Case BriefsHigh Courts

Tripura High Court: A Division Bench of S. Talapatra and S.G. Chattopadhyay, JJ., upheld the decision of the trial court and stated that the present matter is a case of an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage in light of cruelty and desertion.

Cruelty & Desertion | Dissolution of Marriage

Allegations of cruelty and desertion were placed against the wife by the husband in light of which the husband approached the Family Court under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for dissolution of marriage by a decree of divorce.

Family Court dissolved the marriage.

Aggrieved wife preferred the present appeal under Section 28 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 read with Section 19 of the Family Courts Act, 1984 challenging the legality of the impugned Judgment of the Family Court.

Court considers in the present case whether the grounds of cruelty and desertion against the respondent-wife, the appellant herein, existed on the date of filing of the divorce petition or not.

From the pleadings of the parties and their evidence, it would appear that the respondent-wife left her matrimonial home along with her daughter and she did not live with her husband at any point of time till the petition was filed by her husband on seeking a divorce and even thereafter.

The witnesses of the petitioner including two of his neighbours had categorically asserted that they did not notice any untoward incidents preceding to the departure of the respondent-wife from her matrimonial home.

Further, the bench stated that on perusal of the parties and their evidence discussed, no material was found to show that the respondent-wife was ever forced by her husband to leave his company or that she was thrown away from her matrimonial home.

Wife prosecuted her husband and his relatives under Section 498A IPC which was proved to be unfounded in the Sessions Court as well as in the High Court.

Institution of a complaint under Section 498-A IPC against the husband does not ipso facto constitute mental cruelty unless the court having assessed the totality of the facts and circumstances and also having taken note of the nature of the allegations come to the conclusion that amongst other things the wife also brought unfounded and scandalous allegations with a clear intention to humiliate the husband and his relatives and such conduct of the spouse caused disappointment and frustration in the other spouse.

Whether such conduct of the respondent-wife amounted to the desertion of her husband and caused mental cruelty to him and entitled him to a decree of divorce.

There cannot be a straight-jacket formula for determining cruelty in matrimonial relationships. Whether the alleged conduct of the spouse constitutes cruelty has to be judged in the particular context of the case keeping in view all the attending facts and circumstances of the case.

In the present matter, the petitioner proved that his wife abandoned him along with her daughter when he lost his vision and was in dire need of their company and the support of his wife.

Such conduct of the wife must have hurt the sentiment of the petitioner husband and affected their relationship. After abandoning her husband, she labeled allegations of harassment for dowry against her husband in a proceeding under Section 498A IPC followed by a proceeding under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.

The unprovoked humiliating treatment by the wife to her husband caused cruelty to the husband.

Apex Court, while laying down the broad parameters for determination of mental cruelty for the purpose of granting divorce in Samar Ghose v. Jaya Ghose, (2007) 4 SCC 511 reiterated the same principle and held as follows as one of the parameters:

“101…(xiv) Where there has been a long period of continuous separation, it may fairly be concluded that the matrimonial bond is beyond repair. The marriage becomes a fiction though supported by a legal tie. By refusing to sever that tie, the law in such cases, does not serve the sanctity of marriage; on the contrary, it shows scant regard for the feelings and emotions of the parties. In such like situations, it may lead to mental cruelty.”

Hence, in the present matter, both the grounds of cruelty and desertion existed on the date of filing of the divorce petition. Moreover, there is no denial of the fact that the husband and the wife are staying apart for more than 13 years and during this period they never lived together at any point of time.

Therefore, the present matter is a case of an irretrievable breakdown of marriage and it is quite impossible to save the marriage.

 Trial Court’s decision is upheld and the husband is directed to pay a monthly maintenance allowance for his wife and daughter.[Aparna Dey v. Alok Dey, 2020 SCC OnLine Tri 411, decided on 09-09-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: A.P. Thaker, J., dismissed an application that was filed on being aggrieved and dissatisfied with the order of maintenance passed by the Family Court whereby the petitioner was ordered to pay maintenance of Rs 4, 000 per month to his wife.

The Counsel for the applicant, Jatin Yadav had contended that the respondent had filed an application before the Family Court, Ahmedabad, on the ground that she was deserted by the husband and the husband had not paid any maintenance to her. He further contended that marriage between the parties was solemnized on the false statement of the wife that she was unmarried therefore, he had also filed a criminal complaint against the wife for cheating and the same was pending. He further contended that the wife was serving in a company and was getting Rs.9, 000/as income from that job and, therefore, she was not entitled to get any maintenance from him and that the applicant was earlier working as RTO agent and since the system of online was introduced, he had no such income as has been alleged by the wife.

