Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Expressing that, allegations made by the wife with regard to the husband demanding dowry and indulging in alcohol consumption, do not tantamount to making serious allegations impinging on the character of the husband, to such an extent, that they would be the cause of immense mental agony and cruelty, Division Bench of Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh, JJ., dismissed the petition.

Instant appeal was directed against the decision of Family Court wherein petitioner’s divorce petition under Section 13 (1) (ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, to seek divorce from the respondent on the ground of cruelty, was dismissed.

It was submitted that the petitioner had been residing separately since October, 2014.

Appellant’s counsel submitted that the Family Court disregarded the decisions of the Supreme Court which have been taken note of in the impugned judgment itself. The respondent was convicted under Section 323 IPC for causing simple hurt to the petitioner. He further submitted that serious allegations have been made against the petitioner by the respondent wife-to the effect, that he demanded dowry and he was a drunkard, neither of which has been substantiated before the Family Court.

Analysis, Law and Decision

High Court opined that the Family Court correctly appreciated the fact and the law.

Normal wear and tear in marital relationship is to be expected and cannot be a reason to end the relationship. Hindu Marriage is a sacrament, and the parties have two minor children, who are the responsibility of both the parents to look after.

On finding no reason to interfere with the impugned judgment, present appeal was dismissed. [Harish Kumar v. Sarita, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 4937, decided on 6-10-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Appellant: Arvind Singh and Naman Dwivedi, Advocates

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: The Division Bench of Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh, JJ., noted in a matrimonial matter that the wife was being viewed as a cash cow and the husband became interested in her only after she got a job with Delhi Police.

Instant appeal was directed against the decision of lower court preferred by the appellant wife against the respondent-husband under Section 13(1)(ia) and 13(1)(ib) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 to seek a decree of divorce.

On finding no grounds of cruelty or desertion, the family court dismissed the divorce petition established by the appellant-wife.

At the time of marriage, the appellant was minor, whereas the respondent was 19 years old. Since the time of marriage till the time she secured a job, she was residing at her parental home. Respondent showed no interest in taking the appellant till the time she secured a job.

Appellants started living with the respondent and experienced that he was unemployed and was an alcoholic, he even used to physically abuse the appellant and demanded money from her. Further, she stated that the respondent and his family were only interested in her salary.

Adding to the above, she stated that since she was subjected to physical and verbal abuse, and she was also finding it difficult to balance her work and family life with an abusive, alcoholic, and demanding husband, the relationship between the parties sored, and the appellant was kicked out from her matrimonial home.

For the above-stated reasons, the appellant had preferred the divorce petition.

Analysis, Law and Decision

High Court on making certain queries noted that the respondents claim that he had funded the education of the appellant and it was on account of the fact that the appellant got educated and found a job in Delhi Police, so what will happen to the amounts spent by him.

Further in Court’s opinion, the respondent was absolutely clear that the respondent only wanted to continue with the relationship on account of the fact that the appellant had a job with Delhi Police, and he viewed the alleged expenditure on the wife as an investment, which would not bear fruit in case parties were to part ways with judicial intervention.

“…respondent is primarily eyeing the income of the respondent which she derives on account of her job from Delhi Police.”

The continued distance between the parties even after the appellant attained majority would, in itself, have caused trauma and resulted in cruelty to the appellant apart from everything else.

Bench expressed that the brazenly materialistic attitude of the respondent, with no emotional ties, would have in itself caused mental agony and trauma to the appellant sufficient to constitute cruelty to her. Court cannot ignore, that generally, it is the desire of every married woman – particularly belonging to the economic strata to which the parties belong, to get married and start a family.

In the present case, the husband was only interested in the income of the wife and not in nurturing the marriage.

In matrimonial matters, the quality and quantity of evidence required to accept the plea by one or the other party, cannot be same as that required in criminal proceedings.

Elaborating further, the Court expressed that the standard of proof in matrimonial proceedings is founded upon the preponderance of probabilities, and not upon a fact being established beyond all reasonable doubts. Looking at the overall circumstances, Court decided that the appellant was able to establish the ground of cruelty and desertion.

Hence, the Court opined that there is a clear case of perpetration of mental cruelty against the respondent and hence the marriage of the parties be dissolved by a decree of divorce under Section 13(1)(ia) of the HMA. [Sanno Kumari v. Krishan Kumar, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 4914, decided on 28-10-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the appellant: Pranaynath Jha, Advocate along with appellant in person.

For the respondent: Jitender Ratta, Advocate along with respondent in person.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: Chandra Kumar Songara J. allowed the petition of the wife-petitioner on the grounds of having a child, no source of income and residing with her parents.

