abhijit D. Sarwate for the Applicant and Arvind Chavan for the Respondent.

Analysis and Decision

Bench noted that the applicant sought relief of the dissolution of marriage and permanent custody of the children. Along with said reliefs, he was also seeking partition of the property situated in Pune. Whereas, the respondent filed a Criminal M.A. under Sections 12, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22 and 23(2) of the D.V. Act seeking a residence order in the above-stated property, protection order and monetary reliefs in the form of monthly maintenance of Rs 1,50, 000 and compensation in the form of one-time lump sum payment of Rs 50 lakhs along with Rs 5 lakhs as costs.

Principle Issue:

Whether the Family Court can entertain the application, as framed and filed by the respondent, before the Magistrate?

To the said issue, Court responded that it has been covered by at least three decisions of the Single Judges :

Minoti Subhash Anand v. Subhash Manoharlal Anand, 2015 SCC OnLine Bom 6113

Sandip Mrinmoy Chakraborty v. Reshita Sandip Chakrabarty, 2018 SCC Online Bom 2709

Santosh Machindra Mulik v. Mohini Mithu Choudhari, Misc. C.A. No. 64 of 2019 decided on 15-11-2019

Bench added that this Court has consistently observed that in view of Section 7(2)(b) of the Family Courts Act read with Section 26 of the D.V. Act that the Family Court would get jurisdiction to entertain an application for relief under Sections 18 to 22 of the D.V. Act.

Respondent’s Counsel pointed that Section 26 of the D.V. Act speaks of the reliefs available under Section 18 to 22 and does not cover Section 17. To which the Court stated that the said contention is misconceived.

Section 17 of D.V. Act declares the right of the aggrieved person to reside in the shared household. The remedy to enforce any such right, is to be found in Section 19, which is included in Section 26 of the said Act.

Further, the Counsel for the respondent submitted that under Section 28(2) of the D.V. Act, the Magistrate is competent to follow his own procedure, which latitude is not available to the family court. Court negatived the said argument in the case of Santosh Machindra Mulik v. Mohini Mithu Choudhari, Misc. C.A. No. 64 of 2019 decided on 15-11-2019 in view of Section 10(3) of the Family Courts.

The decision of Vimlaben Ajitbhai Patel v. Vatslaben Ashokbhai Patel is also misplaced in the present context as in the said decision, Supreme Court held that, under the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act the wife not only acquires a right to be maintained but also acquires a right of residence, which is a higher right. It has been held that such a right of residence extends only to joint properties, in which the husband has a share.

The above-said judgment cannot come to the aid of the respondent.

Hence the Court allowed the application in view of the above.[Hitesh Prakashmalji Mehta v. Aashika Hitesh Mehta, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 983, decided on 28-09-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Tripura High Court: A Division Bench of S. Talapatra and S.G. Chattopadhyay, JJ., upheld the decision of the trial court and stated that the present matter is a case of an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage in light of cruelty and desertion.

Cruelty & Desertion | Dissolution of Marriage

Allegations of cruelty and desertion were placed against the wife by the husband in light of which the husband approached the Family Court under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for dissolution of marriage by a decree of divorce.

Family Court dissolved the marriage.

Aggrieved wife preferred the present appeal under Section 28 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 read with Section 19 of the Family Courts Act, 1984 challenging the legality of the impugned Judgment of the Family Court.

Court considers in the present case whether the grounds of cruelty and desertion against the respondent-wife, the appellant herein, existed on the date of filing of the divorce petition or not.

From the pleadings of the parties and their evidence, it would appear that the respondent-wife left her matrimonial home along with her daughter and she did not live with her husband at any point of time till the petition was filed by her husband on seeking a divorce and even thereafter.

The witnesses of the petitioner including two of his neighbours had categorically asserted that they did not notice any untoward incidents preceding to the departure of the respondent-wife from her matrimonial home.

Further, the bench stated that on perusal of the parties and their evidence discussed, no material was found to show that the respondent-wife was ever forced by her husband to leave his company or that she was thrown away from her matrimonial home.

Wife prosecuted her husband and his relatives under Section 498A IPC which was proved to be unfounded in the Sessions Court as well as in the High Court.

Institution of a complaint under Section 498-A IPC against the husband does not ipso facto constitute mental cruelty unless the court having assessed the totality of the facts and circumstances and also having taken note of the nature of the allegations come to the conclusion that amongst other things the wife also brought unfounded and scandalous allegations with a clear intention to humiliate the husband and his relatives and such conduct of the spouse caused disappointment and frustration in the other spouse.

Whether such conduct of the respondent-wife amounted to the desertion of her husband and caused mental cruelty to him and entitled him to a decree of divorce.

There cannot be a straight-jacket formula for determining cruelty in matrimonial relationships. Whether the alleged conduct of the spouse constitutes cruelty has to be judged in the particular context of the case keeping in view all the attending facts and circumstances of the case.

In the present matter, the petitioner proved that his wife abandoned him along with her daughter when he lost his vision and was in dire need of their company and the support of his wife.

Such conduct of the wife must have hurt the sentiment of the petitioner husband and affected their relationship. After abandoning her husband, she labeled allegations of harassment for dowry against her husband in a proceeding under Section 498A IPC followed by a proceeding under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.