The Court while dismissing the revision petition stated that after appreciating all the evidence in proper perspective it is clear that the Family Court has not committed any serious error of law and facts. It is incumbent upon the husband to lead evidence with regard to his income. In the present case, wife has fairly admitted that she was working in a private company and was getting Rs 5, 000 per month. As against this, the husband had merely stated that he was working as RTO agent and now due to coming into operation of the online system, he was not getting that much income as has been alleged by the wife. At the same time, the husband has not led any evidence regarding his actual income thus; it was the liability of the husband to pay maintenance to his wife.[Ajitbhai Mohanbhai Parghi v. State of Gujarat, 2020 SCC OnLine Guj 1228, decided on 03-09-2020]


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Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A Division Bench of Ravi Malimath and Narayan Singh Dhanik, JJ., dismissed and appeal which was filed aggrieved by the judgment and order of the Principal Judge, Family Court whereby the suit of the plaintiff-husband (respondent herein) for dissolution of marriage was decreed.

The marriage of Rajesh Gaur (plaintiff-respondent) was solemnized with Anita Gaur (defendant-appellant) as per Hindu customs and ceremonies on 12-05-1999 after which they shifted to Mumbai where the plaintiff-respondent was running his business. Two children were also born out of wedlock. On 3-06-2014, husband (plaintiff-respondent) instituted a suit under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act against the wife (defendant-appellant) seeking a decree of divorce on the ground of cruelty. He had alleged that about five years ago there was a sudden change in the behavior of his wife and the valuable articles, jewellery, cash, etc. started missing from the house. Further, he alleged that 2-3 years thereafter, he had started receiving telephone calls of crooked persons asking him either to return the money else he would be abducted. On being asked the plaintiff-respondent confessed to him that she had borrowed money on interest @ 10 percent per month and she also had purchased ornaments and clothes on credit. After getting continuous threats of abduction and capture of his flat the defendant-appellant fearing for his life and liberty decided to come back to Dehradun along with his wife; thereafter a Panchayat was held in the village in which the defendant-appellant admitted her mistakes in writing but even after that quarrels and scenes had become common on several occasions and it was impossible for the plaintiff-respondent to continue to live with the defendant-appellant. The defendant-appellant however in the written statement denied the allegations of the plaintiff-respondent but admitted borrowing money amounting to Rs. 10,00,000 for household expenses, payment of school fees, etc. She also submitted that she was being badly harassed by the plaintiff-respondent; and that she made a complaint in the Women Cell and also lodged a case under Section 494, Penal code, 1860 against him. After examining the evidence the court decreed the suit for divorce holding that the reasons stated for instituting the suit and the acts alleged by the plaintiff against his wife qualified to come under the category of cruelty.

The Court while dismissing the appeal affirmed the order of the Family Court explaining that the word “cruelty’ was not defined under the Act and it could be physical or mental. The Court relied on various judgments of the Supreme Court like in Praveen Mehta v. Inderjit Mehta, (2002) 5 SCC 706, where it was held that “Mental cruelty cannot be established by direct evidence and it is necessarily a matter of inference to be drawn from the facts and circumstances of the case.” In Raj Talreja v. Kavita Talreja, (2017) 14 SCC 194 the Court had held that “cruelty can never be defined with exactitude.’ The Court also stated that the plaintiff-respondent failed to substantiate the allegations which she had made against the plaintiff-respondent. The Court consequently held that:

“All these acts and conduct, in our considered view, constitute cruelty. Further, as is evident, it was not a solitary instance of cruelty on the part of the defendant-appellant. The defendant-appellant indulged in repeated acts of cruelty and misbehavior with her husband.”[Anita Gaur v. Rajesh Gaur, 2020 SCC OnLine Utt 503, decided on 24-08-2020]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: Shircy V., J. allowed the transfer petition of the petitioner’s matrimonial dispute cases to the Family Court most convenient for her to appear before.

In the present case, the petitioner who resides with her minor child at her paternal home approached the Court seeking to transfer her matrimonial dispute cases to the Family Court in the district where she currently resides.

The Court while evaluating the facts and circumstances of the case took note of her hardships and the inconvenience she has to undergo while travelling up and down to the Family Court where her cases are pending. The Court further emphasised that such hardships were not uncommon especially amongst women who are aggrieved by such disputes.

Therefore, the Court laid stress on taking a lady’s convenience to travel while considering transfer petitions in the future too.[Valsala Nisha v. Rajesh Soman Nair, 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 3184, decided on 11-08-2020]

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 BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of R Banumathi and Indira Banerjee, JJ has given a split verdict on the issue whether a Family Court can convert the petition for maintenance under Section 125 Cr.P.C. to one under Section 3 or Section 4 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986. The matter has, hence, been referred to a larger bench.