The instant transfer application was filed under Section 24 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 i.e. CPC on behalf of the petitioner wife seeking transfer of the Divorce Petition No.39/2020 filed under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (hereinafter referred to as ‘HMA1955’) by the respondent-husband from the Court of Additional District Judge, Kekri District Ajmer to the Family Court situated at Kota.

The Court observed that In the present case, the petitioner-wife is residing in Kota at her parental house. The petitioner-wife has a daughter, namely Vaidehi from her first husband. Presently, she is six years old and is being taken care of by the petitioner alone. The petitioner is a house-wife and she is not employed anywhere and has no source of income. The Kekri Court in Ajmer District is at a distance of more than 100 kms. from Kota. The daughter of petitioner is about six years old and parents of petitioner are too old.

The Court relied on judgments Sumita Singh v. Kumar Sanjay, AIR 2002 SC 396 and Rajani Kishor Pardeshi v. Kishor Babulal Pardeshi (2005) 12 SCC 237  and observed that while going into the merits of a transfer application, Courts are required to give more weightage and consideration to the convenience of the female litigants, and transfer of legal proceedings from one Court to another should ordinarily be allowed taking into consideration their convenience and the Courts should desist from putting female litigants under undue hardships. In such type of matters, the convenience of the wife is to be preferred over the convenience of the husband.

The Court thus held “the present transfer application filed by the petitioner-wife is allowed and case bearing No.39/2020 titled as Rajendra Prasad Sharma Vs. Smt. Ekta Dhadhich pending before the Court of Additional District Judge, Kekri District Ajmer is ordered to be transferred to the Family Court, No.1, Kota.”

[Ekta Dhadhich v. Rajendra Prasad Sharma, S.B. Civil Transfer Application No. 72/2021, decided on 30-09-2021]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Appearances

For Petitioner(s): Mr. Abhishek Bhardwaj

For Respondent(s): Mr. Arnav Singh

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: A.Muhamed Mustaque and Kauser Edappagath, JJ., addressed an interesting question of law,

Can a direction to undergo DNA Test be given in proceedings for divorce to establish the husband’s assertion of infidelity and adultery on the part of the wife without the child in the party array?

The husband of respondent 1 had preferred for dissolution of marriage on the ground of cruelty, desertion and adultery and for recovery of money and gold ornaments while respondent 1 had preferred for recovery of money at the Family Court. The main allegation of the petitioner was that his wife had been living adulterous life with respondent 2 (brother-in-law of respondent 1) and the child born to her was that of respondent 2.

To prove infidelity and adulterous act on the part of his wife, the petitioner had taken a specific plea that he was suffering from infertility and incapable to have a child. An application to conduct DNA test had been filed by the petitioner to prove that he was not the father of the child, however, the request was dismissed by the Court below on the ground that the child was a necessary party to the petition and without the child on the party array, its paternity and legitimacy could not be determined.

Presumption of Legitimacy

Placing reliance on Section 112 of the Indian Evidence Act, the wife of the petitioner argued that once the validity of marriage is proved, there is strong presumption about the legitimacy of children born from that wedlock and the presumption could only be rebutted by strong and conclusive evidence. Similarly, non access between the husband and wife is the only way to dislodge the conclusive presumption enjoined by Section 112 of the Evidence Act, hence, the prayer for DNA test could not be allowed in the absence of strong prima facie proof of non access.

Allegation of Infidelity

 Noticeably, after 22 days of the marriage the petitioner had to left for his place of work at Ladakh as he was employed at military service and during those 22 days or thereafter there was no physical relationship between them due to the non co-operation of respondent 1. The definite case of the petitioner was that he was suffering from infertility and there was no possibility for him to have a child.

Opinion of the Court

In Dipanwita Roy v. Ronobroto Roy, (2015) 1 SCC 365, the Supreme Court had held that, “DNA testing is the most legitimate and scientifically perfect means, which the husband could use, to establish his assertion of infidelity. This should simultaneously be taken as the most authentic, rightful and correct means also with the wife, for her to rebut the assertions made by the respondenthusband, and to establish that she had not been unfaithful, adulterous or disloyal. If the appellant-wife is right, she shall be proved to be so.”

Similarly, in Nandlal Wasudeo Badwaik v. Lata Nandlal Badwaik, (2014) 2 SCC 576, the Supreme Court took the view that the result of a genuine DNA test is scientifically accurate and when there is conflict between a conclusive proof envisaged under law and a proof based on scientific advancement accepted by the world community to be correct, the latter must prevail over the former.  

