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

Allahabad High Court: Vivek Kumar Birla, J., while addressing a matter with regard to “shared household”, held that,

“daughter-in-law can be evicted without seeking decree of eviction against son with whom she had moved on the suit property after the marriage of the son of the plaintiff with the appellant.”

Appellant was married to the plaintiff’s son — Vijay Gandhi. In the year 2013, Vijay Gandhi deserted the appellant and filed a divorce petition under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act.

Further, it has been noted that an FIR was lodged against the appellant by the plaintiff.

Plaintiff is the owner of the property wherein he permitted his son and the defendant to live on the first floor of his house. Defendant started harassing the plaintiff who is old and handicapped along with his wife.

Suit for Eviction

In view of the above incident, the plaintiff asked his son to vacate the house with the defendant, who later came back and refused to vacate the house. Hence suit for eviction was filed against the defendant.

Substantial question in the present appeal

(I) Whether as per definition of shared household provided under Section 2(s) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 appellant daughter-in-law can be evicted without seeking a decree of eviction against son with whom she had admittedly moved on the first floor of the suit property after the marriage of the son of the plaintiff with appellant?

Supreme Court in its decision, S.R. Batra v. Tarun Batra, (2007) 3 SCC 169, while considering the aspect of “shared household” held that where the plaintiff is the exclusive owner, it cannot be called a “shared household”. The wife’s claim for alternative accommodation against the plaintiff was rejected and was held that it can be claimed only against the husband and not against the in-laws or other relatives.

S.R. Batra v. Tarun Batra, (2007) 3 SCC 169: a shared household would only mean the house belonging to or taken on rent by the husband, or the house which belongs to the joint family of which the husband is a member.

Hence, in the Court’s opinion, no substantial question of law arose or can be raised in the present second appeal.

Order 1 Rule 3 and Rule 9 CPC

Further, the Court added that, it is not in dispute that the husband was not residing in the suit property and left the house. It is also not being questioned that if parents permit his son to live in their house he would be a licensee. If his wife is also living with him, she would also be a licensee.

Where the son has left and is not residing in the suit property, no relief is being or is claimed against him. Since he is not living in the suit property, question of filing a separate suit or which may attract any common question of law or fact would also not arise.

Lastly, answering the substantial question of law in the negative, bench once again cited the Supreme Court decision in S.R. Batra with regard to the shared household and the argument for counsel for the respondent (wife) that definition of the shared household includes a house where the person aggrieved lives or at any stage had lived in a domestic relationship was specifically considered and rejected.

Court added that a reading of the said judgment, subject to correction, prima facie, reflects that husband was not a party to the suit and it was held that the claim for alternative accommodation can only be made against the husband and not against the in-laws or other relatives.

Therefore, in view of the definition of the shared house, as provided under Section 2 (s) of the Act, 2005 daughter-in-law can be evicted without seeking a decree of eviction against the son with whom she had admittedly moved in the suit property after the marriage of the son of the plaintiff.

In view of the above observations, petition was dismissed. [Sujata Gandhi v. S.B. Gandhi, 2020 SCC OnLine All 763, decided on 12-06-2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of AM Khanwilkar and Ajay Rastogi, JJ has held that a decree passed on a compromise cannot be challenged by the stranger to the proceedings in a separate suit. Holding that the bar under Rule 3A to Order 23 CPC would extend to strangers as well, the Court said,

“The purpose of effecting a compromise between the parties is to put an end to the various disputes pending before the Court of competent jurisdiction once and for all.”

The legislature has brought into force Rule 3A to Order 23, by introducing the amendment to the Civil Procedure Code (Amendment) 1976 w.e.f. 1st February, 1977, which creates bar to institute the suit to set aside a decree on the ground that the compromise on which decree is based was not lawful.

“Finality of decisions is an underlying principle of all adjudicating forums. Thus, creation of further litigation should never be the basis of a compromise between the parties.”

The bench explained that Rule 3A of Order 23 CPC put a specific bar that no suit shall lie to set aside a decree on the ground that the compromise on which the decree is based was not lawful. The scheme of Order 23 Rule 3 CPC is to avoid multiplicity of litigation and permit parties to amicably come to a settlement which is lawful, is in writing and a voluntary act on the part of the parties.

“The Court can be instrumental in having an agreed compromise effected and finality attached to the same. The Court should never be party to imposition of a compromise upon an unwilling party, still open to be questioned on an application under the proviso to Rule 3 of Order 23 CPC before the Court.”

It, hence, held that merely because the appellant was not party to the compromise decree, will be of no avail to the appellant, much less give him a cause of action to question the validity of the compromise decree.

It, further, explained that after the amendment which has been introduced, neither any appeal against the order recording the compromise nor remedy by way of filing a suit is available in cases covered by Rule 3A of Order 23 CPC. As such, a right has been given under Rule 1A(2) of Order 43 to a party, who denies the compromise and invites order of the Court in that regard in terms of proviso to Rule 3 of Order 23 CPC while preferring an appeal against the decree. Section 96(3) CPC shall not be a bar to such an appeal, because it is applicable where the factum of compromise or agreement is not in dispute.