Background of the case

  • A Muslim woman filed a petition under Section 125 Cr.P.C. alleging that she was subjected to cruelty and harassment for additional dowry and that she was thrown out of matrimonial home.
  • Family Court held that as the appellant is a Muslim divorced woman, her petition for maintenance under Section 125 Cr.P.C. is not maintainable.
  • Treating the application under Section 125 Cr.P.C. as application under Section 3 of the Muslim Women’s Protection Act in the light of the judgment in Iqbal Bano v. State of Uttar Pradesh, (2007) 6 SCC 785, the Family Court directed the husband to pay rupees three lakh in lump sum to appellant towards her maintenance and future livelihood.
  • Rajasthan High Court held that the order of the Family Court converting the application under Section 125 Cr.P.C. into an application under Section 3 of the Act is without jurisdiction and on those findings, set aside the order of the Family 3 Court to that extent.

Banumathi, J’s opinion

Holding that the Family Court cannot convert the petition for maintenance under Section 125 Cr.P.C. to one under Section 3 or Section 4 of the Act of 1986, Banumathi , J said

“the application under Section 3(2) of the Act of 1986 by the divorced wife has to be filed before the competent Magistrate having jurisdiction if she claims maintenance beyond the iddat period. Even if the Family Court has been established in that area, the Family Court not having been conferred the jurisdiction under Section 7 of the Family Courts Act, 1984 to entertain an application filed under Section 3 of the Muslim Women Protection Act, the Family Court shall have no jurisdiction to entertain an application under Section 3(2) of the Act of 1986.

On Section 3 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986

Section 3 of 1986 Act opens with the words “notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force,” a divorced woman shall be entitled to rights enumerated in clauses (a) to (d) of Section 3(1) of 1986 Act. Muslim Women Protection Act may have conferred more rights but the Act confers these rights notwithstanding anything contained in Section 125 Cr.P.C. The nonobstante clause has to be understood fairly and reasonably. The non-obstante clause cannot be lightly assumed to bring in the effect of supersession. It should not be allowed to demolish or extinguish the existing right unless the legislative intention is clear, manifest and unambiguous.

On Section 7 of the Family Courts Act, 1984

The expression “conferred on it” occurring in sub-clause (b) of Section 7(2) speaks of conferment of the jurisdiction on the Family Court by an enactment. Thus, under Section 7(2)(b), the jurisdiction must be specifically conferred and cannot be assumed or deemed to have been conferred. The provisions of the Muslim Women’s Protection Act do not confer any jurisdiction on the Family Court.

Conclusion

Section 3(2) of the Muslim Women’s Protection Act provides that the application may be made to a Magistrate; but not to the Family Court. Also, the Muslim Women’s Protection Act was enacted in 1986 subsequent to the Family Courts Act, 1984. Hence, the Family Court has no jurisdiction to entertain the petition under Sections 3 and 4 of the Act of 1986 and that the Family Court cannot convert the petition for maintenance under Section 125 Cr.P.C. to one under Section 3 or Section 4 of the Act of 1986.

Banerjee, J’s opinion

Disagreeing with Justice Banumathi’s opinion, Banerjee, J said

“Family Courts Act is a secular statute, which applies to matters contemplated therein, irrespective of the religion of the litigating parties.”

On Family Court’s scope of power to lay down procedure

Notwithstanding sub-section (1) and sub-section (2) of Section 10 of the Family Courts Act, which makes the provisions of the CPC applicable to suits and proceedings before the Family Court, other than those under Chapter IX of the Cr.P.C., and the provisions of the Cr.P.C. applicable to all the proceedings under Chapter IX of that Code, it is open to the Family Court to lay down its own procedure with a view to arrive at a settlement in respect of the subject matter of the suit or proceeding.

On Territorial Jurisdiction of Family Courts

Where a Family Court has been established for any area, Section 8 of the Family Courts Act denudes the District Court or any Subordinate Civil Court referred to in sub-section (1) of Section 7 of jurisdiction in respect of any suit or proceeding of the nature referred to in the Explanation to that sub-section. Section 8(b) of the Family Courts Act prohibits any Magistrate from exercising jurisdiction or powers under Chapter IX of the CR.P.C. in relation to any area for which a Family Court has been established.

On Overriding effect of Family Courts Act

It is important to note that Section 20 of the Family Courts Act, with its non-obstante clause gives the provisions of the Family Courts Act overriding effect, over any other law, which would include the 1986 Act for Muslim Women. The Family Courts Act is to have effect, notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith, contained in any other law, for the time being in force, or in any instrument having effect, by virtue of any law other than the Family Courts Act.