Relying on the decisions of the Supreme Court, the Court opined that it would be permissible for a court to direct the holding of a DNA examination, to determine the veracity of the allegations constituting the grounds for divorce if a strong prima facie case is made out.

Can legitimacy of a child be determined without the child being on the party array?

The Bench explained that there are two tests for determining the question whether a particular party is a necessary party to the proceedings or not:

  • There must be a right to some relief against such party in respect of the matter involved in the proceedings in question; and
  • It should not be possible to pass an effective decree in the absence of such a party.

Hence, since original petition was not one under S.7 (1) r/w Explanation (e) of the Family Courts Act for a declaration as to the legitimacy of any person and it was a petition only for dissolution of marriage u/s 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, the Bench held that the presence of child does not have any bearing whatsoever in deciding the petition for dissolution of marriage on merit. Answering the question referred in affirmative, the Bench stated,

“The illegitimacy or paternity of the child is only incidental to the claim for dissolution of marriage on the ground of adultery or infidelity. The child’s presence is not necessary to adjudicate the relief claimed.”

Conclusion

In the backdrop of above, the Bench allowed the petitioner to conduct DNA test of the petitioner as well as the son of the respondent 1. [XXX v. XXX, 2021 SCC OnLine Ker 3458, decided on 14-09-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Appearance by:

For the Petitioner: Advocate Sindhu Santhalingam and Advocate A.D.Shajan

For the Respondents: Advocate Brijesh Mohan, Advocate Shajin S.Hameed and Advocate Resmi G. Nair

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case where the husband and wife both sought transfer of cases filed against by both of them against one another, the single judge bench of V. Ramasubramanian, J allowed the transfer petition filed by the wife and transferred the divorce case instituted by the husband in Pune to Delhi on ground wife having no independent source of income. The bench held that the phrase “the petition presented later” under Section 21-A(2)(b) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 does not include a petition filed under Section 9 of the Act for restitution of conjugal rights.


Backstory


Both the parties got married to each other in November, 2015 and started living separately from January, 2019 as dispute arose between them. Soon after, in May 2019, the husband filed a petition for divorce before Family Court, Pune.

The wife filed a transfer petition in the first week of July, 2019, followed by a petition for restitution of conjugal rights before the Family Court, Saket, New Delhi on July 15, 2019. The husband then filed a petition seeking transfer of the petition for restitution of conjugal rights to Pune.

The wife sought transfer on the ground that she has no independent source of income and that since the husband is not even paying any maintenance, she is entitled to have the divorce petition transferred to the Family Court in New Delhi, so that the petition for divorce filed by the husband could be tried together with the petition for restitution of conjugal rights filed by her.

The husband, on the other hand, contended that his own petition for divorce was prior in point of time and that therefore under Section 21-A(2)(b) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the petition filed by the wife subsequently, is liable to be transferred to Pune. He also offered to bear the expenses for the travel of the wife from Delhi to Pune.

He, further, stated that his father is suffering from seizures and asthma and that his mother has undergone a cervical biopsy recently and that therefore it is not possible for him to leave his aged parents and travel to Delhi, for conducting the proceedings.


Analysis


The Court was of the opinion that the contention that under Section 21-A(2)(b) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955[1], a petition filed later in point of time should be transferred to the Court in which a petition under the Act had been filed prior in point of time, is misconceived.

Noticing that Sub¬section (2) of Section 21-A has no independent existence de hors Sub-section (1), the Court explained,

“Sub¬Section (1) of Section 21-A, deals with a situation where one party to a marriage has filed a petition either for judicial separation under Section 10 or for a decree of divorce under Section 13, before a District Court having jurisdiction and thereafter the other party to the marriage, files a petition either under Section 10 or under Section 13, before the same District Court or in a different District Court in the same State or in a different State.”

In the present case, the petition that was filed by the husband, first in point of time, was a petition for divorce and hence his case may fit into clause (a) of Sub-section (1) of section 21-A but,

“… what was filed by the wife later in point of time was only a petition under Section 9 and not a petition either under Section 10 or under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act. Hence, the wife’s petition, though subsequent in point of time, does not fall under Clause (b) of Sub-section (1) of Section 21-A. As a consequence, Sub-section (1) of Section 21-A has no application to the case on hand, as the pre-conditions stipulated therein are not satisfied.”

On the offer made by the husband to meet the travel expenses for the wife, the Court said that the wife may have to travel a distance of more than 1000 km. every time and hence,

“When the contention that the wife is unemployed and her claim that no maintenance is paid, are not seriously disputed, the offer now made by the husband does not convince me.”