The unprovoked humiliating treatment by the wife to her husband caused cruelty to the husband.

Apex Court, while laying down the broad parameters for determination of mental cruelty for the purpose of granting divorce in Samar Ghose v. Jaya Ghose, (2007) 4 SCC 511 reiterated the same principle and held as follows as one of the parameters:

“101…(xiv) Where there has been a long period of continuous separation, it may fairly be concluded that the matrimonial bond is beyond repair. The marriage becomes a fiction though supported by a legal tie. By refusing to sever that tie, the law in such cases, does not serve the sanctity of marriage; on the contrary, it shows scant regard for the feelings and emotions of the parties. In such like situations, it may lead to mental cruelty.”

Hence, in the present matter, both the grounds of cruelty and desertion existed on the date of filing of the divorce petition. Moreover, there is no denial of the fact that the husband and the wife are staying apart for more than 13 years and during this period they never lived together at any point of time.

Therefore, the present matter is a case of an irretrievable breakdown of marriage and it is quite impossible to save the marriage.

 Trial Court’s decision is upheld and the husband is directed to pay a monthly maintenance allowance for his wife and daughter.[Aparna Dey v. Alok Dey, 2020 SCC OnLine Tri 411, decided on 09-09-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

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]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: A Division Bench of H.C. Mishra and Rajesh Kumar JJ., rejected the prayer and dismissed the appeal being devoid of merit.

The facts of the case are such that marriage of the appellant and his wife was solemnized in the year 2007 as per Hindu rites and rituals in the presence of all family friends and relatives and two children are born out of the wedlock. The appellant alleged that wife has been living separately and on numerous incidents caused mental agony to the appellant. He has further alleged in the appeal that the acts of the wife amount to cruelty and desertion of the wife. A suit was filed by the husband for divorce under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 on grounds of cruelty, desertion and mental incapacity of the respondent-wife. The Trial Court decided the matter in favour of the wife and aggrieved by the same, the instant appeal was filed challenging the same order.

The appellant represented himself in person and submitted that the wife behaved psychic and rudely and treated him and his parents with utmost cruelty. He cited various incidents to support his argument along with two witnesses, one himself and his mother, namely, Kaushalya Devi but did not produce any documentary evidence.

Counsel Sujeet Neepulam representing the respondent-wife denied allegations of cruelty, desertion and mental illness and submitted further that her actions of leaving home and staying with parents are not willful as the appellant and his family were demanding dowry, refusing which she was ousted from the marital home and brought back and ousted again on many occasions. Four witnesses, namely, Ashok Saw, Naresh Saw, Praveen Kumar and herself were examined to support her argument alongwith documentary evidence i.e. a mutual divorce application dated 13-07-2009 sent by the husband to wife after signing, a letter dated 30-07-2010 to her father giving threat, copy of an FIR instituted by the respondent-wife under Section 498 A of Penal Code, 1860 and Section 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961  compromise copy after the appellant was arrested subsequent to the filing of FIR and other pertinent documents to support her plea. It was further submitted that the respondent is still willing to lead a respectable conjugal life with her husband, but the husband is not willing to keep her.

The Court observed that appellant was unable to present any substantial evidence except oral evidence of his and his mother whereas the respondent-wife presented various documentary proofs which demolish the case of cruelty from her side instead makes it clear by looking at the mutual divorce application and a written letter of threat to her father or the fact that she compromised to secure bail for the petitioner is enough to indicate the willingness of the respondent-wife to resume the respectable conjugal life with the appellant.

The court relied on judgments titled Jorden Diengdeh v. S.S. Chopra, (1985) 3 SCC 62 and Kaslefsky v. Kaslefsky [1951] P. 38 and held that any husband desirous to get rid of his wife may get desired result by driving out his wife from matrimonial home by force or creating a situation and thereafter taking plea of desertion for more than two years. The law is clear that if one of the parties to the matrimonial home, voluntary and without any plausible explanation has left the matrimonial home giving no option to the other party, then it amounts to desertion. Desertion is a willful and voluntary act by the party to leave something without any rational reason. In the present case, the husband is at fault and this is the reason for separate living of both the parties. Hence, the argument that living separately itself is sufficient in the eyes of law for granting the divorce is not acceptable.

In view of the above, decree for divorce rejected and appeal dismissed.[Sanjay Kumar v. Suman Kumari, 2020 SCC OnLine Jhar 773, decided on 08-09-2020]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Telangana High Court: K. Lakshman, J.,  while addressing an issue, observed that,

there should be a perceptible nexus between the death of a woman and the dowry-related harassment or cruelty inflicted on her.

Deceased and accused 1 were married, wherein at the time of marriage parents of the deceased gave 15 tolas of gold, furniture and clothes.

Harassment

After 5 months of the marriage, appellants-accused started harassing the deceased physically and mentally by demanding additional dowry and motorcycle.

Accused had also threatened to perform a second marriage if the demands were not fulfilled.

Deceased parents informed the accused that they cannot fulfill the said demand and asked not to harass the deceased.

But the accused warned the parents and maternal uncles of the deceased that they would perform the marriage of accused 1 with another girl if they fail to accede to their demand.

Suicide

On the intervening night of 25/26-06-2003 parents of the deceased were informed that the deceased committed suicide hanging.