“the expression “in any other law, for the time being in force”, cannot be construed narrowly to mean a law which was in force on the date of enactment and/or enforcement of the Family Courts Act”

There is no conflict between Section 3(2) of the 1986 Act for Muslim women and the Family Courts Act. On the other hand, Section 20 of the Family Courts Act, 1984 gives overriding effect to the Family Courts Act notwithstanding anything therewith contained in any other law in force. The Family Court is to exercise all the jurisdiction exercisable by any District Court or any other subordinate Civil court in respect of a proceeding for maintenance.

Conclusion

Banerjee, J, hence, concluded that there can be no dispute that the Family Court alone has jurisdiction in respect of personal and family matters relating to women and men, irrespective of their religion. Family matters of Muslim women pertaining inter alia to marriage, divorce etc. are decided by Family Courts, as also claims of Muslim wives to maintenance under Section 125 of the Cr.P.C.

“There could be no reason to single out divorced Muslim wives to deny them access to the Family Courts, and that in my view, was never the legislative intent of the 1986 Act for Muslim Women.”

[Rana Nahid v. Sahisul Haq Chisti, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 522 , decided on 18.06.2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: While deciding the instant custody matter, S.C. Gupte, J., held that as per the provisions of Section 6 of Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956, it is a mother who is the natural guardian of an illegitimate child (whether boy or girl) and a father’s claim only comes in second to mother’s.

As per the facts of the instant case, the dispute revolved around the custody of a minor son of the petitioner and the respondent, born out of wedlock. The petitioner (biological father) via his counsel Aditya Pratap, challenged the Order passed by the Family Court, Pune which had awarded the custody to the respondent (biological mother). The petitioner contended that the respondent has cut-off his access to the child and that she is mentally and emotionally unfit to take custody of the child. The petitioner further submitted that the respondent intends to take away the boy to New Zealand; hence she has applied for visa. The respondent via her counsel Abhishek Pungliya, contended that the petitioner had abandoned her during her pregnancy; refused to acknowledge their marriage which allegedly took place in 2009. The respondent also claimed that the petitioner inflicted physical and mental torture upon her so that the child may get miscarried. The respondent further submitted that since his birth and till date, it is the respondent alone who has brought up the child. It was pointed out that the child suffers from autism spectrum disorder; hence he has always been under exclusive care of the respondent whereas the petitioner never had any affection or association with the child. Regarding the respondent’s relocation to New Zealand, it was submitted that both the mother and the child are the citizens of New Zealand and since the country is free from the current Covid-19 pandemic, hence it is a safe haven for her son.

Perusing the contentions of the parties and the Order given by the Family Court, the Court observed that the petitioner could not sufficiently establish the mental instability of the respondent, as the materials presented by him does not establish the respondent’s unsoundness of mind, prima facie. Deliberating upon the validity of the Order passed by the Family Court, the Bench noted that the Family Court had correctly taken into account all the relevant circumstances and materials on record; its view is certainly a possible view, which a Court of law might well take.

The impugned Order has fairly and adequately addressed prima facie merits of the case as also the question of balance of convenience. Regarding the petitioner’s claims, the Court noted that he denied any matrimonial relationship between himself and the respondent, and thereby, legitimacy to the minor child. The child, who is a special child, has been taken care of and looked after by the respondent mother ever since his birth. It is therefore the mother who has an indefeasible legal right to his natural guardianship over the petitioner. [Dharmesh Vasantrai Shah v. Renuka Prakash Tiwari, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 697 , decided on 09-06-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

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

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

Background

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

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

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

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

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

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

Decision

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Manoj Kumar Ohri, J., allowed a criminal revision petition filed by the complainant-wife challenging the order of the family court whereby the maintenance of Rs 20,000 under Section 125 CrPC was awarded to her only from the date of the order.

The wife represented by Amitabh Kumar Verma, Advocate, contended that the family court ought to have granted the maintenance from the date of the application filed under Section 125. Per contra, Charu Bharadwaj, Advocate appearing for the respondent-husband supported the order passed by the family court.

After considering the facts of the case, the High Court reiterated: “the maintenance to a wife is not a bounty but is the award so that she can survive, it is normally to be awarded from the date of the application. In the present case, the family court, while passing the final order, has not given any reasons as to why the maintenance was awarded only from the date of the passing of the order and not from the date of filing of the petition.” It was noted that Section 354(6) CrPC requires that every final order under Section 125, should contain the pints for determination, the decision thereon and the reasons for the decision. One of the points to be determined while awarding maintenance is the time from which such maintenance is to be granted. Since the final order passed by the family court did not mention any reason or justification for the award of the maintenance from the date of the order, it was set aside only to the aforesaid limited extent.