The Court, hence, directed the divorce petition from the Family Court, Pune to the Court of Principal Judge, Family Court, Saket, New Delhi and directed that it shall be tried together with the wife’s petition under Section 9 of the Act.

[Shruti Kaushal Bisht v. Kaushal R. Bisht, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 913, order dated 06.11.2020]


[1]21A. Power to transfer petitions in certain cases – 

(1) Where –

(a) a petition under this Act has been presented to a district court having jurisdiction by a party to a marriage praying for a decree for judicial separation under section 10 or for a decree of divorce under section 13; and

(b) another petition under this Act has been presented thereafter by the other party to the marriage praying for a decree for judicial separation under section 10 or for a decree of divorce under section 13 on any ground, whether in the same district court or in a different district court, in the same State or in a different State, the petitions shall be dealt with as specified in sub-section (2).

(2)  In a case where sub-section (1) applies, –

(a) if the petitions are presented to the same district court, both the petitions shall be tried and heard together by that district court;

(b) if the petitions are presented to different district courts, the petition presented later shall be transferred to the district court in which the earlier petition was presented and both the petitions shall be heard and disposed of together by the district court in which the earlier petition was presented.

(3) In a case where clause (b) of sub-section (2) applies, the court or the Government, as the case may be, competent under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908), to transfer any suit or proceeding from the district court in which the later petition has been presented to the district court in which the earlier petition is pending, shall exercise its powers to transfer such later petition as if it had been empowered so to do under the said Code.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: Ahsanuddin Amanullah, J., dismissed an application for grant of pre-arrest bail to the petitioners. The petitioners apprehend arrest in connection with Dumraon PS Case No. 201 of 2019 dated 08-06-2019, instituted under Sections 341, 323, 498A, 307 and 34 of the Penal Code, 1860 and Section 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. The petitioners are the father-in-law and mother-in-law of respondent 2.

Earlier on 03-09-2020, the Court had recorded that a consensus has been reached whereby the petitioners and their son is ready to keep respondent 2 in the matrimonial home with love and affection and the willingness is reciprocated by the respondent as well. The petitioners and their son were to work out modalities of the reunion of the husband and wife.

However, it is conveyed by Digvijay Kumar Ojha that the petitioner’s son has filed a divorce petition in Bhopal against respondent 2 on 31-08-2020. Initially, the counsel had stated that the petition has been filed on 09-10-2020.

The Court found this revelation with respect to the date of filing the divorce petition to be irrelevant as it has been categorically stated in the pleadings that petitioner’s and their son are willing to keep respondent 2 in their matrimonial home.

The son (respondent 2’s husband) had filed a case for restitution of conjugal rights under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 which has been allowed ex-parte in his favour. Thereafter, the divorce case has been filed.

The Court is of the opinion that the conduct of the petitioners has cast a shadow of doubt over their intent. When they had already filed an application for anticipatory bail and the suit for restitution has been decided in the favour of the petitioner’s son, then going ahead a divorce petition makes absolutely no sense especially in view of the Covid19 pandemic. It appears that this is just a ploy to defy the stand taken by the petitioners earlier that they were willing to keep respondent 2 in their home. The Court can observe that whatever ensued is the result of a well planned strategy devised by the petitioners where, by first filing an application for restitution of conjugal rights and taking a stand before the Court in the present proceeding that their son was ready to keep the wife with all love and affection and they had no objection to their matrimonial life and in support thereof, showing that he has filed an petition for restitution of conjugal rights, and then getting the same decreed ex-parte, knowing fully well that the petition filed at Bhopal would be difficult to be contested by the opposite party no. 2, who is living at Dumraon in the district of Buxar, especially in the present times and then getting ex-parte decree and then filing a petition for divorce, raises grave misgivings about the conduct of the parents and their son.

The Court is of the understanding that it has been deliberately misled through the categorical pleadings in the application which was again reiterated by the petitioner’s counsel. In the garb of asking for a chance to work out things, the petitioners and their son were trying to fool the Court.

On the issue of the divorce petition, the Court observed that mere filing of the petition does not act as a roadblock in the parties willing to resume their matrimonial relationship and if the petitioners and their son were really desirous of the same then they should have done it already. It is evident that both the pleading and the stand of the petitioners lacks bona fide and has been done solely with the purpose of getting the Court to grant them indulgence.

Counsel for the state, Suresh Prasad Singh has submitted that independent witnesses have confirmed the allegations of there being a demand of dowry right after the marriage.