The mother of the deceased reported the event with instances of harassment that her daughter was subjected to the police.

Police registered a case under Section 304-B of Penal Code, 1860 and trial court framed the charge against the appellants and accused 4 under Section 304-B IPC.

Being aggrieved with the said conviction and imposition, the present appeal was filed.

Decision

Dowry death

Court observed that the post-mortem examination found the cause of the death of the deceased to be due to hanging.

Ingredients required for offence under Section 304-B IPC:

  • within 7 years of the marriage, there must happen the death of a woman (the wife)
  • the death must be caused by any burns or bodily injury, or the death must occur otherwise than under normal circumstances
  • it must be established that soon before her death, she was subjected to cruelty or harassment
  • the cruelty or harassment may be by her husband or any relative of her husband; and
  • the cruelty or harassment by the husband or relative of the husband must be for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry.

Section 113-B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 provides for presumption as to dowry death. When the question is whether the dowry death, namely, the death contemplated under Section 304-B of IPC has been committed by a person, if it is shown that soon before her death, the woman was subjected by such person to cruelty or harassment, for in connection with, any demand for dowry, the Court shall “presume” that such person had caused the dowry death.

It is, no doubt, a rebuttable presumption and it is open to the husband and his relatives to show the absence of the ingredients of Section 304-B of IPC.

Court observed that it is relevant to note that it is not enough that harassment or cruelty was caused to the woman with a demand for dowry at some time if Section 304-B of IPC is to be invoked but it should have happened “soon before her death”.

Bench held that the prosecution had proved the guilt of the accused’s and established the above-stated 5 ingredients of Section 304-B IPC.

To bring home charge under Section 304-B of IPC, the prosecution is required to establish that the death of the woman has been caused by burns or bodily injury or otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and soon before her death, the woman is subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or his relative.

In the present matter, the fact that the incident had occurred 17 years ago and accused 1 got remarried and has to look after his children including the child born through the deceased and his old aged parents, hence Court took a lenient view with regard to the reduction of punishment.

Accordingly, the present criminal appeal was allowed.[Surender Singh v. State of A.P., 2020 SCC OnLine TS 874, decided on 06-07-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Division Bench of B.A. Patil and Hanchate Sanjeevkumar, JJ., upheld the decision of the trial court with regard to dowry death.

By the instant criminal appeal, the decision of the Additional Sessions Judge, Gulbarga has been challenged.

Counsel for the appellant-accused: Iswaraj S. Chowdapur and Additional State Public Prosecutor for respondent – State: Prakash Yeli.

Dowry | Cruelty

Parents of Dattamma at the time of the marriage had given one tola of gold as dowry. After one year of when the dowry was given, the accused started subjecting Dattamma to cruelty contending that she doesn’t know how to cook and used to ask her to bring cash and gold from her parent’s house.

The said fact of cruelty was conveyed by Dattamma to her parents who along with some elderly persons visited the accused and paid a sum of Rs 5000, but he continued to subject Dattamma to mental and physical cruelty.

Later the accused poured kerosene and lit fire on Dattamma with the intention to commit murder. Afterwhich, she was taken to the hospital and sustained burn injuries.

In view of the above-stated offence, the trial court had convicted the accused.

Analysis and Decision

Bench while analysing the set of circumstances and submission placed stated that,

When the prosecution establishes its case with regard to ill-treatment and harassment said to have been caused by the accused and admittedly the death of the decased has also taken place within 7 years after the marriage, under such circumsatnces, a duty cast upon the Court to draw a presumption under Section 113 A of the Evidence Act that is dowry death.

Demand of Dowry

In the present matter, Court relying on the proposition laid down in the decision of C.M. Girish Babu v. CBI, (2009) 3 SCC 779, held that the prosecution has established that there was ill-treatment and harassment caused by the accused for the demand of dowry.

Trial Court has rightly convicted the accused for the offences punishable under Section 498-A and 302 IPC and also under Section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.

Accused’s Counsel contended that the imprisonment itself is harsh and severe punishment under such circumstances the imposition of a heavy fine to a poor agriculturist is not justifiable and it is excessive fine which ought not to have been imposed.

In view of the above stated, Court modified the fine imposed on the accused.

The sentence imposed by the trial court for the offences punishable under Sections 498A and 302 of IPC and under Section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act was confirmed. [Baswaraj v. State of Karnataka, Criminal Appeal No. 354 of 2013, decided on 10-08-2020]


Also Read:

Cruelty to Women [S. 498-A IPC and allied sections]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: A Division Bench of Sandeep Mehta and Kumari Prabha Sharma, JJ., dismissed the allegations of dowry demand, cruelty against the father-in-law and husband of the deceased in view of the prosecution theory regarding homicidal death being nothing short of sheer exaggeration.

An appeal was preferred by the accused-appellants under Section 374(2) CrPC against the decision of Additional Sessions Judge (Women Atrocities Cases), Bikaner.

Deceased was married to appellant 1 for 10 years. On one fateful day she was found dead in the kitchen with burn injuries, whereupon her brother, PW.1 lodged.

Humiliated and Harassed

Allegations were placed that the deceased was harassed from the date of her marriage till death on account of dowry demand.