Furthermore, placing reliance on Jaiminiben Hirenbhai Vyas v. Hirenbhai Rameshchandra Vyas, (2015) 2 SCC 385Bhuwan Mohan Singh v. Meena, (2015) 6 SCC 353Nisha Saifi v. Mohd. Shahid, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7902; and Bimla Devi v. Shamsher Singh, 2015 SCC OnLine Del 11553, the High Court observed: “Once the court comes to a conclusion that the wife is entitled to an award of maintenance, the assessment relates back to the date of the application and as such there have to be compelling reasons for the family court to restrict the award of maintenance from the date of the order and not from the date of the application.”

In such view of the matter, the final order passed by the family court was modified to the extent that the husband will pay the maintenance to the wife amounting to Rs 20,000 from the date of the filing of the application. The husband was further directed to clear the entire amount of arrears within a period of six months. [Asha Karki v. Rajesh Karki, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 444, decided on 29-01-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: A Division Bench of Mohammad Rafiq and Narendra Singh Dhaddha, JJ. quashed the appeal which pointed out that the appeal against the judgment of the Family Court was invalid as the period of limitation for filing an appeal against the judgment of the Family Court vis-à-vis the Family Courts Act, 1984 had expired.

The counsel for the appellant, Ganesh Khanna on behalf of Shiven Gupta, taking note of Section 19(3) of the Family Courts Act which prescribes a period of 30 days for filing an appeal, pointed out the delay of 57 days in filing of the appeal. However, the Court also considered provisions of Section 28(4) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 which postulates a period of 90 days for filing an appeal against any decree or order passed under the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act.

The Court relied on Bombay High Court’s view in Shivram Dodanna Shetty v. Shamila Shivram Shetty, 2016 SCC OnLine Bom 9844 which held the limitation period prescribed in the Hindu Marriage Act to be the prevailing one since it had seen the latest amendment with respect to the period of limitations.

In view of the above, the Court ordered the Judicial Registrar of the Court to issue the necessary direction to the Office which was to consider 90 days as the period of limitation with respect to appeals filed against the judgments and decrees passed by the Family Court. [Kuldeep Yadav v. Anita Yadav, 2019 SCC OnLine Raj 4016, decided on 06-11-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerela High Court: The Division Bench of K. Harilal and P. Somarajan, JJ. dismissed a writ petition regarding the determining interim custody of the child of the parties. 

In the present case, the petitioner and the first respondent are the husband and wife, respectively and they were living with their child in Qatar. On the 07.10.2019, the respondent, picked the child from his school and arrived at Kochi, India, without any prior permission or knowledge of the petitioner. Thus, the child is under illegal custody of the respondent. 

Upon issuance of a notice by the present court, the mother of the first respondent, appeared before the court and submitted that the first respondent had already filled an application before the family court, Pala and had obtained an order of injunction restraining the petitioner from taking the custody of the child during the pendancy of the original petition.

High Court upon perusal of the arguments of the parties, stated that the dispute involved in the present writ petition relates to that of the custody of the child between a father and mother, hence a family court is a more competent forum for determining the custody, considering the welfare of the child. The bench also directed the family court to advance the matter and pass an interim order determining the interim custody of the child, till the final disposal of the original petition.  [Aurif Bin Thaj v. Besse Ann George,  2019 SCC OnLine Ker 3470, decided on 22-10-2019] 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: The Division Bench of S.N. Satyanarayana and P.G.M. Patil, JJ. allowed this appeal and remanded the matter back to the Principal Judge, Family Court.

In this instant case, the Respondent – wife in M.C. No. 268 of 2016 before the Family Court, Hubballi has appealed impugning the judgment of the Principal Judge. The petition of the aforesaid M.C. No. 268 of 2016 was filed by the husband of the Respondent (herein appellant). 

Their marriage took place on 11.05.2011 and they have a son. The appellant alleged that the husband/respondent threw her out of the matrimonial house on 01.07.2015. Thereafter, she went to her parental house in Rajasthan and filed a petition in F.C. No. 53 of 2018 under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 seeking restitution of conjugal rights. Meanwhile, the husband secured a decree of divorce in M.C. No. 268 of 2016. 

The wife came to know from the certified copy of the judgment of the Principal Judge that the husband filed the matrimonial case by giving wrong address of the wife and therefore the notice never reached the wife and thereby securing a decree of divorce ex parte.