[Triloki Nath Singh v. Anirudh Singh,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 444 , decided on 06.05.2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: S.C. Gupte, J., dismissed a second appeal filed against the orders of courts below where the suit filed by the respondent-plaintiff for possession of the suit property was decreed.

The plaintiff’s suit was based on his title to the suit property. Plaintiff’s grandfather was the owner of the suit property. According to the request of the defendant’s father, the plaintiff’s grandfather had put him in permissive possession of the property. The same arrangement continued even after the death of both, the plaintiff’s grandfather and the defendant’s father. Now, the plaintiff approached the defendant for evicting the suit property as it was required by the plaintiff’s family. The defendant, however, refused. Consequently, the plaintiff filed the subject suit for possession of the suit property based on his title derived from his grandfather and father.

The defendant contended, inter alia, that the defendants and their predecessor in the title were in possession of the suit property ever since the plaintiff’s grandfather purchased the same and that the suit for possession was clearly barred by the law of limitation.

The High Court was of the view that there was no merit in the defence of limitation. The Court explained: “In a suit for possession based on the plaintiff’s title, the cause of action accrues to him when the defendant sets up a title adverse to him, that is to say, when the possession of the defendant becomes adverse to the plaintiff.”

Considering the facts of the instant case, the Court observed: “It is the plaintiff’s own case here, and which is not disbelieved by either of the courts below, that all along, till possession of the suit property was demanded from the defendants, their possession was permissive, first through the predecessor of the plaintiff (deceased Rama) and later through the plaintiff and his father (also deceased). It was only on 15 May 2006, when possession was demanded by the plaintiff and his father and denied by the defendants that the cause of action to seek recovery of possession on the basis of their title accrued unto the plaintiff and his father and the suit filed immediately thereafter was within time.”

Finding no merit in the challenge to the impugned orders, the High Court dismissed the instant appeal. [Balasaheb Govind Basugade v. Rajendra Shivaji Kumthekar, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 5608, decided on 28-11-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: P. Somarajan, J. allowed the second appeal in a matter related to the redemption of mortgage, against the order of dismissal by the trial court and the first appellate court.

In the present case, the dispute centred around the nature of an ‘Ottikuzhikanam Deed’ (deed) that was executed by the original owner of the property in favour of his nephew and niece. But according to the appellants, it was a mortgage whereas respondents asserted it as a lease arrangement. The trial court referred the matter to the Land Tribunal under Section 125 of the Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1963 (the Act). The Land Tribunal held that the deed was a lease arrangement and passed an order, granting fixity of tenure in favour of respondents. Both the trial court and the first appellate court accepted this finding of the Tribunal and held that ‘Ottikuzhikanam Deed’ was a lease deed and the relief of redemption of the mortgage was rejected concurrently. As a result, a second appeal was filed.

The Court noted that definition given to the expression ‘Ottikuzhikanam’ under Section 2 (39A) of the Act excluded a mortgage within the meaning of Transfer of Property Act. It observed that “A mere clause enabling the beneficiary under a deed to enjoy the property and to make improvements therein included as part of normal terms and conditions, would not bring the matter within the sweep of ‘Ottikuzhikanam’ as defined under Section 2(39A) of the Act, but it must be the essential term of the contract and for that essential term and purpose, the contract must be entered into, otherwise, it cannot be brought under the purview of ‘Ottikuzhikanam’, a lease as defined under Section 2(39A) of the Act.” Reliance was placed on the decision in Velayudhan Vivekanandan v. Ayyappan Sadasivan, 1975 KLT 1, where a document which is styled as ‘Ottikuzhikanam’ appended to the judgment found to be a mortgage and not a lease. 

The Court found, “The mortgage amount involved in the instant case comes to Rs 5,000 in the year 1962 and the property mortgaged comes to only 1 Acre 2 cents which is another indication of nature of Ext.A4 as a mortgage rather than a lease.” Thus, the decree and judgment of the trial court and the first appellate court was set aside, and order was passed for a decree of redemption of mortgage on payment of amount of Rs 5000 with interest at 12 per cent per annum from the date of suit till the date of judgment and thereafter at 6 per cent per annum to the principal sum of Rs 5000 and also the cost of defendants in the first appeal and in the second appeal, together with the improvements over the property which could be ascertained at the time of passing of the final decree.[C. Vijaya Thulasi v. D. Sudarsanan, 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 1411, decided on 02-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Amit Rawal J., dismissed the second appeal petition on the ground that there was no substantial question for determination.

The regular second appeal was preferred at the instance of the appellant/defendant against the decretal suit against the injunction order to her to not to interfere in the subject land.

The respondent-plaintiff alleged that plaintiff and defendant had joint land which was purchased by the plaintiff for Rs 1 lakh for the purpose of passage. The defendants were extending threats for construction on the land including 1 biswa and perpetually requested but resulted into celandra under Section 107(151) of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

Sanjiv Gupta, counsel for the appellant/defendant submitted that suit for the injunction prima facie as per the record of local commissioner reflecting the possession of 1 biswa more than her ownership, was not maintainable. In the absence of relief of mandatory injunction, decree qua relief of possession could not be moulded under the provisions of Order 7 Rule 7 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.