Both the father-in-law and husband of the deceased under the influence of liquor used to maltreat her owing to the demand for money.

The unjust demands of the above-stated persons used to be somehow met but the greed would never end.

PW1 also stated that when he saw his sister dead, both the husband and deceased’s father-in-law kept uttering the words that they had killed the woman and he could do whatever he liked. 

In view of the above, offences under Section 302, 498A and 34 of Penal Code, 1860 were filed.

Later, both the husband and father-in-law were arrested.

Analysis and Decision

Bench on perusal of the facts and circumstances of the matter stated that, if at all there was a semblance of truth in the allegation that the maltreatment of the deceased was continuing for almost 10 years, then her maternal relatives were expected to raise this issue by filing a complaint either to the police and if not, then at least intervention of the community elders would definitely have been sought.

Adding to the above, maternal neer reprimanded the cruel behaviour of the accused.

Hence, the allegations levelled by the prosecution witnesses that the accused were indulged in meting out continuous maltreatment to the deceased on account of demand of dowry is nothing short of sheer exaggeration and needs to be discarded.

Further, it was duly established that the father-in-law of the deceased had invested significant amounts from the sale proceeds of his agricultural land in the names of his granddaughters before the incident, which makes it clear that the allegation of humiliation and harassment is unsubstantiated.

On perusal of the medical report of the deceased, Court noted that the injuries were on the front, but the prosecution theory states that the deceased was set ablaze, if the said theory was true then the kerosene would have dribbled on the front as well as back, hence the defence theory of deceased falling down on the burning place in probablised.

In view of the above-stated background, the reverse burden of proof under Section 106 of the Evidence Act would also not come to the aid of the otherwise fragile and fragmented prosecution case.

Therefore, the accused-appellants were acquitted of all the charges.[Gopal v. State of Rajasthan, DB Criminal Appeal No. 799 of 2014, decided on 06-08-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A Division Bench of Ravi Malimath and Narayan Singh Dhanik, JJ., allowed an appeal which was filed aggrieved by the order passed by the trial court in ordering the medical examination of the wife.

The respondent-wife was alleged to have committed various acts of cruelty; that she had also deserted her husband, therefore, he filed the petition before the Family Court under Sections 13 (ia) and 13 (ib) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. During the pendency of the proceedings, on an application made by the husband, the impugned order was passed by the trial court directing the medical examination of the wife to ascertain whether she was in a position to conceive or not. Thus, the present appeal.

The Counsel for the appellant wife, Harshpal Sekhon contended that wife undergoing a medical test to ascertain whether she can conceive or not is something unheard of and further whether she can conceive or not is irrelevant to the facts and circumstances of the case.

The Court while allowing the appeal quashed the Family Court’s Order and  stated that husband had sought for a decree of divorce on the grounds under Sections 13 (ia) and 13 (ib) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Section 13 (ia) is with regard to cruelty and Section 13 (ib) is with regard to desertion. Therefore, the husband would have to establish these two facts before the court in order to seek divorce on these grounds. The ability of the wife to conceive or not has no relevance or any nexus with sub-section (ia) or (ib) of Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act. Her ability to conceive or not is irrelevant in the present proceedings. [Rashmi Gupta v. Yogesh Babu, 2020 SCC OnLine Utt 339 , decided on 01-07-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: Shailendra Shukla, J., while addressing a anticipatory bail application, held that,

“…applicability of the provisions of The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019 is only against the husband and not in-laws.”

The present anticipatory bail application was filed under Section 428 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 as the applicant’s were apprehending their arrest for the offence punishable under Section 498-A Penal Code, 1860, Section 3/4 of Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and Section 3/4 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019.

Due to some dispute, complainant after her Nikah returned back to her parental house, further the complainant submitted that her husband on 29th March, 2020 pronounced ‘Talaq’ thrice on telephone, thereafter an FIR was lodged against him.

Counsel for objector and State both submitted that after the Nikah when the complainant got pregnant her mother-in-law started alleging that complainant got pregnant much earlier and the child doesn’t belong to her son along with this, she also started asking for money saying that complainant did not give enough dowry to the applicants.

Decision

Bench stated that the applicability of the provisions of The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019 is only against the husband and not in-laws.

Further the Court noted that there was no physical cruelty , it appeared that early pregnancy became the cause of dispute and as per the complainant there was a telephonic call in which husband of the complainant sought termination of the marriage.

Bench found substance in the submission tat demand of dowry after pronouncing divorce was not possible.

Application was allowed and it was directed that in the event of arrest, applicants shall be released on bail. [Rafique Ahmed v. State of M.P., 2020 SCC OnLine MP 1521 , decided on 08-07-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Anup Jairam Bhambhani, J., while addressing a matrimonial dispute, observed that,

“the only criterion or test under Section 14 of Family Courts Act for a Family Court to admit, evidence is it’s subjective satisfaction that the evidence would assist it to deal effectually with the dispute.”

Divorce petition was filed by the husband/respondent on 26th September, 2012 seeking dissolution of marriage on the ground of cruelty under Section 13(1)(ia)of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

As evidence, husband filed a Compact Disc (CD) in which he had recorded how the wife was talking a friend of hers about the husband’s family which clearly was derogatory, defamatory and constituted cruelty.