In view of the above, the present application has been dismissed by the Court denying relief to the petitioners.[Jai Kishun Yadav v. State of Bihar, 2020 SCC OnLine Pat 1808, decided on 19-10-2020]


Yashvardhan Shrivastav, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad, JJ., while observing a matrimonial application, observed that,

The plaint must be read as a whole to determine as to whether it discloses a cause of action.

In the instant matter, the husband/appellant sought to challenge the Order passed by Family Court dismissing an application filed by him under Order VII Rule 11(a) and (d) read with Order XIV Rule 2(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure.

Quick Glance — Fact of the Case

Husband and Wife had gotten married as per the Sikh rites and Hindu Vedic rites and ceremonies.

Appellant a US citizen had moved to that country with his parents in the year 1994. After the marriage, respondent/wife applied for permanent resident status.

Petition for Divorce

Appellant/husband and respondent/wife came to India with their child, while they were in India, respondent/wife filed a divorce petition under Section 13(1)(i–a) of the Hindu Marriage Act.

Husband/appellant on returning to USA alone filed for a divorce petition in Chicago, USA. He was granted an ex parte divorce on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage.

Custody of Child

Appellant/Husband also approached the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, USA for the custody of the child which was granted to him ex parte.

Writ of Habeas Corpus

Further, the appellant/husband had filed a writ petition in Delhi High Court for issuance of a writ of habeas corpus for the production and custody of the minor child.

On being aggrieved with the above, wife approached the Supreme Court which was allowed with directions to the parties to appear before the Family Court for the decision in regard to the custody of a minor child.

Order VII Rule 11 CPC

Appellant/Husband had moved an application under Order VII Rule 11 CPC for seeking rejection of the said petition on the plea that the provisions of the Act would apply to persons who are outside the territory of India only if they are domiciled in India.

Since the husband/appellant was domiciled in USA, only the wife/respondent was domiciled in India, the Act is not applicable to them.

Pre-Nuptial Agreement

Husband also contended that prior to their marriage, they had entered into a pre-nuptial agreement, hence they will be governed under that.

Family Court had dismissed the application filed by the appellant/husband under Order VII Rule 11 CPC and stated that appellant/husband cannot be allowed to selectively refer to the pleadings of the respondent/wife.

Further, the family court held that it is for the Court to determine as to whether the facts of a case conclusively establish that the respondent/wife had acquired US Domicile, Family Court rejected the stand of the appellant/husband that the divorce petition filed by the respondent/wife is barred by law.

Counsel for the appellant/husband Prabhjit Jauhar and Malvika Rajkotia, Counsel for the respondent/wife.

Analysis & Decision

A meaningful reading of the entire plaint must be conducted for the court to satisfy itself as to whether the averments made therein if taken to be correct in their entirety, would result in a decree being passed.

For the above-stated position, several Supreme Court’s Decisions were relied on including  in T. Arivandandam v. T.V. Satyapal, (1977) 4 SCC 467,

Popat and Kotecha Property v. State Bank of India Staff Assn., (2005) 7 SCC 510:

There cannot be any compartmentalization, dissection, segregation and inversions of the language of various paragraphs in the plaint.

Hardesh Ores (P) Ltd. v. Hede & Company, (2007) 5 SCC 614:

The averments made in the plaint as a whole have to be seen to find out whether Clause (d) of Rule 11 of Order VII is applicable. It is not permissible to cull out a sentence or a passage and to read it out of the context in isolation. Although it is the substance and not merely the form that has to be looked into, the pleading has to be construed as it stands without addition or subtraction of words or change of its apparent grammatical sense.

Court in view of the above observed that,

A plaint cannot be rejected on the basis of allegations levelled by the defendant in the written statement or for that matter, in an application moved under Order VII Rule 11 CPC.

The Court must be mindful of the underlying object of Order VII Rule 11 CPC which is to nip in the bud, irresponsible and vexatious suits.

In the instant matter, it has to be determined as to whether the divorce petition filed by the respondent/wife deserves to be rejected or not.

Section 19 of the Hindu Marriage Act offers multiple options as to the local District Court where a Divorce petition can be presented. It includes the place where the marriage of the parties was solemnized or where the respondent resides at the time of presentation of the petition or in case the wife is the petitioner, where she is residing on the date of presentation of the petition or where the petitioner is residing at the time of presentation of a petition in a case where the respondent at that relevant point in time, is residing outside the territories to which the Act extends, as contemplated in Section 1(2).

The Supreme Court decision in Neeraja Saraph v. Jayant V. Saraph, (1994) 6 SCC 461, brought the need for legislation to protect spouses who had been deserted outside the country, wherein the issue that was highlighted was to protect the rights of women deserted by NRI husbands and faced decrees of the annulment of marriage from foreign courts.