The defendant opposed the suit and denied the averments and stated that she was the owner of the land measuring six biswa as per the registered sale deed.

Court opined that “litigants are required to exercise the due diligence in the pursuing the remedy particularly when the appellant had assailed the judgment and decree of the trial Court before the Lower Appellate Court. There is no equity on the person who has been found to be in alleged encroachment” Thus, the petition was dismissed.[Sabri v. Gulzar Ahmed, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 708, decided on 24-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Amit Rawal, J. dismissed an appeal against the decree of the suit for specific performance of the agreement to sell.

Factual matrix of the case was, respondent-plaintiff alleged that appellant-defendant after mutual decision extended the date for the performance of the agreement, but on the date decided to perform the defendant did not come forward. Subsequently, plaintiff sent a legal notice and filed a suit when the defendant failed to reply to notice. Contention of the appellant was he never entered into an agreement with the plaintiff.

Deepender Ahlawat, learned counsel for the appellant submitted that readiness and willingness on behalf of the respondent-plaintiff was conspicuously wanting. No documents in this regard were placed on record. Even if the agreement to sell was denied, extensions were also the testimony of the same.

Learned counsel for the respondent, submitted various pieces of evidence and witnesses to prove his case that the appellant had entered into alleged agreement to sell and a copy of the impugned notice was also presented before the Court.

The Court observed that such arguments were not sustained for the simple reason that if a person who has denied the agreement to sell cannot be permitted to take the plea of readiness and willingness particularly when extensions and earnest money had been proved on record. The Court held, “As an upshot of my findings, there is no illegality and perversity in the concurrent findings of fact and law to form a different opinion than the one arrived at by the Courts below.” Hence, there were no merits in the appeal found by the Court.[Balwan Singh Raghav v. Dalip Kumar, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 709, decided on 24-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: Tapabrata Chakraborty, J. dismissed a writ petition filed by the petitioner, Dr Kashninath Ghosh Hazra, under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.

The petitioner claimed to be the owner of an un-partitioned land at plot nos. 4933, 4934, 4935 and 4936 of Mouza Sadpur, Block- Kandi, Khatian No. 714, P.O. & P.S. Kandi, Pin 742 137, District- Murshidabad, West Bengal. On 10-02-2019 the petitioner came to learn that the private respondents were demolishing the structures existing on the said property. The petitioner maintained that without taking steps towards the partition of the said property and without obtaining any appropriate sanction plan from the municipal authorities, the private respondents had started raising unauthorized construction including a boundary wall. Aggrieved thereby, this petition was filed.

The Court had passed an interim order on 26-02-2019 restraining the private respondent’s 14 to 20 from demolishing any structure existing on the said property and from raising any fresh construction till the end of April, 2019 or until further orders.

Respondent 14 by filing an affidavit-in-opposition and a vacating application stated that a partition suit pertaining to the said property, being T.S. No. 38 of 2003, was initially filed by Amala Bala Ghosh impleading the petitioner herein. The final decree was passed on 17-01-2014. The said decree was executed and the 3 parties obtained possession of the decretal property in the year 2014. Thereafter, the names of the respondent’s 14 and 15 were mutated and some portions of the said property had also been sold to third parties.

In reply, the petitioner submitted that he had no knowledge about the institution of the said partition suit and the preliminary decree and the final decree were passed ex parte.

The Court, in view of the arguments made by the parties, held that the said property had already been partitioned and hence no direction could be passed in the present writ petition. The Court observed that the grievance of the petitioner was that he was not given appropriate notice for which he could not appear and contest the partition suit. It was opined that such grievance ought to have been ventilated by the petitioner before the competent civil forum. But without taking such steps the petitioner had preferred the present writ petition involving the municipal authorities. In view thereof, the petition was dismissed.[Dr Kashinath Ghosh Hazra v. State of West Bengal, An application under Article 226 of the Constitution of India filed on 19-02-2019, In re, 2019 SCC OnLine Cal 655, decided on 15-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: This second appeal was filed before the Bench of Vivek Rusia, J., by appellant against the judgment and decree passed by 11th Additional District Judge, Indore whereby appeal was partly allowed while affirming the judgment and decree passed under Section 12 (1)(a) of M.P. Accommodation Control Act, 1961 and setting aside the Judgment and decree passed by 12th Civil Judge, Class-II Indore in respect of Section 12(1)(f) of the Act.

Petitioner submitted that in this case, there was no written tenancy agreement between the plaintiff and defendant. According to the plaintiff, he had given the suit accommodation to the defendant in the year 1978 only for two months for a temporary purpose, but after two months, he failed to vacate it. Plaintiff had filed the suit in the year 1981 and no rent receipts on record were present. Hence, the trial Court fixed the provisional rent at Rs 100  per month. Thus, plaintiff pleaded the suit to be maintainable. Whereas respondent contended that due to the defect in the notice, the suit was not maintainable and the decree was not sustainable in the eye of law. The issue before the Court was whether the decree under Section 12(1)(a) of the Act of 1961 is sustainable.