After having heard both the counsels for appellant (H.R. Gundappa) and respondent (Gurudev Gachchinamath), the Court observed that there were instances where the respondent – husband could have informed the appellant – wife about the proceedings in the Court but did not. The Husband kept it from the wife. Therefore, it is clear from the very face of it that the decree was secured with malafide intentions so as to curtail the right of his wife and maintenance of minor son. The Court also gave light to how the decree was granted. The decree was granted without appreciating the material on record and also by not following the statutory provisions which are required to be seen by the Court below while considering granting the decree of divorce. Hence, the decree was set aside.[Renu v. Kamalesh, 2019 SCC OnLine Kar 1655, decided on 29-08-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: Hitesh Kumar Sarma, J. dismissed a revision petition filed against the order of the family court whereby the petitioner was directed to pay a monthly sum of Rs 2000 each to his wife and child towards their maintenance under Section 125 CrPC.

The wife had left petitioner’s home due to alleged torture inflicted upon her and thereafter she filed an application under Section 125 claiming maintenance which was allowed by the family court in the terms above. The petitioner was a Government Servant earning a monthly salary of about Rs 22,000.

The High Court noted that while the wife was staying at her parental house, she was not provided maintenance which amounted to negligence in the sense that the petitioner was bound to maintain the wife and the child, which is a settled legal position. It was also noted that the allegation that the wife was working in a school and earning money could not be established by the petitioner and no specific evidence to that effect was laid by him. It was observed: “In the absence of any specific evidence, it cannot be held that the wife/respondent was earning sufficient amount to maintain herself. That being so, in the absence of any specific evidence as to the income of the respondent/wife, the petitioner/husband is bound to maintain his wife and the child fathered by him.”

In that view of the matter, the Court did not find any reason to interfere with the order of the family court. The revision petition was accordingly dismissed. [Jotirmoy Kalita v. Jonamoni Kalita, 2019 SCC OnLine Gau 2245, Order dated 07-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: The Bench of Ahsanuddin Amanullah, J. was hearing an application under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 which sought quashing of Family Court’s order whereby applicant-husband was directed to pay maintenance to his wife (2nd respondent herein).

At the outset, this Court called for a report from the Family Court, in the present matter. The said report stated that the applicant, till date had not complied with Family Court’s order to pay maintenance. At this juncture, learned counsel for the applicant Mr Dineshwar Prasad Singh submitted that he may be permitted to withdraw the application.

The Court opined that the applicant could not be allowed to simply withdraw the application, when his mala fide conduct stood exposed. It was observed that strict order was required to ensure payment of maintenance to the 2nd respondent, moreso, when there was a judicial order to that effect. The Court, under its inherent power under Section 482 CrPC is also required to pass an order for securing the ends of justice.

Accordingly, the application was disposed of as withdrawn, directing the Family Court to take all coercive measures against the applicant for ensuring compliance of its order directing payment of maintenance.[Sanjay Yadav v. State of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 601, Order dated 03-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Bench of G.S. Sistani and Jyoti Singh, JJ. dismissed an appeal filed against the order of the family court whereby the appellant’s application demanding a DNA test of the child born to her wife was rejected.

In his pleadings, the husband had submitted that the wife was not living with him at the relevant time and therefore he could not be the father of the child born to her. This fact was denied by the wife in her written statement. Pertinently, the husband did not lead any evidence to substantiate his pleading that the wife was not in the matrimonial home at the relevant time. Consequently, his demand for conducting a DNA test of the child to ascertain the paternity was rejected.

The High Court did not find any infirmity in the family court’s order. Reference was made to Section 112 of the Evidence Act which says that birth during marriage to be a conclusive proof of legitimacy unless it can be shown that the parties had no access to each-other at the time when the child could have been begotten. But as noted above, the husband did not lead any evidence to substantiate his pleading. The High Court observed: An application seeking DNA test of the child in our view has very strong repercussion on the child and such an order for conducting a DNA test should be passed in very rare cases where very strong reasons are set out and in extreme circumstances when the matter cannot be resolved by leading evidence in the matter.” In such view of the matter, the appeal was dismissed. [CKP v. MP, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8077, dated 02-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: The Division Bench of A.M. Shaffique and A.M.Babu, JJ. dismissed an appeal against the judgment of Family Court directing the husband to pay an amount of Rs 2,25,000 to his wife.

In the present case, the appellant and respondent were a married couple. The grievance of the respondent-wife was that at the time of her marriage she was given 25 sovereigns of gold ornaments which was appropriated by the appellant for his business purpose. But, appellant-husband denied the allegation of having appropriated any of her gold ornaments. The Family Court decreed return of respondent’s ornaments. Aggrieved thereby, the instant appeal was filed.

