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]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: A Division Bench of A.M. Shaffique and Mary Joseph, JJ., granted a decree of divorce in favour of husband on the ground of cruelty by the wife.

Decree for dissolution of marriage was sought by the petitioner but declined by Family Court and the same is in challenge.

Background

Marital relationship of petitioner and respondent  did not last long due to the quarrelsome nature of respondent who found pleasure in quarelling with petitioner and his mother.

Later she started declaring that she would commit suicide. She used to call the petitioner ‘dog’ and ‘shameless creature’. She used to undermine his person stating that he is not a fit person to be her husband and insult him by beating him in front of his relatives.

Thus transpiring from the above, Original petition seeking for a decree for dissolution for marriage was filed wherein, allegations of cruelty were denied by the respondent. It was further urged that petitioner was a drunkard, who is in the habit of coming home late in the house in intoxicated state, he used to assault her and the child and also destroyed the tea – poy.

On perusal of the circumstances, in family court’s opinion there was no basis for the petitioner to contend that reunion was impracticable due to irrecoverable break down of the marriage.

Thus, the present appeal was filed and dissolution of marriage was sought on ground of cruelty.

Petitioner’s counsel submitted that dislike of respondent towards his mother often resulted in quarrels, which impacted loss of peace and tranquility in their life.

Decision

Court found that respondent has no case that petitioner was a drunkard when he married her. Evidence indicates that the respondent and the petitioner’s mother were not cordial and clashes were frequent.

It is natural for a wife in that scenario to make persistent effort to constrain her husband to be separated from the family life and that would undoubtedly be tortuous for him.

In the case on hand the petitioner’s turning to be a drunkard can only be taken as the natural outcome of the pressure exerted on him by the respondent to have a separate residence to the exclusion of petitioner’s mother.

No family is totally devoid of clashes among members constituting it. It is common for elders to scold and sometimes abuse youngsters. Making a daughter in law to do the house hold/domestic work is also not something unusual.

Thus in Court’s opinion, Family Court’s decision was highly unjustified it took role of a councilor rather than an adjudicator.

Hence in the opinion of the present bench, evidence as discussed above is satisfactory to take a view that the respondent has treated the petitioner with cruelty sufficient enough to grant a decree for dissolution of marriage in his favour.

Judgment of the Family Court under challenge deserves to be reversed. [Ranjith P.C. v. Asha Nair. P, 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 1751 , decided on 20-05-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of Hima Kohli and Asha Menon, JJ., while addressing a matrimonial application stated that,

“Marriage is no doubt a sacrament, but it cannot be a one sided affair.”

Present appeal has been preferred against the Judgment of Family Court wherein the marriage between the appellant/respondent and respondent/petitioner was dissolved as the same was sought on grounds of cruelty and desertion within the meaning of Section 13(1)(i–a) and (i–b) of Hindu Marriage Act.

Facts

Respondent/Petitioner alleged that the conduct of the appellant/respondent was extremely cruel and he possessed a callous and indifferent attitude since the initial years of marriage.

It was also discovered that he had many personality and behavioural problems, wife time and again tried to cope up with husband’s shortcomings an tried to help him acquire stability and status in life, many times forgiving his violence.

On repeated occasions, she found to her consternation, that the appellant/respondent made no effort to either settle down in his job or contribute to the household including taking care of their child’s educational needs.

Things reached a breaking point when despite the request of the respondent/petitioner not to invite his parents to their transit accommodation at Jawahar Lal Nehru University which had limited space and to request them to stay with his sister who was residing in Gurgaon, the appellant/respondent threw a tantrum and left the house in October 2011 without understanding that the reason for the said request was only the pre- board exams of their daughter.

Premised on the above-stated facts, respondent/petitioner filed for divorce.

Appellant/respondent preferred the present appeal on the ground that the petition for divorce has been filed by the respondent/petitioner after nearly 20 years of the marriage and therefore, it ought to have been dismissed.

Counsel for the appellant contended that, language used by respondent/petitioner in her letters does not demonstrates any hard feelings between the couple and thus the story of cruelty was just a figments of imagination of respondent/petitioner on which marriage could not have been dissolved.

Analysis and Decision

A drowning man clutching on to a straw

It is quite evident from the letters written by the respondent/petitioner that while she was doing her very best to preserve the marriage, there was no reciprocation from the appellant/respondent.

“I have been writing to you every week regularly. There is no reply from you? I have left 4-5 inlands in our room letter holder. Pick one of them and write back soon.” In the letter dated 29.07.2000, once again, it starts “how are you? There is yet no letter from you.” Therefore, to submit that these letters disclose a ‘happy family’ scenario, is to blink at the truth.

Bench while noting the log list of instances of cruelty, stated that,

repeated onslaught on her emotions even subsequent to these instances took a toll on the physical and mental health of the respondent/petitioner.

All the relevant events that have continuously occurred in the lives of the parties, reflect a one sided relationship where the appellant/respondent took everything for granted, with no sense of responsibility, while the entire burden of trying to keep the marriage alive was left for the respondent/petitioner to shoulder.

