Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Hari Pal Verma, J. allowed the petition filed for quashing of FIR under Section 482 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 on the ground that the matrimonial dispute had been resolved by mediation.

An FIR was filed against the petitioner’s husband accusing him of cruelty and breach of trust against her under Sections 498-A, 406 and 120-B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The parties were directed for the process of mediation and they further decided to compromise before the Mediation and Conciliation Center, Barnala. The complainant agreed upon the settlement agreement and stated that she had no objection on quashing of the all the proceedings against the petitioner.

The present court directed the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Barnala to get the statements recorded and send its report in order to check the genuineness of the compromise. Further the same was received by the Court and it stated that it was unnecessary to continue the proceeding before the trial court.

Relying on the decision of Supreme Court in Gold Quest International (P) Ltd. v. State of Tamil Nadu, (2014) 15 SCC 235 which held that under matrimonial or civil property disputes of criminal nature if the parties have entered into settlement then it is legal to quash the proceeding under Section 482 of Code of Criminal Procedure along with Article 226 of the Constitution of India; this Court allowed the petition for quashing of FIR and all subsequent proceedings as per compromise entered between the parties. [Sheenu Gupta v. State of Punjab, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 1399, decided on 02-08-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: A Division Bench of Arup Kumar Goswami, Acting CJ and Manish Choudhary, J. allowed an appeal filed by the appellant-husband against the order of the Family Court whereby his petition under Sections 13(1)(ia) and (ib) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 seeking dissolution of his marriage with the respondent-wife was dismissed.

Levelling several allegations, the husband had alleged that the respondent treated her with cruelty, both physically and mentally, which was beyond the limit of tolerance, and had made it impossible for him to continue marital relationship any longer as it had become unsafe and dangerous to the risk and health of the appellant. In her written statement, the respondent denied the allegations and alleged that in fact, it was the husband was having an illicit relationship with another woman.

The High Court noted that the allegations made by the respondent-wife against the husband (of the extra-marital affair) were unsubstantiated. Reliance was placed on Vijaykumar Ramchandra Bhate v. Neela Vijaykumar Bhate, (2003) 6 SCC 334 and K. Srinivas Rao v. D.A. Deepa, (2013)5 SCC 226, the High Court observed that the entire allegations of character assassination by the respondent of her husband have remained in the realm of allegations only. Such allegation of an illicit relationship left the husband with grave assault on his character, honour, reputation, status and health. Such kinds of sustained conduct and behaviour of the respondent have the effect of causing a lasting adverse impact in the mind of the appellant leaving him with feelings of deep humiliation and neglect. For such mental pain, agony and sufferings inflicted on the appellant, it could not be reasonably expected of him to still believe that he could continue to live together with the respondent. Such reasonable apprehension of the appellant that it would be harmful and injurious for him to live with the other spouse definitely constitutes mental cruelty, as contemplated in Section 13(1)(ia) of the Act.

In such view of the matter, the Court allowed the appeal and directed the decree of divorce to prepare accordingly.[Debashish Choudhary v. Smiti Nibedita Choudhary, 2019 SCC OnLine Gau 4415, decided on 24-09-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Sandeep K. Shinde, J. dismissed an appeal filed by the State against the order of acquittal by the trial court in respect to the matter pertaining to Sections 498-A and 306 of Penal Code, 1860.

State preferred the present appeal under Section 378(1) of CrPC, 1973 against the order of acquittal passed by Additional Sessions Judge.

In accordance with the prosecution case, the deceased suffered suicidal death due to acute cardiorespiratory arrest caused due to 100% burns at her matrimonial house. Deceased’s brother filed the complaint against deceased’s brother-in-law (accused 1) and wife of accused 1 (accused 2) along with sister-in-law of deceased (accused 3), for ill-treating the deceased and for abetting to commit suicide.

Thus, a crime under Section 498-A and 306 read with Section 24 of the Penal Code, 1860 was registered,

Deceased suffered unnatural death within a period of 7 years from the date of her marriage. Trial Court acquitted the accused, having found the prosecution could not establish that the accused ill-treated and caused cruelty to deceased within the meaning of Explanation Clause-a to Section 498-A of the Penal Code, 1860.

Settled Law:

“Cruelty for the purpose of Section 498-A Penal Code, 1860 means any “willful conduct” which is of such a nature as is likely to drive a women to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman or harassment of the woman 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 is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.”

The question involved in the present case is,

“Whether prosecution has established that the “willful conduct” of the accused was of such a nature which drove Shaheeda (deceased) to commit suicide?”

On the date of the incident, a quarrel ensued between the deceased and accused 2, during the course of the same, deceased inflicted injury on the forehead of accused 2 by a stick. It is disclosed that when accused 1 had gone to the police station to report about the assault by deceased on his wife (accused 2), he was informed that the deceased had set herself on fire.

It was reported to the police that there were recurring disputes between the deceased and her in-laws on account of supply and electricity and water.

Thus upon assessing the evidence of deceased’s brother, it cannot be said that “willful conduct” of the accused amounts to cruelty and such alleged conduct drove her to commit suicide. There is no specification laid out as to what kind of ill-treatment or harassment was meted out to the deceased.

High Court on noting the facts and circumstances of the case, held that there is no evidence or rather, it is not the case of the prosecution that the deceased was physically harassed or tortured by the accused. Equally, there is no dependable evidence to hold that, accused were mentally torturing the deceased.