Recording of ‘private’ conversation without the knowledge or consent of wife is in breach of her fundamental right to privacy.

Wife while objecting to the said evidence stated that since the evidence comprised in the CD was collected in breach of her fundamental right to privacy, the same is not admissible in a court of law.

She further argued that a person is entitled to criticise someone and not share the criticism with the world; and that a person has a right to all thoughts and behavioural patterns within one’s zone of privacy.

Additionally it has been urged that the husband’s action of surreptitiously and clandestinely recording the wife’s telephone conversation with her friend also amounts to an offence under Section 354-D of the Penal Code 1860, whereby the very act of recording such conversation is a criminal offence, punishable in law.

Family Court’s opinion on the CD as evidence:

“This court is of the opinion that the conversation between the respondent and her friend, wherein, she has allegedly spoken about the petitioner/ his family and the status of the matrimonial life would, certainly assist the court in effectively deciding the dispute between the parties. Such a piece of evidence is certainly relevant.”

One of the earliest, leading decisions on the question of admissibility of tape-recorded conversations is Regina v. Maqsud Ali, (1966) 1 QB 688 where a secretly tape-recorded conversation was the only incriminating piece of evidence implicating the accused persons for murder.

Analysis and Conclusion

While a litigating party certainly has a right to privacy, that right must yield to the right of an opposing party to bring evidence it considers relevant to court, to prove its case.

Since no fundamental right under our Constitution is absolute, in the event of conflict between two fundamental rights, as in this case, a contest between the right to privacy and the right to fair trial, both of which arise under the expansive Article 21, the right to privacy may have to yield to the right to fair trial.

In High Court’s opinion,

Legislature could not have enunciated it more clearly than to say that the Family Court “may receive as evidence any report, statement, documents, information or matter that may, in its opinion, assist it to deal effectually with a dispute, whether or not the same would be otherwise relevant or admissible under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.”

“…What credence, value or weightage is to be given to the evidence so received is discretionary upon the judge, when finally adjudicating the dispute.”

Without at all denigrating the importance of ethical and moral considerations, in the opinion of this court, to say that a Family Court should shut-out evidence at the very threshold on the basis of how it is collected, would be

(i) in breach of Section 14 which unequivocally expresses the intention of the Legislature ;

(ii) in breach of settled principles of evidence ; and

(iii) in breach of the enunciation by the Supreme Court that though the right to privacy is a fundamental right, it is not absolute and must be placed in the context of other rights and values.

Bench further observed that, in most cases that come before the Family Court, the evidence sought to be marshalled would relate to the private affairs of the litigating parties.

Thus, if Section 14 is held not to apply in its full expanse to evidence that impinges on a person’s right to privacy, then Section 14 may as well be effaced from the statute.

In context of the present matter, Court stated that conversation between the wife and her friend, which is the subject matter of recording on the CD, in which she is alleged to have spoken about the husband and his parents, would be a ‘relevant fact’ as understood in law, upon a combined reading of Sections 5, 7 and 8 of the Evidence Act. To that extent therefore, the contents on the CD are relevant for purposes of the divorce proceedings.

Though Court added to its conclusion that, if the right to adduce evidence collected by surreptitious means in a marital or family relationship is available without any qualification or consequences, it could potentially create havoc in people’s personal and family lives and thereby in the society at large.

While law must trump sentiment, a salutary rule of evidence or a beneficent statutory provision, must not be taken as a license for illegal collection of evidence.

In view of the above, no infirmity is found in Family Court’s decision. [Deepti Kapur v. Kunal Julka, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 672 , decided on 30-06-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: A Division Bench of Sahidulla Munshi and Subhasis Dasgupta, JJ., upheld the conviction of accused-husband under Section 498-A IPC for the offence of cruelty to woman and under Section 302 for the murder of his wife. At the same time, the Court acquitted the accused-mother-in-law of the charge under Section 302 for murder while maintaining her conviction under Section 498-A IPC.

Present appeal was filed against the judgment and order of conviction and sentence passed by Additional Sessions Judge wherein accused/ appellants were convicted under Sections 498 A, 302, 34 of Penal Code, 1860.

Factual Scenario

Deceased in the present matter being the second daughter of the de-facto complainant/father was put to suffer death in her in-laws’s house by hanging.

After visiting to her in-law’s house, deceased victim was put to suffer cruelty, oppression and ill-treatment by her in-law’s members, including her accused husband for her black complexion.

Deceased was frequently abused and threatened by her in-laws .

The in-law’s members while causing ill-treatment upon victim made her understand just three days after her marriage for staying in a cow shed, expressing their dissatisfaction on the ground of her black complexion.

Deceased victim reported everything to her parents about the torture and cruelty, she received in her in-law’s house, when she visited her paternal house on several occasions.

Deceased’s father after persuading her to withstand such torture inflicted upon her, for her future benefit upon realisation of weak financial condition of her father.

Later, de-facto complainant/father of the deceased was informed by his on in law that the victim daughter had been put to suffer death by hanging.

Decision & Analysis

Court observed that the cause of inflicting torture was the black complexion of deceased victim which lead the in-law’s members of the victim including her accused husband to cause physical cruelty upon her.