Court also added that, this is a typical case that showcases as to what would amount to cruel behaviour on the part of one spouse to the utter detriment of the other.

Material on record goes to amply demonstrate the sincere efforts made by the respondent/petitioner to salvage the marriage and show that she did more than what was her duty, to preserve it.

Thus in light of the above observations, Family Court’s decision is upheld. [Venkatesh Narasimhan v. V. Sujatha, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 571 , decided on 01-05-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: K.R. Shriram, J., while deciding the appeal filed impugning the order and judgment passed with regard to acquittal for offence punishable under Sections 498A (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and Section 306 (Abetment of suicide) of Penal Code, 1860, observed that,

“Cruelty must be of such a degree as contemplated by the Section, i.e., it must be wilful conduct of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb and health of the woman.”

Prosecution case was that complainant’s daughter Sunita was married to the respondent (accused). Respondent used to ill-treat Sunita and under the influence of alcohol he used to beat her while insisting to bring cash amount of Rs 20,000 from her father (complainant) so that he could start a business.

After sometime respondent started to sell fruits and in the meanwhile Sunita conceived and gave birth to a daughter. On or about 18-09-2001, it was informed that Sunita had committed suicide by jumping in front of a running train.

In view of the above circumstances, PW-1 had lodged the complaint for offences punishable under Sections 498A and 306 IPC.

Supreme Court in its decision, Muralidhar v. State of Karnataka, (2014) 5 SCC 730, held that

“…unless the conclusions reached by the trial court are found to be palpably wrong or based on an erroneous view of the law or if such conclusions are allowed to stand, they are likely to result in grave injustice, Appellate Court should not interfere with the conclusions of the Trial Court.”

Citing the above, Court stated that, it must be kept in mind that there is a presumption of innocence in favour of respondent and such presumption is strengthened by the order of acquittal passed by the trial court.

In Ramesh Babulal Doshi v. State of Gujarat, 1996 SCC (Cri) 972, Supreme Court held that,

“…If Appellate Court finds that there was nothing wrong or manifestly erroneous with the order of the trial court, the Appeal Court need not eve re-appraise the evidence and arrive at its own conclusions.”

Thus, High Court while analysing the present set of facts and circumstances stated that it does not find anything wrong, manifestly erroneous or demonstrably unsustainable in the impugned judgment.

Court noted that,

PW-1 (Complainant) stated that the accused was not doing any work and under the influence of liquor, used to beat Sunita and was insisting her to bring cash from parents for doing some business.

PW-1 admits that in his statement before the police, he has not mentioned that Sunita had gone to his house for delivery and after her delivery she resided with him for 15 days. He also admits that in his statement to the police, he has not mentioned that during that stay Sunita had informed him about the ill-treatment and demand for cash by accused.

DW-1 in whose quarters Sunita and accused were residing stated that in her presence no dispute took place between Sunita and accused, nobody used to visit their house and Sunita never complained about accused.

On perusal of the above, Court stated that apart from the general statements by PW-1, there was nothing on record to show that accused used to beat Sunita under the influence of alcohol.

Stating the above, bench gave another point of significance in such cases that,

“.. It is to be kept in mind that it is easy to accuse somebody of ill-treatment after someone dies, but it will not be wise to convict somebody based on such general statements.”

“It is settled law that under Section 498A of IPC, every cruelty is not an offence.”

With regard to abetment, Court stated that, in order to amount abetment, there must be mens rea or community of intention. Without knowledge or intention, there can be no abetment and the knowledge and intention must relate to the act said to be abetted, i.e. suicide, in this case. To constitute ‘abetment by instigation’, there must be a direct incitement to do the culpable act.

Thus, in Court view, no evidence is found to suggest that Sunita committed suicide because of ill-treatment or cruelty by the accused. There is also no evidence whatsoever that the accused by their acts intended Sunita to commit suicide.

In view of the above, order of acquittal need not be interfered with. [State of Maharashtra v. Shri Balu Ravji Abhang, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 307, decided on 20-02-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Madhav J. Jamdar and Sunil B. Shukre, JJ., while invoking its power under Section 482 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 observed that,

“Essential requirement of Section 494 of Penal Code, 1860 is that the person committing the offence must have married another woman or man during subsistence of his or her first marriage.”

 Applicant sought quashing of proceedings for offences punishable under Sections 498A and 494 read with Section 34 of Penal Code, 1860 at a Police Station, Nagpur on the basis of the complaint filed by Respondent 2.

Counsel for the applicant, S.V. Sirpurkar submitted that none of the above-stated offences can be constituted by accepting the entire contents of the complaint filed by respondent 2.

Additional public Prosecutor, T.Z. Mirza submitted that ingredients necessary for constituting the offences of cruelty and marrying again during lifetime of the husband or wife respectively punishable under Sections 498A and 494 of IPC are a matter of record.