The appellant submitted that being from a poor family, respondent did not have the capacity to purchase any gold ornaments. Therefore his family had purchased the ornaments from a gold merchant. But the same was returned to merchant later since they did not have enough money to pay for it. However, later he vacillated from his statement and contended that the ornaments were imitation gold. Respondent argued that if the ornaments were imitation gold, then, in that case, the appellant’s contention that the ornaments were returned to the seller, itself was wrong.

The Court noted that though specific details regarding appropriation of gold ornaments had not been given by the respondent-wife; but she had specifically stated in her petition that her gold ornaments were taken and invested for appellant’s business purpose. It was opined that as far as a wife is concerned when her husband demands gold ornaments for his business it may not be possible for her to refuse. Therefore, there was every reason to believe the version of the respondent in view of contradictory contentions taken by appellant. In view thereof, no infirmity was found in the impugned order.[Muraleedharan Pillai v. Ambili Chellappan, 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 688, Order dated 22-02-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the issue relating to custody of a child where the question was as to whether the Counsellor’s report furnished in the course of mediation proceedings or the Mediator’s report in case of mediation, when the process fails, can be used by either of the parties during trial, the bench of Abhay Manohar Sapre and UU Lalit, JJ held:

“Complete adherence to confidentiality would absolutely be correct in normal matters where the role of the court is purely of an adjudicator. But such an approach may not essentially be conducive when the court is called upon and expected to discharge its role in the capacity as parens patriae and is concerned with the welfare of a child.”

On general rule of confidentiality in Mediation:

It is true that the process of mediation is founded on the element of confidentiality. In the process, the parties may make statements which they otherwise they would not have made while the matter was pending adjudication before a court of law. Such statements which are essentially made in order to see if there could be a settlement, ought not to be used against the maker of such statements in case at a later point the attempts at mediation completely fail. If the statements are allowed to be used at subsequent stages, the element of confidence which is essential for healthy mediation/conciliation would be completely lost.

On exception in issue relating to custody of a child:

The Court said that in order to reach correct conclusion, the court may interview the child or may depend upon the analysis of an expert who may spend some more time with the child and gauge the upbringing, personality, desires or mental frame of the child and render assistance to the court. It is precisely for this reason that the element of confidentiality which is otherwise the basic foundation of mediation/conciliation, to a certain extent, is departed from in Sub-Rule (viii) of Rule 8 of the Family Court Rules.

Statements made by the parents during the course of mediation may not be relied upon on the ground of confidentiality but natural responses and statements made by the minor to the Counsellor would certainly afford a chance to decide what is in the best interest of the child as a child may respond naturally and spontaneously in its interactions with the Counsellor, who is professionally trained to make the child feel comfortable. Stating that record of such interaction may afford valuable inputs to the Court in discharge of its duties in parens patriae jurisdiction, the Court said:

“The intention is clear that the normal principle of confidentiality will not apply in matters concerning custody or guardianship issues and the Court, in the best interest of the child, must be equipped with all the material touching upon relevant issues in order to render complete justice.”

[Perry Kansagra v. Smriti Madan Kansagra, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 211, decided on 15.02.2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Bench of R.G. Ketkar, J. while deciding on a petition concerning the interim custody of a child stated that, “it is settled law that while considering the interim custody, welfare of child is paramount consideration.”

It has been stated that the learned trial judge had rejected the application made by the petitioner for the interim custody of his son, Ishan and had directed the respondent, Gauri Kulkarni to handover son, Ishan on every Sunday so that he would enjoy the company of their son.

Facts of the case are that Prasad for the betterment of son Ishan, along with his wife Gauri decided to shift from Sangli to Pune with Ishan’s grandparents, thereafter Gauri took away Ishan forcibly to Kolhapur and that is when the present petition was filed.

It was stated that, learned trial Judge observed that during the course of interaction with Ishan, he found that he is very brilliant and is able to understand right or wrong. Ishan showed his desire to pursue further education at Kolhapur itself instead of any international school at Pune and informed the learned trial Judge that he has now adjusted himself at Vibgyor School, Kolhapur. Therefore, it became clear that he was reluctant to go with his father and not willing to pursue education at Pune.

In the present petition, Prasad asserted that trial Judge did not appreciate the fact that, Ishan had told the trial Judge about not being able to cope up with the CBSE Board Curriculum at all and that he was facing a lot of mental tension along with sleepless nights.