Therefore, by relying on the Supreme Court’s decision in Pawan Kalyan v. State of Haryana, (1998) 3 SCC 309, Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh, (2001) 9 SCC 618 and  Mohd. Hoshan v. State of A.P., (2002) 7 SCC 414, Court held that the trial court is consistent with the evidence which cannot be faulted with and hence no interference is called for. The appeal, therefore, fails and is dismissed. [State of Maharashtra v. Ibrahim Ruknuddin Bagkari, Criminal Appeal No. 1267 of 2003, decided on 11-09-2019]

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“There is pain in being a woman, yes but there is pride in it too.”

-Marry Pauline Lowry

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Pradeep Nandrajog, C.J. and Bharati Dangre, J., while addressing a criminal appeal explained the agony that was suffered by the deceased – Vaishali in the present case by mentioning the quote above and further stated that,

“Vaishali suffered the pain but did not survive to experience the pride of being a woman – a creator, born to create and before this, she exited the world by extinguishing the flame of her life.”

In the present case, young girl Vaishali ended her life by consuming Dunet methanol in the form of an insecticide and succumbed to the same. PW-1 (deceased’s father) lodged a complaint on the very same day that Vaishali ended her life. PW-1 alleged that his daughter had complained about cruel treatment inflicted on her by her mother-in-law, sister-in-law and her husband (Dinesh).

Further it has been stated that, she was subjected to harassment by her mother-in-law on account of the fact that she intended to marry her son to a girl from her parental side and in turn wanted her daughter Rupali to be married into her maternal family but on account of the marriage of the deceased with her son Dinesh, the relationship contemplated was not fructified. Mother-in-law had also raised a demand of Rs 2 lakhs and on account of such demand deceased was subjected to cruelty both physical and mental.

Reference was made to the incident where Vaishali (deceased) was admitted to a hospital and was found in an unconscious condition. Husband of the deceased stated that Vaishali had consumed insecticide on having a verbal altercation with the mother in law. Therefore based on the above stated, FIR under Sections 498-A, 304-B and 306, Penal Code, 1860 was registered.

Matter was committed to Additional Sessions Judge, Pune who framed the charges against the accused persons under Section 498-A read with Section 34 IPC and he also framed a charge under Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC, in the alternative, a charge under Section 306 and 304-B IPC.

Conclusion

High Court, with the assistance of Counsel for the accused Sanjiv Kadam and learned APP, perused the evidence adduced before the Sessions Court.

Within a period of 6 months of her marriage, deceased committed suicide. Harassment was in the form of taunts and her unacceptability in the house. It also speaks of the deceased being ridiculed by the mother-in-law and her behaviour was reiterated by other members of the family including the husband of the deceased.

“Deceased who was unhappy on account of the harassment could see no hope and she took the desperate step to escape the unbearable suffering and pain which she was subjected to in an attempt not to put an end to her life but to end the traumatic ordeal which she had to undergo within a short span of her marriage life.”

Court added that, Section 498-A came to be inserted to suitably deal not only with the cases of dowry death but also cases of cruelty to a married woman by her in-laws. Raison d’etre of Section 498-A being to prevent the torture being inflicted on a married woman by her husband or his relations and it is not restricted to only in relation to the demands of dowry but it also intended to deal with cruelty inflicted upon a woman in the form of a willful conduct which drives a woman to commit suicide.

Therefore, on perusal of the judgment of the Trial Court, it is noted that the Sessions Judge grossly erred in not considering the evidence brought on record against the deceased’s husband (Dinesh) who was also party to the ill-treatment inflicted to the deceased.

Prosecution witnesses of the deceased have, in unequivocal terms, deposed that Vaishali categorically stated that she was subjected to harassment at the hands of her husband, who also joined in the choir,

“Husband, the only son to whom Vaishali was married played a positive role in the harassment of Vaishali which drove her to commit suicide and this wilful conduct of the husband has escaped the attention of learned Sessions Judge, who has acquitted him of the offence punishable under Section 498-A IPC.”

Object of introducing stringent provision in the IPC in the form of Section 498-A being to deal with such willful conduct, which led to the death of Vaishali, according to the Court should not escape the clutches of law and such conduct as also the persons who inflict such conduct actuating a young married women to end her life, needs to be penalised particularly when the evidence brought on record establishing such a conduct.

In view of the above, the conviction and sentence of the mother-in-law of the deceased is upheld and a notice is issued to Dinesh (husband of the deceased) who was erroneously acquitted by the trial court of the offence punishable under Section 498-A by affording him an opportunity of hearing.[Mandakini Balasaheb Kalbhor v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 1774, decided on 04-09-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A Division Bench of Sudhanshu Dhulia and Narayan Singh Dhanik, JJ. contemplated the special appeals preferred against the judgment of Family Court, where the divorce petition was filed under Section 13 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and was subsequently dismissed but the counterclaim of the wife-respondent for the right of residence was decreed in the favor of the respondent. 

Facts giving rise to the instant appeal were that the appellant and respondent were married. After the marriage, matrimonial discord occurred between the parties and the appellant ultimately filed suit for divorce on the ground of cruelty. The Court below framed certain issues such as, ‘whether behavior of the respondent had been cruel, relief available to the appellant, whether the respondent had the right to reside in the residence of the appellant and whether, in lieu thereof, she was entitled to get the decree for residence right in the disputed property where she was residing?’ Hence, the Court below examined the evidences, dismissed the suit for divorce and decreed the counter-claim of the respondent for the right of residence. The Court had opined that the act of the respondent did not qualify as ‘Cruelty’ so the appellant was not entitled to a divorce. 

