Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Jyotsna Rewal Dua, J., disposed of a petition while granting liberty to the parties to move an appropriate application seeking relaxation of the period prescribed under Section 28(2) of the Special Marriage Act 1954.

The parties were husband and wife and their marriage was solemnized as per Roman Catholic Rights and Rituals at Shimla on 15-02-2009, after some marriage discord developed between them they had been living separately w.e.f. 18-03-2018.Petition for dissolution of marriage by a decree of divorce by mutual consent under Section 28 of Special Marriage Act, 1954 was filed by the parties before the learned District Judge (Family Court) who had granted them six months statutory period to ponder over their decision-qua-divorce and the matter had been ordered to be listed on 5-06-2021. It was submitted that they had explored all possibilities of reconciliation but failed and therefore prayed that the statutory period of six months deserved to be relaxed.

The Court explained that the above question of relaxing the stipulated six months came before the Supreme Court in the case of Amardeep Singh v. Harveen Kaur, (2017)8 SCC 746 and after tracing the legal journey the Court had held that period mentioned in Section 13B (2) was not mandatory but directory. It shall be open to the Court to exercise its discretion in facts and circumstances of each case, where there was no possibility of parties resuming cohabitation and there are chances of alternative rehabilitation.

The Court disposed of the petition by granting liberty to the parties including the petitioner to move an appropriate application seeking relaxation of the period prescribed under Section 28(2) of the Special Marriage Act 1954.[Naveen Kumar Dass v. Reena Kumari, 2021 SCC OnLine HP 225, decided on 08-02-2021]

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Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: Soumitra Saikia, J., observed that

“..a valid decree of divorce by itself is no ground to deny the maintenance to a divorced wife.”

The criminal petition filed under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 sought the quashment of the Judgment and Order.

Wife/OP had filed an application under Section 125 CrPC claiming maintenance from the petitioner/husband @ Rs 5000 per month, later the husband filed a petition seeking to reduce the maintenance allowance stating that there was a substantial loss of income and was facing financial hardship.

In the meanwhile, the divorce case was decreed in favour of the husband. By the said judgment, the marriage was dissolved by decree of divorce under Section 13(1)(i–a) and (i)(b) of the Hindu Marriage Act.

Later, the husband’s petition seeking to reduce the maintenance allowance was allowed. The wife again preferred the revision petition stating that she decree of divorce would not automatically disentitle the wife from getting maintenance and the said revision petition was allowed by setting aside by remanding the matter back to the Judicial Magistrate Court.

Being aggrieved with the above, the husband filed the present criminal petition.

Analysis and Decision

On perusal of Section 125 and 127 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, it revealed that legislature engrafted the said provisions for the benefit of the wife, a child and the parents of any person of any in order prevent them from becoming destitute.

In the instant matter, the concern is with regard to the maintenance in respect of a divorced wife.

“…true purport of the provisions of Section 125 is to ensure that in the event the husband fails to provide for adequate sustenance on an application made before the Magistrate, the sections empower the Magistrate to order the husband to provide for adequate maintenance for the benefit of the wife so as to prevent the wife from being reduced to a destitute or be compelled to live a life of beggary.”

Supreme Court consistently has held that a divorced wife would also be included in the definition of a wife as it defined under Section 125 CrPC.

“…responsibility of the husband towards a wife will not cease merely because a decree of divorce has been passed severing the marriage between the husband the wife.”

Decisions referred by the Court:

Rohtash Singh v. Ramendri, (2000) 3 SCC 180; Manoj Kumar v. Champa Devi,(2018) 12 SCC 748, Swapan Kumar Banerjee v. State of West Bengal, (2019) 4 SCC 146.

Court upon perusal of the Supreme Court decisions stated that it is evident that Section 125 CrPC being beneficial legislation to provide for protection to the wife, a mere divorce between the husband and wife will not preclude the “divorced wife” from claiming and/or availing of the benefits available to a wife under Section 125 CrPC.

The husband cannot absolve his responsibility to maintain and to provide for the adequate maintenance to the wife unless there are evidences to support that the wife is no longer required to be maintained in view of certain changed circumstances.

Bench also added that the claim for maintenance of a divorced wife can only be defeated either on the ground that she has remarried or that she is able to maintain herself. 

“…a ‘divorce’ does not change the status of a wife in the context of Section 125 CrPC.”

“…power under Section 127(2) CrPC, can only be invoked by a magistrate for cancellation of maintenance granted earlier only when there are changed circumstances after grant of such maintenance under Section 125.”

In the instant matter, there was no change of circumstances, which required the magistrate to invoke its powers under Section 127(2) for cancellation of the order directing payment of maintenance.

High Court directed the trial court to decide the matter afresh. [Bijoy Seal v. Sefali Seal, 2020 SCC OnLine Gau 4024, decided on 30-09-2020]

Advocates who appeared before the Court:

Advocate for the Petitioner: P J SAIKIA

Advocate for the Respondent:  K KALITA

Case BriefsHigh Courts

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

Background of the Case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delhi High Court: A Bench of G.S. Sistani and Jyoti Singh, JJ. upheld a decree of divorce granted by the family court under Section 13(i-a) and (i-b) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, in favour of the husband.

The husband filed for a decree of divorce against his wife on the grounds, inter alia, that she was living separately along with their son, without any sufficient cause of justification, and she refused to return. Instances of cruelty were also alleged against the wife. At the conclusion of the trial, the family court granted divorce to the husband on the grounds of cruelty and desertion.

The wife, represented by Mahesh Verma, Advocate, challenged the order of the family court. Per contra, K.S. Kashyap, Advocate, appearing for the husband supported it.

The High Court placed reliance on the Supreme Court decision in Savitri Pandey v. Prem Chandra Pandey, (2002) 2 SCC 73. It was noted that the wife made an admission that there were no physical relations between the parties for last more than 2 years and they were living separately. Moreover, she did not reply to the notices sent by the husband and clearly did not intend to stay with him. In such circumstances, the order passed by the family court was upheld and the present appeal was dismissed. [S v. RK, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8131, decided on 14-02-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

High Court of South Africa, Free State Division: This case was filed before a Bench of Mhlambi, J., where the question before Court was whether a deed of settlement which was incorporated in a final decree of divorce constitute a court order which could give rise to the authorisation of a writ.

Facts of the case were that parties were divorced and divorce incorporated a deed of settlement which mentioned that both parties will be liable for 50% of the two children’s tertiary education and post-schooling training. Respondent later had caused registrar to issue a warrant of execution that applicant should give a specified amount to respondent due to non-payment of fees of their children. Thus, execution steps were taken against the applicant and this application was filed. Applicant contended that the respondent lacked locus standi to claim payment of amount allegedly owed to him. The case of Eke v. Parsons, 2016 (3) SA 37 (CC) was referred to where it was held that once a settlement agreement had been made an order of Court, it was like any other order and to be interpreted as such.

High Court was of the view that there is no justification as to why Court should accede to applicant’s prayers as in notice of motion. Court observed that arguments advanced by the applicant are without substance as the applicant’s liability for payment of the tertiary or after school expenses is clearly established in clause 2.3 of the deed of settlement. Therefore, the application was dismissed. [MM v. MM, Case No. 3019 of 2014, decided on 06-12-2018]