Point of observation in the present case is that the dispute is not that applicant is a woman who had married for the first time with the husband of respondent 2. From the viewpoint of the applicant, this is not a case wherein she could be alleged to have married again during the lifetime of her husband.  Therefore, offence under Section 494 IPC could not be said to be constituted in the present case as against the applicant.

High Court stated that on perusal of the complaint and material available, it is to be noted that

“…there is not even a whisper of allegation of cruelty made against the applicant.

The allegation that can be found is that she performed marriage with the husband of respondent 2 during the subsistence of her marriage with Jitendra and for the said allegation no offence punishable under Section 494 of IPC can be constituted.

Hence, the bench considered the present case to be appropriate to invoke its powers under Section 482 of CrPC to prevent abuse of process of law. [Rekha v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 291, decided on 13-02-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of S.S. Shinde and V.G. Bisht, JJ., dismissed the criminal appeal on finding the trial court’s decision which was challenged to be in consonance with evidence on record.

A criminal appeal was filed by the deceased’s father (Informant) against the judgment and order that acquitted the respondents of the offence punishable under Sections 498-A, 304B, 302 read with 34 of Penal Code, 1860.

Deceased (Ambavva) was married to accused 2 and during the settlement of their marriage, the informant had agreed to give an amount of Rs 10,000 and one tola gold to the accused 2. As per custom, informant went to the accused persons house to take back Ambavva for a ceremony but was refused to go. After about 12 days when no message was received from Ambavva, informant again went to see her but accused persons did not allow meeting him.

Ambavva once had informed the informant that she was subjected to mental cruelty and insulting treatment by the accused persons.

One of the daughters of the informant informed that Ambavva had left the house of the accused persons without informing anybody and on that event informant along with his family went to the police station to report the same and were informed by the police that Ambavva had died.

Thereafter, informant when went to the accused persons house found in the adjoining land of their house, dead body of Ambavva floating on the well water.

In view of the above, informant lodged a complaint against the accused persons and a report was lodged by complainant offences punishable under Sections 498-A, 306 of Penal Code.

Trial Court had acquitted the respondents from all the charges and hence the present appeal was filed.

Trial Court had relied on the medical evidence and opined that in case of a homicidal death, there would have been some injuries on the persons of Ambavva, but there were none.

Conclusion

High Court on noting the facts and evidence placed by the prosecutions stated that the evidence of the witnesses suffers from non-disclosure of specific details of alleged cruelty and harassment to Ambavva at the hands of the accused.

Mere allegations of harassment and cruelty, in absence of mentioning specific-time, date and specific overact qua accused would not attract any ingredients of Section 304B of IPC. Prosecution failed to establish that there was cruelty and harassment to Ambavva by the accused.

Further, the Court stated that even to attract the ingredients of Section 498-A of IPC, prosecution must have shown specific acts of the accused suggesting cruelty and harassment.

Thus on vague and general allegations, it is not possible to base the conviction of the accused thereby reversing the well-reasoned order of acquittal passed by the trial court. [State of Maharashtra v. Basveshwar Kallapa Patne, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 219, decided on 03-02-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: K.R. Shriram, J., dismissed an appeal filed against the order of the trial court whereby the respondent-accused were acquitted of the offences under Section 498-A (husband or relative of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and Section 306 (abetment of suicide) read with Section 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Penal Code.

The case of the prosecution was that prior to date of incident, the accused (husband and in-laws of the deceased), in furtherance of their common intention, subjected the deceased to cruelty and abetted a suicide. The accused were chargesheeted and tried for the offences under Sections 498-A and 306 read with Section 34 IPC. However, they were acquitted of all the charges by the trial court. Aggrieved thereby, the State filed the instant appeal.

Regarding the offence under Section 498-A, the High Court observed: “Law on what would amount to an offence under Section 498-A, has been well discussed in catena of judgments. It is settled law that under Section 498-A IPC, every cruelty is not an offence. The cruelty must be of such a degree as contemplated by this Section, i.e. it must be willful conduct of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb, and health of the woman.” It was noted by the Court that the allegations made against the accused regarding demand of money, ill-treatment due to inability to cook, cruelty due to not conceiving, were general allegations and no details were mentioned. In such circumstances, it was held that the allegations under Section 498-A were not proved.

Coming to the offence under Section 306, the High Court noted that this was a case of abetment by instigation. It was observed: “In order to constitute ‘abetment by instigation’ there must be a direct incitement to do the culpable act.” After referring to a catena of decisions on the subject and considering the facts of the instant case, the Court stated: “It is nobody’s case that the accused intended Aarifa to commit suicide. A fatal impulse or an ill-fated thought of the deceased, however unfortunate and touchy it may be, cannot fray the fabric of the provision contained in Section 306 IPC. In short, it is not what the deceased ‘felt’, but what the accused ‘intended’ by their act which is more important in this context.”

In light of what has been mentioned above, the High Court concluded that the opinion of the trial court could not be held to be illegal or improper or contrary to law. The order of acquittal, in Court’s view, required no interference. [State of Maharashtra v. Nabab Mohammad Shaikh, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 290, decided on 04-02-2020]