The Court observed that the efforts were made to mediate between the parties but no fruitful outcome was possible. In terms of the compromise, the appellant had to pay an amount of rupees seventeen lakhs and fifty thousand, as permanent alimony, to the respondent and after the payment of the said amount, the respondent agreed to vacate the residence in question and both the parties agreed for dissolution of their marriage, with appropriate petition to be filed later before the Family Court. The respondent, however, now had a second thought about the matter as she contended that the amount decided was not enough to get her a decent accommodation in Dehradun.

The High Court further observed that reasons given by the Court below for dismissing the suit for dissolution of marriage was not sustainable and the finding of the Court below that there was no cruelty on the part of the respondent was perverse. The evidence was placed before the trial court and scrutinized. The appellant in his deposition had said that the respondent often used to quarrel with his daughter and eventually started then living in a separate room in the same house and stopped talking to any of the members of the family. It was further contended by the appellant that she used to cook food only for herself, and that too separately, she frequently hurled abuses on her husband and even threatened to implicate him in a false case of dowry.

The Court found that the appellant in his evidence had narrated in detail; the incidents of alleged cruelty suffered by him and as a cumulative effect of the same, any reasonable man would find his life unbearable with his/her spouse. “Cruelty can be both physical as well as mental. Since we are dealing here with human beings and human emotions, cruelty or even “legal cruelty” cannot be precisely defined. What we can say, however, is that cruelty or cruel treatment is something which makes the life of other spouses unbearable. We are convinced that based on the allegations and the evidence submitted by the appellant before the Family Court, a case of cruelty was made out.” The entire body of evidence led before the trial court, had to be evaluated in the light of the conduct of the wife. The conduct of a person has an important bearing in terms of Section 8 of the Evidence Act, 1872. Hence, the appeals were allowed and divorce was granted with an order of permanent alimony. [Raghuveer Kaintura v. Meera Kaintura ,2019 SCC OnLine Utt 718, decided on 07-08-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court:  Deepak Sibal, J. dismissed the present petition as the impugned order was not defective on the ground that framing of the issue was not challenged by the petitioner and evidence were led only on the same ground. 

A petition was filed against the dismissal order in which application filed by the petitioner was prayed for withdrawal of divorce petition with permission to file afresh.

The brief facts of the case were that petitioner filed a petition under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for dissolution of the marriage between the parties on the ground of cruelty.  During the course of the trial, at the final argument stage, petitioner filed an application under Order 23 Rule 1 of the Code of Civil procedure, 1908 seeking withdrawal of his divorce petition with permission to file a fresh petition on the same cause which through the order impugned in the present proceedings has been dismissed.

Manish Kumar Singla, counsel for the petitioner submitted that there was a formal defect in the petition as averments had been made in the petition with regard to the respondent-wife having deserted the petitioner but since between the alleged date when the respondent-wife had deserted him and the filing of his petition the statutory period of 2 years had not elapsed, the Trial Court erred in not permitting the petitioner to withdraw his divorce petition with permission to file a fresh one on the same cause.

Karan Bhardwaj, counsel for the respondent submits that with regard to the issue of desertion, there was no formal defect in the petitioner’s petition and therefore, the petitioner cannot be allowed to withdraw his petition with permission to file fresh one on the same cause.

The Court opined that the respondent-wife had refused to join the company of the petitioner would not give a cause to the petitioner to seek divorce on the ground of desertion and there was no formal defect in the petitioner’s defect. It was further submitted that the ground of desertion was neither available to the petitioner nor taken by him. During the pendency of the petition, even if such ground has become available, the same would not make the petitioner’s petition as defective. Thus the matter was dismissed. [Kulwinder Singh v. Manmohan Kaur, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 1337, decided on 25-07-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court:  A Division Bench of Rakesh Kumar Jain and Harnaresh Singh Gill, JJ. heard an appeal that sought divorce under Section 13 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

The facts of the case at hand were that the couple got married in March, 2019 and later the respondent-wife left her matrimonial house in May 2015. In February 2016, the husband (appellant herein) filed for divorce on the grounds of blackmail, adultery and mental harassment of the husband as well as his family. The trial court rejected the relief of divorce on the ground that on the date of filing of the divorce petition, the statutory period of two years had not expired.

I.P.S Kohli, the counsel for the appellant, contended that since the very beginning of the marriage, the respondent quarrelled with her in-laws and threatened them to do everything under her command. He further claimed that she refused to do the household work and held that she would commit suicide if she was forced to do chores to create troubles for them. He further accused the respondent of adultery and for consuming alcohol and drugs. The counsel maintained that the respondent had a habit of leaving her matrimonial home without informing them and any inquiry of her whereabouts would be called as ‘interference on her personal life’. He alleged that the respondent refused to share a bed with the appellant which caused mental stress to him. He claimed that the respondent broke her mangalsutra in front of the Panchayat members and outrightly refused to live with the appellant as his wife and left her matrimonial home.

The respondent-wife, though agreed to the facts regarding the marriage, denied the accusation that she threatened to commit suicide. She also negated the facts that she refused to do household chores and in turn claimed that she would cook meals regularly and feed the family and the guests. She contended that she was pressurized to bring money from her parents and to influence them to sell their land. However, these demands were not acceded to by the respondent or her father. She added that the appellant and his parents harassed her physically and mentally. She further claimed that the appellant and his family never accepted her and turned her out of the house.