High Court viewed that this petition was maintainable in the lights of the conclusion drawn that once the non-payment of rent is established, then the Court has no option but to pass a decree on the ground contemplated under Section 12(1)(a) of the Act of 1961 but since no substantial question of law was found this appeal was dismissed. [Vasudev v. Bhagwanti Bai, 2019 SCC OnLine MP 687, decided on 11-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court at Goa: C.V. Bhadang, J., discharged the petitioner (proprietor of the defendant Company) of the notice served upon him in an execution case.

The respondent filed a civil suit against one Harshad Trading Company a company incorporated under the Companies Act. As per the suit title, the Company was not shown to be represented by any person. The suit was decreed ex-parte against the defendant company. Thereafter, the respondent filed an application for execution of the decree pursuant to which a notice was served on the petitioner. He filed for discharge on the ground that he was neither a Director nor an employee of the Company. It was contended that he was the proprietor of the Company, which are two separate entities. However, Executing Court dismissed the petitioner’s application.

The High Court noted that the decree was passed against  Harshada Trading Company alone. It was well settled:  “where the decree is against the Company, which is an independent entity, the decree cannot be executed against any individual, being a Director or a person responsible for the conduct of the business of the Company.”

On the factual score, the Court said, “It was for the respondent to point out as to what are the assets of the Company, against which the decree can be executed. Such details can be obtained by the decree-holder from the office of the Registrar of Companies (RoC). Without doing any such exercise, the respondent is trying to execute the decree against an individual and that too, without showing that the petitioner is in anyway related to the Company-Harshada Trading Company.”

In such view of the matter, the impugned order of the Executing Court was set aside and the petitioner was discharged. [Belarmina Gowda v. Ranjith Nath, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 588, Order dated 04-04-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of Pakistan: The Three-Judge Bench of Mian Saqib Nisar, CJ and SH. Azmat Saeed and Ijaz-Ul-Ahsan, JJ. dismissed the appeal filed by a husband challenging the amount awarded to his wife after the dissolution of their marriage.

Appellant (husband) and Respondent 3 (wife) filed a suit for dissolution of marriage vide which their marriage was dissolved. A suit for return of dowry articles was also filed which was decreed by the learned Family Court for an amount of Rs 25,000. The decretal amount was enhanced to Rs 4 lakhs by the First Appellate Court in an appeal filed by Respondent 3. Appellant filed a writ petition in Lahore High Court assailing the order of appellate authority. The petition was partly accepted and amount in lieu of dowry articles was reduced to Rs 3 lakhs. Being still aggrieved, the appellant preferred the instant appeal before this Court.

Learned counsel for the appellant Mr Sarfraz Khan Gondal submitted that the Family Court had granted a decree for a sum of Rs 25,000 with regards to claim for dowry. Hence, in view of Section 14(2) of the Family Courts Act, 1964, no appeal was maintainable against the said Judgment. Therefore, the Judgment and decree of the First Appellate Court were wholly without jurisdiction. Consequently, the impugned order of Lahore High Court partly affirming the same was also liable to be set aside.

Learned counsel for Respondent 3 Mr Mian Shah Abbas contended that the embargo placed on the right of appeal applied only to the husband and not to a wife dissatisfied with the quantum or denial of relief.

The Court noted that Family Courts are a special forum for adjudication of family disputes in accordance with the special procedure set forth in the 1964 Act, purpose whereof is expeditious settlement and disposal of disputes relating to marriage and family affairs.

It was opined that the purpose of curtailing the Right of Appeal under Section 14 of the Act was to avoid the benefits of the decree being tied up in an appeal before a higher forum. However, the said provision could not be interpreted so as to exclude a right of appeal to a wife whose claim of dower or dowry has been partially or entirely declined as it would defeat the purpose and object of the Act and frustrate its beneficial nature. In view thereof, the appeal was dismissed for being devoid of merit.[Saif-ur-Rehman v. Addl. District Judge, Toba Tek Singh, 2018 SCC OnLine Pak SC 19, decided on 17-04- 2018]

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]

Op EdsOP. ED.

Efficacy of Foreign Decree of Divorce

We are in some context or the other confronted with the question as to “how good is a decree of divorce granted by a foreign court with regard to a Hindu couple married in India?” This question is becoming a familiar question with all of us.

The foremost answer that would surface with us would be, that, the Hindu couple residing/working in a foreign land ought to be governed by the matrimonial laws in force at that place. As a corollary, the decree of divorce granted by the foreign court should be valid.

However, the pride of the place is taken by Section 1 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 which reads thus:

  1. Short title and extent—(1) This Act may be called the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

      (2) It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and applies also to Hindus domiciled in the territories to which this Act extends who are outside the said territories.