Concept of ‘Resident’ and ‘Domicile’:

Union of India v. Dudh Nath Prasad, (2000) 2 SCC 20:

“27. ………..The classical division of domicile is well known. There are the domicile of origin, the domicile of choice and the domicile of dependence. There has been little change in the essential concept of these three domiciles…

28. In view of the above, the concept of “domicile” as canvassed by learned counsel for the appellants with reference to change of nationality or change of domicile from one country to another, cannot be imported in the present case. Moreover, “Domicile” and “Residence” are relative concepts and have to be understood in the context in which they are used, having regard to the nature and purpose of the statute in which these words are used.

(emphasis supplied)

Bench stated that under Order VII Rule 11, CPC, the court can only scrutinize the contents of the plaint taken as a whole but it cannot consider the evidence, if any, or the pleas taken in the written statement.

In the instant matter, the respondent/wife categorically stated in her petition that she wanted to reside in India. After the amendment to the Act in the year 2003 and on insertion of sub-clause (iiia) in Section 19, it cannot be said that Family Courts in Delhi are not vested with the jurisdiction to try and entertain the divorce petition filed by the respondent/wife.

High Court held that the appellant/husband cannot raise an objection to the respondent/wife initiating proceedings of divorce in India under the provisions of the Act only because he is a US citizen and domiciled in the USA.

In the instant case, the respondent/wife remains a citizen of India and therefore, is a domicile of India for all intents and purposes. She has chosen to approach the courts in India for obtaining a decree for divorce.

Divorce petition filed by the respondent/wife read as a whole, does disclose a valid cause of action that can be entertained by the Family Court in India.

No infirmity was found in the impugned judgment. [Karan Goel v. Kanika Goel, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 1319, decided on 12-10-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family Court’s opinion on the CD as evidence:

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

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

Analysis and Conclusion

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

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

In High Court’s opinion,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Case BriefsHigh Courts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respondent’s Stand

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

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

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

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

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

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

Analysis and Decision

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

Further the Court observed that,

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

Cruelty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: H.S. Madaan, J. dismissed the application for the transfer of a divorce petition merely on the ground of inconvenience of the attorney in attending hearings.

The applicant herein was the wife of respondent who had filed a divorce petition against her in the Court of District Judge, Sangrur. Applicant filed the instant transfer application seeking transfer of the divorce case from Sangrur to a Court of competent jurisdiction in Patiala on the ground that she lives in Australia and her appointed attorney was facing difficulty in attending the hearings in Sangrur on dates of listing of a divorce case. Her second ground for seeking transfer was that since the respondent’s father was a senior advocate in the Sangrur District Court and had strong political links, there was a threat to the applicant and her family.

The Court observed that the contentions of the applicant were not sufficient to transfer the divorce petition. It remarked that “The Court is not to see the convenience of the attorney. If the attorney has got difficulty in attending the dates of hearing, the applicant can very well appoint some other person as her attorney, who can put in an appearance in the Court conveniently.” It was also opined that “Merely because respondent’s father is a senior advocate at Sangrur does not mean that he is capable of interfering in judicial proceedings or would do so.” If there is an apprehension of physical harm to the applicant then she should approach the legal enforcement agency. 

In view of the above, the instant application was dismissed. [Rubalpreet Kaur v. Harbarkamaljot Singh, TA-526 of 2019 (O&M), decided on 16-07-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: H.S. Madaan, J. allowed the transfer application for the convenience of the wife in the divorce petition.

An application for the transfer of divorce petition was made by the applicant on the ground of financial constraint.

The brief facts of the case were that applicant Rajnish Kaur was the estranged wife of Sukhwinder Singh on account of matrimonial discord between the spouses. The spouses had a fight on the demand of the dowry raised by the respondent and his family and which the applicant could not get conceded from her parents. Thereby applicant with his minor son turned out of matrimonial home and shifted to his parent’s house. A divorce petition was filed against the respondent in Ludhiana despite the fact that such court does not have any jurisdiction. Also, it was difficult for the applicant to attend the dates of hearing due to financial constraint. Thus, the present application was filed.