Victim received threat from in-law’s members for her husband’s second marriage after driving her out from matrimonial home. So long victim remained alive and visited her paternal house, she expressed her extent of torture and cruelty inflicted upon her by her in- law’s members, and all the times the de-facto complainant persuaded his daughter to return to her in-law’s house for her future prospect, keeping in view the poor condition of de-facto complainant/father.

On observing the above, Court stated that causing cruelty to deceased victim for her black complexion even after her marriage by the in-law’s members would definitely attract Section 498 A/ 34 IPC against the in law’s members including husband.

Whether the victim suffered homicidal or suicidal death?

Autopsy Surgeon stated categorically in his evidence that if any person is pressed by telephone chord on his throat, then there could be ligature mark, as he found in the instant case, which might have caused the death of deceased victim.

Thus, noticing such continuous ligature mark Autopsy Surgeon opined in absence of poison in the viscera of deceased that it was a case of homicidal death, and ante-mortem in nature.

Whether non-production of weapon in a murder trial will lead to rejection of testimony of autopsy surgeon or not?

Court on noting the facts and circumstances along with the evidence stated that it is an established fact that there was an unnatural death of deceased in the in-laws’s house of the deceased victim after 7 months of her marriage.

Sufficient evidence was placed to show that the victim received oppression, ill- treatment, torture, cruelty in her in-law’s house by her in-law’s members for her black complexion.

Accused husband having failed to offer any explanation for the injuries caused to his wife, the failure would lead to the conclusion that the death of the deceased had occurred in the custody of accused husband as they both shared the same room after marriage.

Non-production of offending weapon in the absence of any explanation may be an error or latches on the part of prosecuting agency, but such error or omission would not itself discard the testimony of Autopsy Surgeon.

Hence, facts and circumstances would thus unerringly point to the guilt of accused husband/appellant for causing homicidal death to deceased/wife by strangulation for his non-satisfaction over the black complexion of his wife, which led to give birth his motive to cause death of his wife.

Commission of cruelty upon the deceased though proved against the mother-in-law under Section 498A read with Section 34IPC, but she should not have been held convicted for causing homicidal death of deceased victim under the behest of Section 302/34 IPC. on the simple ground that death of the victim was held in her matrimonial home.

Bench modified the conviction and sentence of accused mother-in-law under Section 498 A/34 IPC and deserves to be favoured with an order of acquittal for offence under Section 302/34 IPC.

Thus, the appeal was dismissed and accused mother-in-law be set free from correctional authority forthwith upon completion of sentence awarded against her under Section 498A/34 IPC.[Mazidul Miah v. State of W.B., 2020 SCC OnLine Cal 1077 , decided on 25-06-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: A Division Bench of Ajai Lamba, CJ and Soumitra Saikia, J., granted a decree of divorce to the appellant-husband on the grounds of cruelty by the respondent-wife.

Background of the Case

Appellant husband lived with his mother, sister and brother, After his marriage bother respondent wife and appellant husband started their conjugal life in the matrimonial house of the appellant.

After about a month of their marriage, respondent wife demanded to reside separately with the appellant husband away from the husband’s relatives in a separate house. Appellant being a contractual labourer was not able to sustain separate accommodation for him and his wife as he was required to render service at a place away from his matrimonial house.

Appellant husband in the face of persistent demands by the respondent wife for separate accommodation also attempted to take the respondent wife to his place of work by arranging separate accommodation away from the matrimonial home. However, the respondent wife continued to resort to frequent quarrels with the appellant and started blaming him for the couple not being able to have a child after marriage. The respondent wife alleged that the appellant husband was medically unfit.

Later, respondent wife declared that she was not willing to continue her matrimonial life with the appellant and further insisted on going back home. Respondent wife also filed a case under Section 498(A) Penal Code, 1860.

Appellant husband contended that the respondent wife compelled the appellant to execute a written agreement to the effect that the couple will stay in a separate rental house together away from the joint family of the husband and further that the appellant/husband’s family members will not visit them or maintain any relations with them.

In view of the above agony faced by the husband, he filed a divorce case against the wife.

Respondent wife contended that she was subjected to extreme cruelty by the appellant’s step-mother, sister-in-law, brother and his two sisters.

According to the respondent, the family members of the appellant tortured her physically and mentally by demanding various cash and kinds from her as dowry and also declined to provide her the bare necessities of life. She further stated that the respondent declined to provide her medical treatment, wearing apparels, adequate food and medicine etc. which are provided to her by her brother. She further stated that she was assaulted and sent back to her brother’s house by the appellant and his family members demanding her to bring money from her house.

Upon due consideration of the evidence, the court below came to the finding that there was no cruelty extended to the appellant husband and his family members or that they were neglected by the respondent wife and accordingly rejected the petition for divorce by the husband.

High Court noted that respondent wife did not dispute on the fact that there was an agreement wherein appellant was required to provide separate accommodation to the respondent wife, where appellant’s family members were not permitted.

Under the custom of Hindu Marriage, a lady who has entered into marriage according to Hindu rituals and customs, and which has not been denied by the respondent in her evidence, her refusal to wear ‘sakha and sindoor’ will project her to be unmarried and/or signify her refusal to accept the marriage with the appellant. Such categorical stand of the respondent points to the clear intention of the respondent that she is unwilling to continue her conjugal life with the appellant.