The Court observed that the allegations of cruelty remained unsubstantiated and there was no infirmity and illegality in the impugned judgment and decree passed by the trial Court. It relied on the case Rajni Goyal v. Amit Kumar, 2014 SCC OnLine P&H 24088, to rule that adultery on part of the respondent cannot be proved as there was no cogent evidence was presented by the appellant “Rather unsubstantiated and uncorroborated testimony associating the respondent with adulterer has caused mental cruelty to the respondent”. In addition to this, the Court was of the opinion that this case was of normal ‘wear and tear’ of the married life of the parties, which takes place on a daily basis in life. The Court further remarked that on the date of filing of the divorce petition, the statutory period of two years had not expired. Thus, the present divorce petition had rightly been rejected on this count by the trial court. Hence, the appeal was dismissed.[Ravinder Yadav v. Padmani, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 1294, decided on 17-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: A Division Bench of A.M. Shaffique and N. Anil Kumar, JJ. dismissed a matrimonial appeal filed by the husband of a lady who was granted a divorce by the Family Court on the grounds of cruelty and desertion.

Respondent herein had filed a petition against her husband (appellant herein) before the Family Court, seeking divorce alleging cruelty and desertion. The contention urged by the respondent was that the appellant was demanding her to bring patrimony and she had to suffer cruelty at the hands of the appellant on account of such demands. Apart from this, the appellant also demanded her parents to sell the property which was allotted to her share in the will executed by her parents. Further, she was asked to perform perverted sex against her liking. As a result, she left the matrimonial home and started living separately since 30-12-2005. She also had a case that no attempt had been made by the appellant after the said date to take her back to the matrimonial home, and he had also not taken care of her or their child’s interest in any manner. Thus, such acts amounted to desertion for more than 2 years.

The Family Court after evaluating the evidences found that the wife was successful in proving cruelty and therefore she was entitled to a divorce. It was also found that the husband had deserted the wife and the child for more than two years and therefore the wife was entitled to divorce on the ground of desertion as well. Aggrieved thereby, the appellant filed an appeal.

Counsels for the appellant, Sebastian Champapilly, Annie George and Kurian Antony Edassery, argued that there was no material to prove any form of cruelty being meted out against the respondent. Further, it was contended that the respondent had left the matrimonial home without the knowledge and approval of the appellant. She had also not stated any specific reason for remaining away from the matrimonial home and therefore the allegation of desertion was not proved.

Whereas, counsel appearing for the respondent-wife, R. Reji, submitted that the court below had relied upon sufficient material to arrive at the finding that the wife had been subjected to severe cruelty and thus was justified in granting a divorce.

The Court held that “There is no perversity or illegality in the said finding warranting any interference.” As far as the appellant placed reliance upon certain photographs to prove that the couple had been leading a happy married life, the Court observed that “At the time of taking the photographs, they seem to be in a happy mood but that by itself does not mean that the couple was leading a happy married life, and there was no demand for patrimony.”

It was observed that the Family Court had placed reliance upon sufficient material to arrive at a finding that the appellant-husband had ill-treated his respondent-wife, which amounts to mental and physical cruelty. There was no reason to interfere with the said finding of fact, and there was no perversity or illegality in the said finding warranting any interference of this Court.

In view of the above, it was held that the matrimonial tie between appellant and respondent was irretrievably broken and there was no chance for a reunion. Thus, the appeal was dismissed. [Anish Jacob v. Rinku Jacob, 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 2210, decided on 21-05-2019]

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Uttaranchal High Court: The Division Bench of Alok Singh and Ravindra Maithani, JJ. contemplated the present appeal filed by the appellant-husband, where the order passed by the Family Court dismissing a suit for divorce was challenged. 

Factual matrix of the appeal was that marriage was solemnized between the parties in 2007. The appellant contended that the alleged behavior of the respondent – wife was not good towards the husband and his family members. Marriage was solemnized against the wishes of the respondent. She threatened them to implicate in a false case of dowry and treated them with cruelty. It was further contended that a divorce petition on the said grounds of cruelty was filed by the appellant and was subsequently dismissed by the trial Court. Appellant sought dissolution of marriage mainly on two counts viz. cruelty and desertion.

P.K. Chauhan, Advocate for the appellant submitted that the learned trial Court failed to appreciate the evidence available on record in the right perspective and had attained a wrong conclusion. Thus, impugned judgment and decree was liable to set aside and decree of divorce was to be granted. 

The Court placed reliance on the judgments of Supreme Court in Ramchander v. Ananta, (2015) 11 SCC 539 and Adhyatma Alwar v. Adhyatma Bhattar Sri Devi, (2002) 1 SCC 308, where the Court explained the scope of ‘cruelty’ and ‘desertion’. 

The Court observed that in the present case, in order to prove cruelty at the hands of wife, the appellant stated that the respondent used to quarrel with him. She maltreated him and his family members. It was alleged that she threatened them to implicate in false case of dowry. The Court further found no evidence to prove desertion or cruelty by the respondent as was stated in the plaint. The Court stated that, the appellant made bald allegations against the respondent. Appellant failed to point out the cause of quarrel. It was further noted that, respondent did not want to marry him but in the statement on oath he himself admitted that he did not want to marry with her. Appellant stated that their marriage was solemnized without any dowry but his father himself contradicted his statement. He stated that respondent’s father gave Rs 30,000 – 40,000 in the marriage. Court took note that appellant husband had completed his B.Sc. but was still unemployed and hence the conduct of the appellant revealed that appellant was not interested to shoulder his responsibility. Court concluded that appellant has failed to prove cruelty and desertion at the hands of respondent – wife. Accordingly, appeal failed and was dismissed. [Deepak Kumar v. Meena, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 546, decided on 01-07-2019]

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Uttaranchal High Court: N.S. Dhanik, J. contemplated a criminal application for quashing of the FIR filed against the applicant-husband by his wife for alleged cruelty and criminal intimidation under the relevant sections of IPC.