The Court opined that the in matrimonial dispute between the spouse conveniences of wife should be looked. The reference was made to the case of Bhartiben Ravibhai Rav v. Ravibhai Govindbhai Rav, (2017) 6 SCC 785 in which the Supreme Court allowed the application for transfer of divorce petition to a place where the wife was residing considering various factors including the distance between the places where divorcee petition had been instituted. Reference was also made to the case of Apurva v. Navtej Singh, 2016 SCC OnLine P&H 3138, in which it was held that Generally, it is the wife’s convenience, which must be looked at by the Courts while deciding the transfer application. The application was thus allowed and the petition was transferred to the court of competent jurisdiction for disposal in accordance with the law.[Rajnish Kaur v. Sukhwinder Singh, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 1422, decided on 14-08-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

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]

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

Rajasthan High Court: A Single Judge Bench of Ashok Kumar Gaur, J., disposed of the current petition seeking an early date for a divorce proceeding.

Brief facts of the case are that the petitioner-husband seeking a direction to give early date in divorce petition pending in Family Court Jaipur filed this instant petition. He had also prayed for early disposal of the application of divorce petition filed under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The office had registered the divorce application on 25-09-2018 and issued notices to respondent-wife by fixing the next date i.e. 12-02-2019.

The counsels for the petitioner, Mr Prashant Sharma and Mr Prateek Khandelwal, submitted that the petitioner was facing not only mental trauma but he was also being harassed by his in-laws every day and as such disposal of the application for divorce petition was the need of the hour. They also argued that Section 21-B of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 provides that trial should be continued from day to day and further as per sub-section (2) the divorce petition should be tried expeditiously and endeavour should be made to conclude the trial within six months.

The High Court while discussing Section 21-B of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 stated that endeavor is required to be made to decide the divorce petition expeditiously and the endeavor should be there to conclude the trial within a period of six months from the date of service of notice of the petition upon the respondent. The Court found that date of service of notice in the instant petition was already fixed on 12-02-2019. The instant petition was thus disposed of observing that no unnecessary adjournment should be taken by parties during the pendency of divorce petition. [Vipul Khandelwal v. Nikita Khandelwal, 2018 SCC OnLine Raj 2322, order dated 11-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench comprising of A.A. Sayed and S.C. Gupte, JJ. allowed an appeal filed against the judgment of the Family Court whereby it had dismissed the appellant-husband’s divorce petition filed under Section 13(1)(ib) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

The husband’s case was that his wife had deserted him for more than 20 years when she left the home and they have been living separately since. The family court dismissed the divorce petition filed by the husband holding that the separation was at the instance of the husband. Moreover, it was held that there was no animus deserendi or the intention to bring cohabitation permanently to an end on the part of the wife. Aggrieved thereby, the husband filed the present appeal.

The High Court perused the record and noted that the parties were living separately for 20 years. Though there was a dispute as to the reason why the wife left the home, the wife’s conduct thereafter suggested that there was absolutely no intention on her part to resume cohabitation at any time. The Court was of the view that there was animus deserendi on her part at least with reference to subsequent events. As explained by the High Court, “Animus deserendi or intention to bring cohabitation permanently to an end is nothing but the opposite of intention to resume cohabitation. If there is no intention at all to resume cohabitation for a reasonably long period, there could be said to be intention to bring cohabitation on an end. How much long a reasonably long period would be is a matter of inference to be drawn from the facts and circumstances of each case. But surely twenty years is, in any event, a reasonably long period. If there is no attempt on the part of the deserting spouse to resume cohabitation for twenty years after the initial separation, even if one were to grant that the original separation did not have the element of animus deserendi, there could be said to be presence of such animus afterwards.” Observing that there was no hope for any revival of marriage, the Court allowed the appeal and granted a decree of divorce on grounds of separation. [Shailendra Madhukar Bhalerao v. Suruchi Shailendra Bhalerao,2018 SCC OnLine Bom 5331, decided on 26-11-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A bench of N.V. Ramana and S. Abdul Nazeer JJ., modified the order of the High Court of Bombay in a divorce petition filed seeking for the modification of the maintenance and alimony amount.

The facts of the case state that the appellant (wife) had filed a petition under Section 27(1)(d) of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 before the Family Court in Mumbai seeking permanent alimony of Rs 30,00,00,000/- and interim maintenance of Rs 3,50,000/- for herself along with Rs 2,50,000/- for her minor daughter. Though, the Family Court had partly allowed the appellant’s application for interim maintenance. On obtaining the final order of divorce from the family Court and being dissatisfied with the same, the parties preferred an appeal to the High Court. Further, the appellant being aggrieved of the order of the High Court approached the Supreme Court seeking relief.

Therefore, the Supreme Court on considering the facts and orders passed by the High Court and Family court observed that considering the merits of the order of the High Court it did not require interference. In order to balance the interests of the parties, the Supreme Court modified the High Court’s order by allowing the withdrawal of Rs 2 Crores by the wife during intra-appeal as an interim measure. [Udita Nabha v. Ranjeet Nabha,2018 SCC OnLine SC 695, dated 16-07-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: A Division Bench comprising of M.M.S. Bedi and Anupinder Singh Grewal, JJ. allowed an application filed by the respondent-wife for maintenance pendente lite.