In view of the above, it can be said that the wife inflicted cruelty upon the appellant and his family members.

Family Court erred in evaluating the evidence in the proper perspective. Acts of lodging criminal cases on unsubstantiated allegations against the husband and/or the husband’s family members amounts to cruelty.

Bench also cited a Supreme Court Decision — Rani Narasimha Sastri v. Rani Suneela Rani, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1595, wherein it was held that

filing of criminal cases like case under Sections 498(A) IPC etc. against the husband and the family members and which are subsequently dismissed/rejected by the Family Court, is sufficient to be construed as an act of cruelty by the wife.

Adding to its conclusion, Court also stated that under the “Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 children shall mandatorily be required to maintain parents and senior citizens.

Thus, it is evident that the lower Court completely ignored the fact that the respondent compelled and prevented the appellant from performing his statutory duties towards his aged mother.

Hence, the above stated is sufficient to construe as an act of cruelty leading to punishment or imprisonment as well as fine.

Impugned judgment of the Family Court be overturned in view of the discussions rendered. Divorce decree is allowed and marriage between the appellant husband and respondent wife is dissolved.[Bhaskar Das v. Renu Das, 2020 SCC OnLine Gau 2954 , decided on 19-06-2020]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports that the body of a man, who died near a government office in Utraula block of Balrampur District in Uttar Pradesh was being dumped in a garbage van by the Municipal workers while some Police personnel stood mute bystanders.

Reportedly, after a video went viral, the Balrampur district administration has placed four municipal workers under suspension and three police personnel. The Commission has issued notices to the Chairman, Municipal Corporation Balrampur and the Director General of Police, Uttar Pradesh calling for a detailed report in the matter in four weeks.

Issuing the notices, the Commission has observed that going by the contents of the media reports, it is not expected from the public servants to show such disregard to the body of a deceased. They appear to have acted in a very shameful and inhuman manner. Body of a deceased human being always deserves a dignified treatment. The approach adopted by the police as well as the municipal workers cannot be accepted in a civilised society. They have not only failed to do their duty but also crossed the limits of the sickening cruelty. This is a serious issue of violation of human rights.

The Chief Secretary, Government of Uttar Pradesh is expected to issue necessary guidelines to all the district and municipal authorities immediately that the bodies of the deceased persons and people in need of immediate medical care found on the roads, are attended to promptly and treated with dignity. The State government is also expected to identify cremation grounds or burial places for the patients died of Covid infection, so that unnecessary harassment to the relatives of the deceased by locals could be avoided.

According to the media reports, carried today on the 12th June,2020, a Sub-Inspector and two constables could be seen in the video standing as mute spectators while the body of the deceased man was being loaded by the municipal workers in a vehicle meant to carry garbage. The district police authorities of Balrampur have reportedly stated that it was an insensitive incident. The Superintendent of Police, Balrampur has prima-facie found one Sub Inspector and two constables guilty in the matter.


NHRC

Press Release dt. 12-06-2020

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of Hima Kohli and Asha Menon, JJ., while addressing a matrimonial appeal filed on behalf of the husband, held that,

Adultery can only be committed after marriage, allegation of having relationship before marriage cannot be a ground of adultery.

Petitioner being aggrieved by the Family Court’s decision of dismissal of his petition wherein he sought dissolution of his marriage with respondent 1 under Section 13(1)(i) and (ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, filed the present appeal.

It has been alleged that right after the marriage wife of the petitioner had started showing her disinterest in the marriage, he states that respondent 1/ wife had allegedly abused the appellant/husband and his family members and proclaimed that she had no interest in the marriage.

Further she even disclosed of having a love affair with respondent 2 and that she desired to marry him.

Late after a few months, she left with all the valuables and leaving a letter in which she stated that she will not return back and preferred to live her life with respondent 2.

However, respondent 1/wife was brought back by her brother but appellant/husband did not allow her to enter the house.

Thus, in view of the above facts, petition for divorce was filed.

Respondent’s Stand

Wife/Respondent 1 while opposing the divorce petition admitted that she had disclosed about her previous affair but claimed that it was only after long discussions with her husband and his family members.

Further she submitted that the husband’s family had started harassing and torturing her for dowry and pressurised her to bring a luxury car which she could not fulfill.

Withe regard to above letter mentioned, she submitted that her sister-in-law had compelled her to write whatever husband’s family members forced her to write and sign.

On one incident, an actual attempt was also made to kill her by pressing her neck and she was saved only because neighbours had gathered on hearing her cries.

Her in-laws hatched a conspiracy to kill her by suffocating her with a pillow. During the said incident, she had received injuries on various parts of her body. The appellant/husband and his family members thought that she might die and so, she was thrown near her parental village.

A complaint against the appellant/husband and his family members under Section 498-A, 307, 504 and 506 of Penal Code, 1860 had been filed.

Analysis and Decision

Bench while analysing the the matter noted that the appellant failed to prove his entitlement to divorce in the grounds of adultery under Section 13(1)(i) of the Act.

Further the Court observed that,

Cruelty is no doubt, not measurable as a tangible commodity, but the standard for determining as to whether a particular conduct amounts to cruelty or only to normal wear and tear of marriage, has been the subject matter of several decisions of the Supreme Court.