It is for this reason that Hindus married as per Hindu Rights in India, although settled abroad, are primarily required by law to process divorce proceedings only as per the said Act i.e. applying the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

The other emphasis of the Indian law is the mandate of Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The said Section mentions that divorce can be taken exclusively on the stated grounds. When the grounds have been specifically elucidated, it excludes the scope of granting divorce on any other ground. Few grounds mentioned in the said Act are as follows:

(i) petitioner has been treated with cruelty;

(ii) petitioner has been deserted;

(iii) respondent has ceased to be a Hindu; and

(iv) respondent has been of an incurable unsound mind.

To complete the narration of codified law on the subject, reference to Section 13 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 is essential which reads as under:

  1. When foreign judgment not conclusive —A foreign judgment shall be conclusive as to any matter thereby directly adjudicated upon between the same parties or between parties under whom they or any of them claim litigating under the same title except—

            (a) where it has not been pronounced by a court of competent jurisdiction;

             (b) where it has not been given on the merits of the case;

            (c) where it appears on the face of the proceedings to be founded on an incorrect view of international law or a refusal to recognise the law of India in cases in which such law is applicable;

             (d) where the proceedings in which the judgment was obtained are opposed to natural justice;

             (e) where it has been obtained by fraud; and

             (f) where it sustains a claim founded on a breach of any law in force in India.

The above provisions were considered in detail by the Supreme Court of India in Y. Narasimha Rao v. Y. Venkata Lakshmi[1]. This Court ruled that:

(a) Court of competent jurisdiction would be the one which the law under which parties are married, recognises. Any other court would be court without jurisdiction, unless both parties voluntarily and unconditionally subject themselves to the jurisdiction of that Court.

(b) It was held that the decision must be given on the “merits” of the case i.e.:

           (i) The ground of divorce in the decision of the foreign court should be a ground available under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. For instance, if the ground of the foreign decree was cruelty on the applicant, this would be acceptable, as “cruelty” is a stated ground under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. But the same cannot be said for “irretrievable breakdown of marriage”, as this is not a ground under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

          (ii) The decision should be a result of contest between the parties. The non-applicant should have unconditionally submitted to the jurisdiction of the foreign court and contested the claim or agreed to the passing of the decree. The concept of acquiescence to jurisdiction would not suffice.

(c) Refusal to recognise the law of India, is covered by saying that the ground for divorce in the foreign decree is a ground available under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

(d) The foreign judgment was obtained as opposed to natural justice. The concept of natural justice is the provision of fair hearing; absence of bias of Judge and following the elementary principles of fair play. This is a larger concept but shortly can be stated as essential trappings in order to have a fair adjudication. Where for instance respondent was denied documents filed by the other side or where the respondent was denied the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses of the other side, without a justifiable cause, these would be opposed to the principles of natural justice.

(e) Where the foreign decree was obtained by fraud. Fraud at any stage vitiates legal proceedings. It is often said that law and fraud cannot co-exist.

In Satya v. Teja Singh[2], when the respondent had instituted a foreign court proceeding, in a court in whose jurisdiction the applicant has never lived, respondent had made a false representation that respondent was a bona fide resident of that State. It was held that the respondent had practised fraud on the foreign court by concealing this fact. Therefore, that foreign court had no territorial jurisdiction. That foreign court decree was declared invalid by the Supreme Court of India.

Law on this has hardly undergone any development in the last 27 years. Y. Narasimha Rao case[3] stands alone, so to say.

Briefly, the expression “where it has not been given on merits of the case” was commented upon by the Supreme Court of India in International Woollen Mills v. Standard Wool (UK) Ltd.[4] The view taken was when evidence was led by the plaintiff applicant in the foreign court, even though the opposite side may have been served but not appearing, the decision would be “on merits”. This Court concurred with the law laid down in another case which stated that:

A decision on the merits involves the application of the mind of the Court to the truth or falsity of the plaintiff’s case and therefore though a judgment passed after a judicial consideration of the matter by taking evidence may be a decision on the merits even though passed ex parte, a decision passed without evidence of any kind but passed only on his pleadings cannot be held to be a decision on the merits.

Situation before the Indian Courts

In the above background, Indian courts were confronted with situations wherein Hindu couples married in India as per Hindu Law, settled in a foreign land, develop matrimonial disputes and approach a foreign court. This situation demanded the Indian courts to determine whether the decrees passed by the foreign court as a consequence of the matrimonial disputes between the Hindu couples settled abroad, had any efficacy in India.

 Concept of “Comity of Courts”

This is a view taken by the courts, which is known as the concept of “comity of courts”. This means that courts in various countries grant probity to decrees of foreign courts. The understanding being, the courts all over the world adjudicate the rights of the parties and therefore, show mutual respect. This principle was first laid by the Court of England and subsequently approved by the Supreme Court of India in Elizabeth Dinshaw v. Arvand M. Dinshaw[5]. The Court recorded the observation that:

                9. … it is the duty of all courts in all countries to do all they can to ensure that the wrongdoer does not gain an advantage by his wrongdoing.