The respondent had filed an FIR against the applicant and his relatives for harassing and treating her with cruelty for an alleged dowry to an extent that the respondent had to leave her matrimonial house and reside somewhere else. On the impugned FIR the police conducted an investigation and thereafter filed a charge-sheet against the applicant. Applicant was duly summoned by the Magistrate. Charges against the applicant were under Sections 323, 498-A, 504, 506 IPC.

Vikas Kumar Guglani, learned counsel for the applicant submitted that it was a matrimonial dispute and was a private affair between the husband and wife but due to certain misunderstandings the FIR was registered, hence for the betterment of the institution of marriage the Court must quash the proceedings against the applicant.

The Court thus stated that it was settled law that the power under Section 482 CrPC should be exercised very sparingly and this power should not be exercised to stifle the legitimate trial and in cases where facts are hazy. Court doesn’t find reason to interfere in the proceedings against the applicant. However, it directed that if the accused-applicant surrendered him before the Magistrate concerned, his bail application was to be considered and decided as expeditiously as possible.[Ramesh Chandra Joshi v. State of Uttarakhand, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 505, decided on 17-06-2019]

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Uttaranchal High Court: A Division Bench of Sudhanshu Dhulia and Ramesh Chandra Khulbe, JJ. entertained an appeal by the appellant-wife under Section 19 of Family Courts Act, 1984 against the impugned judgment granting divorce passed by Principal Judge of Family Court.

Facts giving rise to this appeal were, the respondent had filed a suit earlier under Section 13 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 which was decreed already. When the marriage was solemnized between the parties, the respondent was working as a Sepoy in the Indian Army and it was a smooth sail for both of them. Subsequently, respondent-husband filed for divorce and for dissolution of marriage on the grounds that appellant was suffering from epilepsy prior to marriage and such essential fact was not disclosed to him, the appellant also suffered from different ailments which served as a hindrance, physically and mentally in their prosperous marriage. But the actual ground on which suit was filed for divorce was cruelty and desertion.

The Court observed that parties are living separately for a long time, the issues framed by the Family Court were sufficient to grant a divorce in this particular case. It was also observed that the Family Court found that appellant suffered from epilepsy and was treated for the same in addition to it she also suffered from tuberculosis, and such physical suffering of the appellant served as mental cruelty upon the husband. The expert opinion stated that due to such ailments the appellant was not in a fit state to conceive a child. The Court appreciated that such ailments were not relevant grounds to prove cruelty and to dissolve the marriage prime facie but non-disclosure of such important facts before marriage led to cruelty which is a proper ground for divorce.

The Court stated that there was enough evidence before the court below to establish that there was cruelty on the part of the appellant/wife, such as threatening the husband to falsely implicate in criminal cases and making a complaint to the superior officers of the husband. The wife had also made unnecessary allegations against the respondent before the Commanding Officer, which lowered his esteem in the eyes of his superior officer.

Hence, the Court awarded permanent alimony and disposed the application of maintenance under Section 125 CrPC, it also found that there was no need to interfere with the Order of Family Court and setting aside the divorce decree.[Himani v. Rohit Bisht, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 448, decided on 13-05-2019]

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Allahabad High Court: A Division Bench of Shashi Kant Gupta and Pradeep Kumar Srivastava, JJ. affirmed the Judgment of lower court granting a divorce to a lady under Section 13(1) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, on the ground that her husband committed forcible unnatural sex with her.

The issue, in this case, was as to whether a marriage can be dissolved on the basis of allegations of forcible unnatural sex with wife. Facts in the case were that a lady (respondent herein) lodged an FIR against her husband (appellant herein) for offences under Sections 498A, 323, 504 and 377 the Penal Code, 1860 and Sections 3 and 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. She filed a petition seeking divorce on the grounds that her husband committed forcible unnatural sex with her several times after marriage. On her refusal to comply with his demands, he beat her up and threatened to not spare her 5-year old daughter and make sexual relations with her as well. He also demanded Rs 40 lakhs and a car in dowry after marriage. She was granted divorce on the basis of her allegations. Husband challenged the judgment of the lower court by way of the present appeal, on the ground that there was no evidence of dowry demand, harassment or unnatural sex. Further, it was argued that medical report had been ignored and the lower court had relied upon the unsupported solitary statement of his wife by ignoring contradictions in her own testimony.

The Court pointed out that no cross-examination had been done by the husband on the point of unnatural sex because of which it was assumed that those facts had been proved against him. Regarding the contention that wife’s statements were not supported by any witnesses, it was concluded that all the matrimonial wrongs were done inside the wedlock which meant that these were private affairs of the parties. Hence, gathering independent witnesses was not possible. Regarding medical examination, it was concluded that the petition for divorce was filed much after the date of the incident of unnatural sex and sodomy so the medical report could not be obtained.

The Court agreed with the view taken by the Kerala High Court in Bini T. John v. Saji Kuruvila, 1997 SCC OnLine Ker 27 and Karnataka High Court in Grace Jayamani v. E.P. Peter, 1981 SCC OnLine Kar 208 that unnatural sex, sodomy, oral sex and sex against the order of the nature, against the wishes of a woman or wife was a criminal offence and a marital wrong amounting to cruelty which was a good ground for dissolution of marriage. It was observed that the standard of proof required in a matrimonial case is preponderance of probability.