On these assertions, the matter was fixed at the Chambers of the present High Court Bench of Bombay, wherein the interactions between the parties along with Ishan separately had taken place. During the course of interaction, Ishan empathetically made it clear that he wants to stay in Pune and join Symbiosis school so that he can pursue his hobbies in sports and more. Also on interacting with Gauri, it was noted that she had no objection if Ishan wanted to shift. Though she stated that for any ailments she should not be held responsible and the grandparents of Ishan and Prasad should take care of him during such period.

Thus the High Court held that welfare of Ishan lies in his shifting to Pune and studying there so as to pursue his hobbies. [Prasad Vilas Kulkarni v. Gauri Prasad Kulkarni, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 238, dated 31-01-2019]

Case BriefsDistrict Court

Tis Hazari Court, Delhi (Family Court): The Bench of Reema Singh Nag, Additional Principal Judge dismissed a custody petition filed by a mother of 2 minor children against their father living in the United States of America.

As per the factual matrix of the case, the petitioner (mother) and the respondent (father) are both citizens of USA. They married in the year 2006 in New York as per US Civil Laws. The matrimonial home of the couple is in Connecticut. Both are dentists and have their joint dental practice in Stamford, Connecticut. Two children were born to the couple from the wedlock, both of whom are US citizens. There was a matrimonial discord between the couple. The petitioner alleged various counts of mental and physical harassment against the respondent; while the respondent denied the same and contra-alleged that the petitioner suffered from borderline personality disorder. The couple visited India in January 2016 to attend a wedding; they were scheduled to return in March 2016 but the petitioner refused to return. Subsequently, the respondent obtained a custody order from the US courts for both the kids and also filed a writ of habeas corpus before the Delhi High Court which was allowed. The habeas corpus order was challenged by the petitioner in the Supreme Court which matter is pending awaiting the decision on the instant petition.

The Family Court on detailed appreciation of the evidence and the law on the subject decided the issues in favour of the respondent and dismissed the petition. While so adjudicating, the Court discussed and made observations on various issues. The observations so made (inter alia) are delineated,  hereinafter:

  • Simply by taking oath of allegiance to the Constitution of India and applying for Indian citizenship, the petitioner could not invoke jurisdiction of the instant Court.
  • Court could not assist in breach of immigration law by the petitioner, the Court lacked jurisdiction under Section 9 of Guardian and Wards Act, 1956.
  • It was for the petitioner to prove that the respondent was an unfit person for custody of the children, she failed to do so.
  • The parties need to go for periodical expert counselling to learn to behave in presence of kids, for their healthy and natural growth.
  • The civil marriage under US law had its legal consequence and cannot be dissolved under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 unless approved by the USA through judicial verdict.
  • K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India, (2017) 10 SCC 1  does not deal with the guardianship issue. It cannot be extended to imply that a parent subsumes autonomy of the child in the form of guardianship.
  • Every child fits in the definition of best interest of the child as stipulated under Section 2(9) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 since any decision in derogation of this definition would be harmful for the child.
  • Convention on Rights of Child requires that best interest of the child has to be primary consideration in all actions concerning him (Article 3); State is to ensure that no child is separated from parents accept under law (Article 9); and hearing is to be given to the child for weighing his wish according to his age and maturity (Article 12).
  • It is imperative that a child is exposed to nurture by both mother and father equally for his holistic development.
  • Personal development during cognitive ages of a child is sustained upon the bedrock of strong unit of sustained co-operative parenthood.

In the facts and circumstances of the case, the Court was of the view that the paramount welfare of the kids lies in shared parenting in the United States of America. It was held that the petitioner was not entitled to permanent and sole custody of the children. In view of the above, the custody petition was dismissed by the Court. [Jasmeet Kaur v. Navtej Singh,2018 SCC OnLine Fam Ct (Del) 1, dated 20-08-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of J.R. Midha, J. allowed a petition filed against the order of family court whereby opportunity of the petitioner to cross-examine the respondent was closed.

The family court, by its impugned judgment also dismissed the petitioner’s application for waiver of costs of Rs 10,000. Learned counsel for the petitioner sought an opportunity to cross-examine the respondent on payment of costs as imposed by the family court. Learned counsel for the respondent opposed the prayer.

The High Court relied on A. v. T., 2018 SCC OnLine Del 9395, wherein it was observed that it is very difficult to find the truth if the right of cross-examination of any witness is closed in undue haste. Further, cross-examination is a powerful weapon by which the defence can separate the truth from falsehood by piercing through the evidence given by a witness. In view of these categorical observations, the High Court held that one opportunity should be granted to the petitioner to cross-examine the respondent. The date for cross-examination before the family court was fixed, and orders made accordingly. [P. v. R.,2018 SCC OnLine Del 10052, dated 19-07-2018]