The courts in all countries ought, as I see it, to be careful not to do anything to encourage this tendency. This substitution of self-help for due process of law in this field can only harm the interests of wards generally, and a Judge should, as I see it, pay regard to the orders of the proper foreign court unless he is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that to do so would inflict serious harm on the child.

The Supreme Court of India in another case Alcon Electronics (P) Ltd. v. Celem SA of FOS 34320 Roujan[6], recorded the following:

                19. The principles of comity of nation demand us to respect the order of English Court. Even in regard to an interlocutory order, Indian courts have to give due weight to such order unless it falls under any of the exceptions under Section 13 CPC.…

These are the competing considerations before the Indian courts. That is the codified laws and the concept of “comity of courts”. These have to be reconciled by the Indian courts.

In a different context, namely, custody of child, in an inter-country dispute, Supreme Court of India had occasioned to opine in Ruchi Majoo v. Sanjeev Majoo[7]. It may be clarified that custody of child matter is to be viewed completely differently as against dissolution of marriage. This is for the reason that in custody of child matters, welfare of the child is of paramount consideration by the Court.

Supreme Court of India took the view that:

Recognition of decrees and orders passed by foreign courts remains an eternal dilemma inasmuch as whenever called upon to do so, courts in this country are bound to determine the validity of such decrees and orders keeping in view the provisions of Section 13 CPC. … Simply because a foreign court has taken a particular view on any aspect concerning the welfare of the minor is not enough for the courts in this country to shut out an independent consideration of the matter. Objectivity and not abject surrender is the mantra in such cases. Judicial pronouncements on the subject are not on virgin ground. Since no system of private international law exists that can claim universal recognition on this issue, Indian courts have to decide the issue regarding the validity of the decree in accordance with the Indian law. Comity of courts simply demands consideration of any such order issued by foreign courts and not necessarily their enforcement.

In that context, Supreme Court of India in Prateek Gupta v. Shilpi Gupta[8], balanced the foreign court order on custody by holding that it is one of the relevant factors without getting fixated therewith. Court held that:

           32. … while examining the question on merits, would bear in mind the welfare of the child as of paramount and predominant importance while noting the pre-existing order of the foreign court, if any, as only one of the factors and not get fixated therewith.…

A different situation arose before the Delhi High Court in Harmeeta Singh v. Rajat Taneja[9]. Here the husband had filed proceedings in the foreign court. Wife has approached the Delhi High Court by way of a civil suit. High Court restrained the husband for continuing with the proceedings in the foreign court, as the wife had no spouse visa, she possibly could not defend the proceeding in the foreign court. Of course, there was no occasion for the wife to submit to jurisdiction of the foreign court.

Broadly Two Categories of Cases

Broadly speaking two categories of cases can be carved out on the basis whether the opposite party in the foreign court appeared and actively participated or not. Therefore, the subject can be easily stated under the following two heads:

(i) Did Not Attend Nor Actively Participated

The non-applicant always has an option not to attend nor actively participate in the foreign court proceedings. This would be taken as, the non-applicant did not submit to the jurisdiction of the foreign court. This, however, does not mean that the non-applicant is not even required to be served in the foreign court proceedings. Non-service would amount to denial of opportunity to be heard.

As the non-applicant did not submit to the jurisdiction, it is further said that this non-applicant did not chance a judgment in his/her favour. Challenge to the foreign court decree in such a situation may be entertained by the Indian courts. It cannot, therefore, be said that having participated, having submitted to the jurisdiction and having made submissions before the foreign court, now because the verdict of the foreign court is against the non-applicant, he is now challenging the same in the Indian court.

The non-applicant must be served with notice of the foreign court proceedings. Or else, the proceedings would be taken in law to be a nullity i.e. of no value in law. If this is a situation, Indian courts are likely to declare the entire foreign court proceedings as void.

(ii) Did Attend And Actively Participated

This question automatically answers itself, when contrasted with the above answer. Having attended and having participated, the non-applicant (respondent) in the foreign court cannot complain that he/she was not heard, if the respondent had voluntarily submitted to the jurisdiction of the foreign court. The respondent is free to make an alternative plea under the jurisdiction of the foreign court for grant of alimony or monthly maintenance. To adjudicate the same, the foreign court would be free to follow laws laid by its own land.

Another form of “attend and actively participate” is when the non-applicant consents to the passing of the decree of divorce.

Consequences of a Foreign Decree of Divorce Being Held as Invalid

Respondent cannot sit with the comfort that he/she has a decree for divorce from a foreign court. Consequences may appear soon thereafter or maybe years later. The other side may apply for its cancellation in the Indian court. In such an eventuality if:

       (i) The respondent remarries, he may be prosecuted for bigamy. Case in point is Y. Narasimha Rao v. Y. Venkata Lakshmi[10].

       (ii) Opposite party may file for maintenance.

       (iii) Issue of custody of children can be raised.

       (iv) Opposite party may claim share in the property of the respondent.

Executability of Foreign Court Decree

There is a provision in Indian law for execution of foreign court decrees. This is contained in Section 44-A CPC read with Section 13 CPC.