The Court also noted that appellant’s first wife had divorced him for similar reasons, which fact supported the wife as far as unnatural sex was concerned. It was held that since the wife was not a consenting party, she would not be in the position of an accomplice; and her testimony could be accepted without corroboration if it inspired confidence. Thus, the impugned judgment was affirmed and the appeal was dismissed.[Sanjeev Gupta v. Ritu Gupta, 2019 SCC OnLine All 2255, decided on 24-05-2019]

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Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Sachdeva, J. dismissed a criminal revision petition filed against the order of the trial court whereby charge under Section 498-A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) IPC was framed against the petitioner.

Petitioner was married to the deceased who committed suicide on the very next day of their first marriage anniversary. FIR under Sections 306 (abetment of suicide) and 498-A was registered against the petitioner at the behest of the mother of the deceased. An alleged suicide note was found which was verified to be written in the handwriting of the deceased. The trial court discharged the petitioner of the offence under Section 306 holding that the said suicide note exonerated him as it states that the deceased was taking the steps voluntarily. However, it was found that the allegations levelled by the mother and brothers of the deceased that the petitioner maltreated the deceased and committed physical and mental cruelty were specific and therefore framed a charge under Section 498-A against him.

Senior Advocate Harish Salve contended that as the trial court found insufficient material to proceed under Section 306, on the same analogy, there was insufficient material to even frame a charge under Section 498-A.

Relying on the Supreme Court decisions in Girdhar Shankar Tawade v. State of Maharashtra, (2002) 5 SCC 177 and Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh, (2001) 9 SCC 618, the High Court reiterated that charges under Sections 306 and 498-A IPC are independent of each other and acquittal of one does not lead to acquittal of the other. It was observed: “Though, there may be an overlap with regard to cruelty being meted out to the deceased in both the Sections, however, the degree of cruelty to constitute abetment under Section 306 IPC would be of higher than the degree of harassment and cruelty to constitute an offence under Section 498-A IPC. It cannot be held that because petitioner has been discharged of an offence under Section 306 IPC, it would automatically lead to a discharge of the offence under Section 498-A IPC.”

In the present case, it was found that there was sufficient material on record to give rise to grave suspicion against the petitioner for framing a charge under Section 498- IPC. Thus, finding no infirmity in the impugned order, the petition was accordingly dismissed.[Kaushal Kishore v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8713, decided on 28-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A Division Bench of Sudhanshu Dhulia and R.C. Khube, JJ. entertained an appeal filed against the impugned judgment and order passed by Family Court, which rejected the petition under Section 13 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 filed by the appellant.

Facts which gave rise to appeal were that marriage was solemnized in 2010 as per the Hindu rites and rituals. The appellant and respondent were living together after the marriage in appellant’s parental house along with appellant’s mother and child. The appellant contended that soon after, the respondent started to intimidate him for selling the house and shift to Delhi and live separately. It is also alleged by the appellant that the respondent stared to threaten him to commit suicide if her demands were not fulfilled. The appellant-accused respondent of attempting to commit suicide and assaulting his mother because of her unfulfilled demands. The appellant tried to convince the respondent but she refused to fulfill her marital duties, and in 2012, in the absence of the appellant, she left her matrimonial home. After which the appellant filed an application under Section 9, during the hearing the respondent appeared before the Court and made a statement regarding going back to her husband. It was also contended by the appellant, that parties stayed together for some time at Haridwar as per the compromised reached between the parties but even then, the respondent refused to consummate marital relations. And since two years both were living separately.

The learned counsel for the appellant Tapan Singh, submitted that despite of the order of Court the respondent was not fulfilling the marital duties. She treated appellant’s mother with utmost disrespect which amounted to cruelty. He also submitted that the behaviour of the alleged respondent towards appellant is humiliating and disrespectful before other relatives, which also caused mental stress to the respondent. Under the drastic circumstance appellant filed for divorce under Section 13(1)(ia) and (ib) of HMA, 1955, as the respondent deserted him for a period of 2 years.

The learned counsel for the respondent Syed Jafri, submitted that an FIR was lodged against the appellant under Sections 406 and 498-A IPC. Further, a mutual divorce application was rejected by the Family Court since both the parties were unable to arrive at consent. The learned Family Court dismissed the divorce petition filed by the appellant as well the petition filed by the respondent under Section 26 of the Hindu Marriage Act.

The Court rejected the contentions of the appellant for relief under Section 13 (1)(ib) as the period of desertion was not proved beyond the statutory limit for divorce. But the ground of cruelty was considered by the Court and it relied upon the judgment of Delhi High Court in, Rajinder Bhardwaj v. Anita Sharma, AIR 1993 Delhi 135, where it was held that if the wife physically assaults the mother-in-law and abuses her, it will amount to cruelty. It also addressed the issue related to behavior of the respondent towards appellant which was alleged disrespectful, and held, “Disrespectful and disparaging remarks by the respondent wife against the appellant-husband would amount to cruelty under Section 13(1) (i-a) of the Act as laid down in Santana Banerjee v. Sachindra Nath Banerjee, 1989 SCC OnLine Cal 257’’.