The appellant-husband had preferred an appeal against the dismissal of his divorce petition. The respondent-wife had filed the application under Section 24 of Hindu Marriage Act claiming maintenance pendent lite at the rate of Rs 20,000 per month. The appellant submitted that he was dismissed from the Army and was unemployed. Further, he had no source of income except what he got from the selling of milk.

The Court noted that there was no material to ascertain the income of the appellant and in such circumstances a bit of estimation was permissible. The appellant was an ex-army man and an able-bodied person. Even if he worked as an unskilled laborer, he was presumed to earn not less than Rs 15,000-20,000 per month. There was also one daughter born out of the wedlock. The Court held that the appellant cannot run away from his duty to maintain wife and daughter. In such circumstances, an amount of Rs 8,000 per month was found reasonable while awarding the maintenance pendente lite under Section 24. The application was thus allowed. [Jagdish Singh v. Sarabjit Kaur, 2018 SCC OnLine P&H 881, dated 03-07-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Bharati H. Dangre, J., has held that the Muslim Personal Law can in no way curtail the protection granted under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, from being available to a Muslim woman.

Brief facts of the case were that the respondent-wife had filed a petition for divorce against the husband under Section 2(viii)(a) and (d) of the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939, on grounds of cruelty. She also filed an application under the Domestic Violence Act for maintenance. The petitioner-husband filed objection to the application contending that he had already given talaq to the respondent after she filed the petition for divorce. He contended that the talaq was given by him in pursuance of the desire of the petitioner to get a divorce, as was evident by the petition filed by her; the said talaq should be considered as ‘khula’ (divorce by consent) and therefore according to the Muslim Personal Law that govern the parties, the respondent was not entitled to any maintenance as asked for by her.

The High Court observed that in the present case, the pronouncement of talaq was disputed by the wife and the husband will have to prove the said factum of talaq. As till the time the talaq was not proved, the respondent continued to be legally wedded wife of the petitioner and in that contingency, the question was whether the wife who was in a domestic relationship with the petitioner was entitled to seek relief under the DV Act.

After extensively considering various provisions of the DV Act as well as Acts concerning the rights of women under Muslim Personal Law, Hon’ble Court held that

“perusal of the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 would reveal that it is an enactment to provide for more effective protection for rights of women, guaranteed under the Indian Constitution, who are the victims of the violence … The definition and connotation of “Domestic Violence” under Section 3 of the enactment do not indicate any intention either express or implied to exclude Muslim women. Section 36 of the said enactment provides that the provisions of the Act shall be in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law for the time being in force.”

The Court held that the provisions of the Muslim Personal Law can in no way curtail the protection provided under Domestic Violence Act. As a result, the impugned order of the Family Court whereby the petitioner was ordered to pay maintenance under the provisions of the DV Act was upheld and the petition dismissed. [Ali Abbas Daruwala v. Shehnaz Daruwala,2018 SCC OnLine Bom 1195, dated 04-05-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: In a first appeal referred to the Single Judge Bench comprising of Sharad Kumar Gupta, J., the impugned judgment and decree in regard to Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 was dismissed.

Appellant had filed a divorce petition under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 which was dismissed by the trial court without recording relevant evidence. The appellant claimed that his marriage was solemnized in the year 1992 in accordance with Hindu rites and rituals and for about 17 years ago the respondent had performed second marriage and the appellant himself had performed second marriage. Though the respondent stated that her marriage was not solemnized with the appellant and neither did she perform second marriage. Therefore, observing the said facts of the case, the trial court had dismissed the divorce petition, against which the appellant had preferred this appeal.

The High Court, after considering the facts and circumstances of the case, concluded that the trial court had failed in recording the evidence in proper perspective and the appellant’s evidence was unrebutted. Moreover, the Court also observed that, the trial court by not paying any heed to the provisions of Section 23(2) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 which talks about “making every endeavour to bring about reconciliation between the parties” and pronouncing their decision ex parte against the respondent due to non-appearance and not framing issues regarding the marriage and most importantly the pleadings in which the respondent states that she is married wife of the appellant under Section 24 of the Act, the High Court on the basis of this remitted the case to the trial court with directions to proceed with the suit in accordance of law and procedure. [Ramnarayan v. Gayatri, 2018 SCC OnLine chh 488, order dated 08-05-2018]