Although Section 44-A CPC is couched in general phraseology and would seem to apply to the execution of foreign decrees in general. However, when it comes to specific laws i.e. the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 or the issue of custody of the child, Section 44-A seems to have little application.

These specific Acts have an overbearing effect on Section 44-A CPC. This is clear from sub-section (3) of Section 44-A which makes it clear that this is subject to the decree falling in any of the exceptions contained in Section 13 CPC.

Conclusion

The above discussion only shows how complicated the position is regarding the validity of a foreign court decree of divorce. It can perhaps be stated that a Hindu couple married in India would be well advised to seek a divorce from an Indian court only.

There can be little comfort from the fact that the foreign court decree was passed and some time has elapsed or that there is inaction of the opposite side. Consequences may appear several years later.

A Probable Way Ahead

The process of simplification could begin for instance from a Hindu couple permanently settled abroad. If facts show that they were indeed permanently settled in the foreign land, then, such a couple could be said to have causal and most immediate territorial connection with the foreign land. It could be held that their court of competent jurisdiction could be foreign court and their proper law i.e. codified law would be the foreign law. This is stated on the strength of principles given by the Supreme Court of India in Surinder Kaur Sandhu v. Harbax Singh Sandhu[11]:

                     10. … The modern theory of conflict of laws recognises and, in any event, prefers the jurisdiction of the State which has the most intimate contact with the issues arising in the case.… Ordinarily, jurisdiction must follow upon functional lines. That is to say, for example, that in matters relating to matrimony and custody, the law of that place must govern which has the closest concern with the well-being of the spouses and the welfare of the offsprings of marriage.…

By adopting this approach a practical way may appear for couples settled abroad. They may not need to have recourse to Indian courts. The development of law could march in this direction.

——————————————————–

† Advocate, Supreme Court of India

[1]  (1991) 3 SCC 451

[2] (1975) 1 SCC 120

[3] (1991) 3 SCC 451

[4] (2001) 5 SCC 265

[5] (1987) 1 SCC 42, 47

[6] (2017) 2 SCC 253, 262

[7] (2011) 6 SCC 479

[8] (2018) 2 SCC 309, 330

[9] 2003 SCC OnLine Del 60 : (2003) 2 RCR (Civ) 197

[10] (1991) 3 SCC 451

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: The Bench of Sandeep Sharma, J. hearing a revision petition against an order of District Judge, held that an executing Court cannot go beyond the judgment passed by a Court in appeal.

In the present case, respondent’s land was acquired for construction of a road and he was awarded compensation for the same in terms of a judgment of this Court (in RFA Nos. 282 of 2000 and 44 of 2002). He filed an execution petition in District Court for execution of the order awarding compensation. The State – petitioner herein – filed an objection against the execution of the said petition, but the same was not accepted and the execution petition was allowed. Aggrieved thereby, the State filed the instant revision petition praying to set aside the impugned order and to make a fresh calculation of compensation.

The Court held that there was no illegality or infirmity in the impugned order passed by the District Judge. The calculation of compensation to be awarded to the respondent was in terms of the judgment delivered in RFAs referred to above. Therefore, the District Court, sitting as an executing Court, could not have gone beyond the judgment or decree passed in RFA.

However, in order to bring more clarity, the Court directed District Judge to pass a fresh order which shall be a speaking order, detailing the calculations based upon the verdict rendered by this court in the aforesaid RFAs, to remove any ambiguity.

The petition was disposed of in terms of the aforesaid directions.[State of Himachal Pradesh v. Sewak Ram, 2018 SCC OnLine HP 1851, decided on 20-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of C.V. Bhadang, J. held that the petitioners in the present writ petition was liable to pay the amount decreed against the judgment-debtor who was since deceased.

The petitioners were legal representatives Eric Sequeira. He was Chairman of the petitioner company and a judgment debtor died after the decree was passed. Now the decree-holder sought to execute the decree against the petitioners. The Executing Court held that the since petitioners succeeded to assess left behind by Eric Sequeira, they are liable to satisfy the decree. C.A. Ferreira, Advocate for the petitioners contended that legal representatives could not be held responsible to satisfy the decree. On the other hand, Yogesh V. Nadkarni, Advocate for respondents supported the impugned order.

On hearing the parties, the High Court found no case to interfere in the impugned order. It was of the opinion that the Executing Court was right in holding that the petitioners were liable to satisfy the decree by which the Company and Eric Sequeira were jointly and severally held liable today the amount of decree. The Execution Court was directed to proceed having regard to the terms of Section 50 CPC. The petition was dismissed. [Goan Residential Resorts (P) Ltd. v. Raghbir Singh Panwar, 2018 SCC OnLine Bom 5756, Order dated 30-11-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: Petitioner preferred this civil revision before a Single Judge Bench of Rajeev Kumar Shrivastava, J., under Section 115 of Civil Procedure Code, against the order passed by 3rd Civil Judge, Class-II, whereby the objection raised by the petitioner under Section 47 read with Section 151 was rejected.