The Court considered the facts and circumstances of the case and stated that living separately of the parties for a long time, public insult, an embarrassment to the appellant, agony, and humiliation suffered by the appellant, charging the appellant with false allegations amount to cruelty by the respondent towards her husband. The respondent wife is living separately for the last five years and presently staying at Delhi with a son born from the wedlock of the parties. Held, “relationship between the parties had deteriorated to the extent that there was no possibility of any reconciliation. Their relationship had reached to the point from where there appears no possibility of harmonious conjugal relationships or their being living together as husband and wife and discharging the matrimonial duties. This itself amounts to a cruelty, if allowed to continue.” The appeal was allowed and the marriage was dissolved.[Sheenu Mahendru v. Sangeeta, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 376, decided on 23-05-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and L. Nageswara Rao and SK Kaul, JJ delivered a very important judgment today where it held,

“the courts at the place where the wife takes shelter after leaving or driven away from the matrimonial home on account of acts of cruelty committed by the husband or his relatives, would, dependent on the factual situation, also have jurisdiction to entertain a complaint alleging commission of offences under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.”

Section 498A IPC and related provisions

Section 498A IPC was introduced by the Criminal Law (second amendment) Act, 1983. In addition to the aforesaid amendment in the Indian Penal Code, the provisions of Sections 174 and 176 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 relating to inquiries by police in case of death by suicides and inquiries by magistrates into cause of such deaths were also amended. Section 198A was also inserted in the Code of Criminal Procedure with regard to prosecution of offences under Section 498A. Further by an amendment in the first schedule to the CrPC the offence under Section 498A was made cognizable and non-bailable. Of considerable significance is the introduction of Section 113A in the Evidence Act by the Criminal Law (second amendment) Act, 1983 providing for presumption as to abetment of suicide by a married woman to be drawn if such suicide had been committed within a period of seven years from the date of marriage of the married woman and she had been subjected to cruelty.

“The object behind the aforesaid amendment, undoubtedly, was to combat the increasing cases of cruelty by the husband and the relatives of the husband on the wife which leads to commission of suicides or grave injury to the wife besides seeking to deal with harassment of the wife so as to coerce her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property, etc.”

Cruelty at Matrimonial Home vis-à-vis Parental Home

Earlier Rulings

The Court had, on earlier occasions, held that the offence of cruelty having been committed in the matrimonial home the same does not amount to a continuing offence committed in the parental home to which place the aggrieved wife may have later shifted. It has been held that:

“if on account of cruelty committed to a wife in a matrimonial home she takes shelter in the parental home and if no specific act of commission of cruelty in the parental home can be attributed to the husband or his relatives, the initiation of proceedings under Section 498A in the courts having jurisdiction in the area where the parental home is situated will not be permissible.”

Ruling in the present case

The Court said that the provisions contained in Section 498A IPC, undoubtedly, encompasses both mental as well as the physical well-being of the wife. Even the silence of the wife may have an underlying element of an emotional distress and mental agony. Her sufferings at the parental home though may be directly attributable to commission of acts of cruelty by the husband at the matrimonial home would, undoubtedly, be the consequences of the acts committed at the matrimonial home. Such consequences, by itself, would amount to distinct offences committed at the parental home where she has taken shelter.

It, hence, noticed,

“The adverse effects on the mental health in the parental home though on account of the acts committed in the matrimonial home would, in our considered view, amount to commission of cruelty within the meaning of Section 498A at the parental home.”

[Rupali Devi. State of Uttar Pradesh,  2019 SCC OnLine SC 493, decided on 09.04.2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Bench of Jyoti Singh and G.S. Sistani, JJ., allowed an appeal filed by the appellant-wife against the judgment of the family court whereby it had granted divorce in favour of the respondent-husband under Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1995 on the ground of cruelty.

In his divorce petition, the husband had alleged that the wife taunted him as impotent, misbehaved with his parents and relatives threw utensils, etc. The family court allowed his petition and granted a decree of divorce in his favour. Aggrieved thereby, the wife filed the present appeal.

 V.P. Singh Bidhuri, Advocate for the wife assailed the impugned judgment. Per contra, Rajender Yadav, Advocate appearing for the husband supported the same.

The High Court noted that there were no material particulars or details in the divorce petition and the averments were very general in nature. Citing Rule 7 of the Hindu Marriage Rules, 1979 which prescribes as to what should be the contents of the petition filed under HMA, the Court observed, ” a perusal of the Rule shows that it is a statutory requirement as well that the acts/offences alleged in matrimonial cases should be set out with specific particulars of time, place, etc. The present divorce petition clearly does not meet the requirement of Rule 7. Merely stating that the appellant was neglecting her duties or that she was abusive and insulting, would not be sufficient to constitute an act of cruelty unless and until specific instances showing such conduct are pleaded and proved.” In such and other views of the matter, the Court allowed the present appeal and set aside the impugned judgment passed by the family court. [J v. JC, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7703, dated 28-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Sachdeva, J., allowed a petition filed by in-laws of the deceased (wife) against the order of the trial court in pursuance of which charges were framed against them under Sections 304-B (dowry death) and 498-A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) IPC.

As per the prosecution, the deceased had died within seven years of her marriage. It was alleged that on the fateful, she was brought to Sanjay Gandhi Hospital where she was declared brought dead. On the MLC, the doctor opined: “alleged history of hanging and declared brought dead”. Parents of the deceased stated that she was harassed for dowry by her husband and in-laws (petitioner). A case was registered and the trial court was of the view that a prima facie case was established against the husband and the in-laws. Accordingly, the charges were framed against all the accused. Aggrieved thereby, the in-laws filed the present petition.

Anunya Mehta and Akshay Deep Singhal, Advocates for the in-laws contended that the charges against them were based on omnibus allegations and the deceased was not residing with them for last several years as she was living separately in Rohini with her husband. They prayed for discharging the in-laws.