Cruelty

Court also relied on the Supreme Court case: V. Bhagat v. D. Bhagat, AIR 1994 SC 710, wherein the following was held:

Mental cruelty in Section 13(1)(i-a) can broadly be defined as that conduct which inflicts upon the other party such mental pain and suffering as would make it not possible for that party to live with the other. In other words, mental cruelty must be of such a nature that the parties cannot reasonably be expected to live together.

As per the incidents stated by the appellant none of them, if at all committed, amount to “cruel” conduct.

To the above, bench stated that, a new bride would be hesitant in her new surroundings in the matrimonial home.

It is always for the husband’s family to make the new bride feel at home and accepted as a family member. Therefore, such conduct of the respondent 1/wife of being interested in remaining in her room or not showing initiative in doing household work can by no stretch of imagination be described as cruel behaviour.

Thus, in Court’s opinion, Family Court’s conclusion including the observation of accusation of adultery being heaped by the appellant/husband on respondent 1/wife are without any proof.

Thus the present appeal of the husband was dismissed in the above view. [Vishal Singh v. Priya, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 638 , decided on 12-06-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: N.J. Jamdar, J., while addressing a revision application with regard to maintenance under Section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 held that,

Statutory right of wife of maintenance cannot be permitted to be bartered away or infringed by setting up an agreement not to claim maintenance.

Wife cannot be denied maintenance on the ground of having a source of income.

Family Court’s Judgment was challenged in the present revision application whereby, Order for payment of Rs 15,000 per month to wife under Section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, was passed.

Applicant claimed that since inception of marital life applicant faced extreme cruelty and was subjected to harassment.

Respondent after leaving the applicant to her parental home at Satara did not come to fetch back the applicant due to which police intervention was allowed, after which applicant started reside separately.

To avoid harassment from respondent, applicant signed the documents for presenting a petition for obtaining divorce by mutual consent, accordingly a decree of divorce was obtained. Despite the same, respondent continued to visit applicant’s apartment and had marital relations as well.

Respondent had not made ay provision for the maintenance and livelihood of the applicant and applicant also had no source of income.

Hence, applicant was constrained to prefer application for award of maintenance under Section 125 CrPC.

Family Court had held that

“Applicant being a wife, despite being a divorcee, within the meaning of Explanation (b) to Section 125(1) of the Code, the agreement to reside separately from the Respondent does not disentitle her from claiming maintenance.”

Bench while addressing the present application observed that,

“There is no material on record to indicate at any point of time till the filing of the instant Petition for award of maintenance the Applicant had ever raised any grievance about the decree of divorce having been obtained by fraud.”

Supreme Court in the case — Rohtash Singh v. Ramendri, (2000) 3 SCC 180, considered the question whether a wife against whom a decree of divorce has been passed on account of her deserting the husband can claim maintenance allowance under Section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure?

To the above, Supreme Court held that,

woman after divorce becomes destitute. If she cannot maintain herself and remains unmarried, the man who was once her husband continues to be under a duty and obligation to provide maintenance to her.

Statutory right of wife of maintenance cannot be permitted to be bartered away or infringed by setting up an agreement not to claim maintenance. Such a clause in the agreement would be void under Section 23 of the Indian Contract Act, being opposed the public policy.

Further the Court observed that,

The decree of divorce by mutual consent was passed in the year 2007. The application for award of maintenance came to be preferred in the year 2016. The Applicant was indubitably running a business under the name and style of “Kalyani Beauty Parlor and Training Institute” when the decree of divorce was passed in the year 2007.

Time lag of almost 9 years in approaching the Court with a claim that the Applicant was unable to maintain herself assumes critical significance in this context.

Family Court was of the view that the claim of the Applicant that she had no source of income was reliable and trustworthy and though the Applicant had the necessary qualification and experience, there was nothing to show that the Applicant was running the business of beauty parlor, in praesenti.

In High Court’s opinion in the backdrop of the material on record, the claim of the Applicant that she had no source of income ought to have been accepted by the Judge, Family Court with a pinch of salt.

High Court observes that,

the fact that the wife carries on some business and earns some money is not the end of the matter. Neither the mere potential to earn nor the actual earning, howsoever meager it may be, is sufficient to deny the claim of maintenance.

Supreme Court in the case of Sunita Kachwa v. Anil Kachwa, III 2014 (DMC) 878 S.C., held that: 

“In any event, merely because the wife was earning something, it would not be a ground to reject her claim for maintenance.”

Thus the Applicant is entitled to maintenance from the Respondent even if the Applicant still carries on the business of Kalyani Beauty Parlor and Training Centre and earns some income out of the said business.

In this era of inflationary economy, where the prices of commodities and services are increasing day by day, the income from the business of beauty parlor, which has an element of seasonality, may not be sufficient to support the livelihood of the Applicant.

Impugned order is required to be interfered with to the extent of the quantum of maintenance. The Revision Application, thus, deserves to be partly allowed to this extent.

Hence, Respondent-husband shall pay maintenance to the Applicant at the rate of Rs 12,000/- per month from the date of the Petition i.e. 17th June, 2016.[Sanjay Damodar Kale v. Kalyani Sanjay Kale, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 694, decided on 26-05-2020]