Facts of the case were such that respondent had purchased a shop which is in question, from a person Khusro who is the power of attorney holder of late Jahan. It was alleged that petitioner occupied the shop and failed to pay rent to respondent to whom the shop actually belong by virtue of a sale deed. Petitioner had submitted that they have no relation with the respondent and all the construction done on the shop had been done by them. Trial Court affirmed eviction of petitioner from the shop in question. Later an execution case was filed which was objected under Section 47 read with Section 151 praying for stay of the execution proceedings but the same was denied. Hence, this revision. Petitioner contended that the executing Court should have allowed petitioner to give evidence in order to substantiate and prove his objection, therefore, the impugned order was bad in law and should be set aside.

High Court was of the view that this revision petition should be dismissed. On the basis of facts and circumstances of the case, it was found that decree of eviction was affirmed by the first appellate Court and second appellate Court. The objection raised were not sustainable due to the well-settled principle that Executing Court cannot go beyond the decree. Therefore, this revision petition was dismissed. [Mohasin Ulla Khan v. Nabila Rahil, 2018 SCC OnLine MP 949, Order dated 13-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: This appeal was preferred before a 2-Judge Bench of Rakesh Kumar and  Anupinder Singh, JJ., against the judgment and decree passed by the Additional District Judge by which petition filed under Sections 11 and 12 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 by the respondent-husband for annulment of marriage with the appellant-wife was allowed.

During the pendency of this appeal, the appellant filed an application for maintenance pendente lite under Section 24 of the Act. The above application was allowed and thereby the respondent was supposed to pay Rs. 5,000 per month towards maintenance pendente lite. But since respondent failed to do so he was directed to pay entire arrears of maintenance pendente elite. The only contention made by respondent for non-payment of maintenance was that he did not have any money to give. High Court struck off respondent’s only defence leaving with the issue that if the respondent has no defence can the judgment and decree passed by the trial Court sustain or is to be set aside.

High Court struck off the defence of respondent on the ground of non-payment of maintenance, that he wanted annulment of marriage on the ground that appellant had already married twice and marriage with respondent was her third marriage with previous marriage subsisting. Thus, there remained no defence on record for annulment of marriage. Therefore, this appeal was allowed and judgment and decree passed by trial court was set aside. [Sonia v. Deepak, 2018 SCC OnLine P&H 2024, decided on 04-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: A Division bench comprising of C.K. Abdul Rehim and R. Narayana Pisharadi, JJ. allowed an appeal against the judgment of Family Court for the said court’s failure in conducting a proper enquiry and for failure in recording satisfaction based on such an enquiry conducted.

The appellant and respondent had jointly filed a petition for dissolution of their marriage by mutual consent Section 10A of the Divorce Act, 1869. The petition was allowed and respondent was granted permanent custody of their minor children. The appellant-wife challenged the said decree on the ground of court’s non-compliance to the mandatory procedural formality of interregnum waiting period.

The primary question for the determination of the court was as to whether a decree granting divorce by mutual consent can be challenged in an appeal filed under Section 19 of the Family Courts Act, 1984.

The Court observed that a decree under Section 13 B of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 is passed on the Court being satisfied that certain circumstances exist and certain conditions are fulfilled. Such a decree is not a decree passed merely on consent, but on the court being satisfied with the existence of those conditions. Relying on the decision of Gujarat High Court in Jyoti v. Darshan Nirmal Jain, 2012 SCC OnLine Guj 6283 it was held that in the present case since the lower court had failed to record its satisfaction under Section 10A(2) of the Divorce Act and not even followed the mandatory procedure of six months waiting period, therefore bar under Section 19 (2) of the Family Courts Act would not apply and the instant appeal would be maintainable.[Tiji Daniel v. Roy Panamkoodan,2018 SCC OnLine Ker 4145, decided on 17-09-2018] 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Single Judge Bench at Goa comprising of C.V. Bhadang, J., confirmed the decree of dissolution of marriage between the parties passed by Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, Calgary, Canada.

An application under Article 1102 of the  Portuguese Civil Code was filed seeking the confirmation of the abovesaid decree of the abovementioned Court. A perusal of the Certificate of Divorce issued by the competent court showed that the marriage between the parties was dissolved. It was evident from the Separation Agreement that the dissolution was by consent of parties.

The High Court reiterated the requirements for confirmation  of such a decree, which included:

  • Authenticity of the judgment as well as the correctness of the reasoning;
  • Judgment of foreign court having become res judicata according to the law of the country;
  • Judgment being delivered by a court of competent jurisdiction;
  • Dispute between the parties not being subject to defences of lis pendens or res judicata.
  • Defendant having been duly summoned;
  • Judgment not going against the Portuguese public order; and
  • Judgment having been delivered not in violation of any of the Portuguese Private Law.

The Court held that the requirements as listed above were satisfied in the instant case. The application was, thus, allowed. [Joaquim Cardozo v. Fanny Margaret Mascarenhas E. Cardozo, 2018 SCC OnLine Bom 1830, dated 26-07-2018]