The High Court perused both the sections. It was noted that the allegations made by parents of the deceased were all against the husband. And there were a few very general allegations against the in-laws like that of ‘continuous bickering’. There was no allegation that they ever demanded dowry. It was stated, To constitute an offence under Sections 304-B and 498-A IPC, it not mere bickering which would amount to an offence but it should be harassment of such a nature that would drive a woman to commit suicide.” The Court held that allegations against the in-laws were not such a nature so as to qualify as an offence under the said sections. In such view of the matter, the petition was allowed and the in-laws were discharged.[Satbir Dalal v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7006, dated 14-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: The Division Bench of G.S. Sistani and Jyoti Singh, JJ., directed a divorce decree sheet to be drawn up in favour of the appellant-wife in terms of Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

The parties married to each-other in 2007. However, they were living separately since July 2014. The case set up by the wife was that the respondent-husband subjected her to various cruelties. The family court rejected her petition seeking a divorce, basing its judgment on the ground that only general and routine allegations were made which were not substantiated. Aggrieved thereby, the wife preferred the present appeal.

The wife, represented by Kavita Kapil, Advocate, deposed by way of an affidavit that the husband’s behaviour had become extremely arrogant he was a highly suspicious person who levelled false charges on her character. Also, during her pregnancy, he did not provide her medical treatment, nor gave her love or affection, and caused mental trauma.

On careful consideration of the evidence on record, the High Court was of the view that the wife was able to show that the husband treated her with cruelty. As far as specific instances were concerned, it was observed, ” the specific date and time has not been given for all the incidents averred, but has led evidence to prove specific instances of the cruelty, at the time of her pregnancy. It may be noted that since only one child was born out of the wedlock, it was not necessary to give the month, date or time when her husband inflicted cruelty upon her.” Noting that the husband took no steps to either resolve the dispute or contest the case, the Court allowed the appeal by the wife. [B v. R Y, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7286, decided on 04-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Bench of Mridula Bhatkar, J. quashed and set aside the order passed by Additional Sessions Judge,  refusing to discharge the petitioner/accused from offence punishable under Section 377 of Penal Code, 1860.

The present petition was filed in respect of challenging the order passed by the Metropolitan Magistrate, Girgaon, Mumbai rejecting the discharge of petitioner under Section 377 IPC.

Petitioner in the present case is a co-accused prosecuted under Sections 498-A, 377, 323, 504  r/w Section 34 of IPC. The facts of the case are that the complainant is married with a son of 6 to 7 years old. Complainant states that after 4-5 years of marriage she realised that her husband was gay, and on realising that she refused the parallel relationship of her husband. She also stated that she was ill-treated by her husband due to which she had left for her father’s house but later agreed to come back to her husband’s place when she again witnessed no change and continuation of the gay relationship of her husband with different males.

On realising the fact that her husband was not ready to stop his relationship with the petitioner/accused and being ill-treated a number of times, she finally lodged an FIR. Later, the Additional Sessions Judge partly allowed the revision application but maintained the charge under Section 377 IPC against the accused. Aggrieved by the same, the present petition was filed.

High Court while placing reliance on the Apex Court’s judgment in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, (2018) 10 SCC 1, held that though the ground for divorce could be the extramarital consensual sexual relationship as cruelty to the complainant, but it does not constitute an offence under Section 377 IPC, because both are adults and had a consensual sexual relationship.

Thus, in the present case, no victim exists and the order of the Additional Sessions Judge is quashed. [Daniel Crasto v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 188, dated 30-01-2019]


Note: The 5-Judge Constitution Bench comprising of CJ Dipak Misra and R.F. Nariman, A.M. Khanwilkar, Dr D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, JJ. in their landmark judgment held Section 377 IPC unconstitutional insofar it criminalised gay sex between consenting adults. [2018 SCC OnLine SC 1350]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Mukta Gupta, J. dismissed a criminal writ petition filed by the husband praying quashing of FIR under Section 498-A IPC and complaint under Section 12 of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (DV Act).

The grounds for seeking quashing of the FIR and the complaint was that they were registered to wreak vengeance and were beyond the period of limitation as the parties separated in 2014. It is pertinent to note that the wife had filed a complaint before CAW Cell in 2015 where a settlement was arrived at between the parties at pre-litigation mediation. However, it was not fully acted upon and even after an application the earlier complaint could not be revived. Thus, the filed fresh complaint in 2018.

The High Court was of the view that the FIR was within the period of limitation. Relying on Vanka Radhamanohari v. Vanka Venkata Reddy, (1993) 3 SCC 4 and Asha Ahuja v. Rajesh Ahuja, 2003 SCC OnLine Del 316, the Court held that Section 468 CrPC which deals with “bar to taking cognizance after lapse of period of limitation” is to be read with Section 473 which provides for “extension of period of limitation in certain cases”. Further relying on Arun Vyas v. Anita Vyas, (1999) 4 SCC 690, it was held that is a continuing offence and each occasion of “cruelty” is a new starting point of limitation. As far as a complaint under Section 12 DV Act is concerned, it was noted that it related to the grant of maintenance for the wife and minor child. It was held that “not providing maintenance is a continuous cause of action and even if for three years the wife did not claim maintenance for herself or for the child, the same would not debar her from seeking maintenance under Section 12 DV Act and the complaint thereon cannot be dismissed being barred by limitation”. In such view of the matter, the petition was dismissed. [Anthony Jose v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2018 SCC OnLine Del 12956, decided on 05-12-2018]