Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: RMT. Teeka Raman, J., while addressing a petition observed that,

“A plea of customary divorce is a valid defence in departmental proceedings initiated for the misconduct of bigamy under Service Rules/Conduct Rules.”

The instant petition was sought to set aside the punishment order imposed in proceedings under Rule 3(b) Tamil Nadu Police Subordinate Service (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1955.

Petitioner, during his service, married a staff nurse and has two children. Later, in 2007, the petitioner during his service married a Woman Sub Inspector of Police and had two children with her as well.

Grave Misconduct

Petitioner’s grave misconduct was having married Woman Sub Inspector of Police while his first wife was living with two children and thereby violating Rule 23(1)(b) of the Tamil Nadu Subordinate Police Officer’s Conduct Rules, 1964.

Charge Memo

In view of the above-stated act, a charge memo was issued under Rule 3(b) of the Tamil Nadu Police Subordinate Service (D&A) Rules, 1955.

The Oral Enquiry Officer held the charge against the petitioner.

Deputy Inspector General of Police also arrived at the conclusion that the petitioner violated Rule 23(1)(b) of the Tamil Nadu Subordinate Police Officers’ Conduct Rules, 1964 and awarded the petitioner a punishment of “Reduction in rank by the stage from the post of Head Constable to Gr.I PC for a period of two years to be spent on duty from the date of receipt of the order”.

Senior Counsel, Veera Kathiravan submitted that there was a customary divorce between the petitioner and his first wife and subsequently the petitioner married the widow Woman Sub-Inspector of Police and hence he did not violate any rules.

Analysis & Decision

Crux of the charge framed against the petitioner was that the delinquent was reprehensible conduct in having married the Woman Sub-Inspector of Police when his first wife was living and thereby violating the Rule 23(1)(b) of the Tamil Nadu Subordinate Police Officers’ Conduct Rules 1964 and tarnished the image of Police Force.

Hindu Marriage Act

Bench stated that after the coming into force of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, an end to marriage can be sought by either obtaining a declaration that the marriage between them was a nullity on the grounds specified in Section II or to dissolve the marriage between them on any of the grounds mentioned in Section 13 of the Act. While, Section 29 of the Act saves the rights recognized by custom or conferred by special enactment to obtain the dissolution of marriage, whether solemnized before or after the commencement of the Act.

Authorities have established that the prevalence of customary divorce in the community to which parties belong, contrary to the general law of divorce must be specifically pleaded and established by the person propounding such custom.

Core question to be decided in the present matter was whether the plea of customary divorce is a valid defence in the departmental proceedings initiated for action of bigamy as defined in Section 3(b) of the Tamil Nadu Police Rules?

Bench noted the statement of the first wife that due to misunderstandings between the couple, as per the custom prevailing in the community, there was a customary divorce.

Customary Divorce

Hence, the plea raised by the delinquent about the prevalence of customary divorce in their community which was pleaded by the petitioner and the same was accepted by none other than the first wife herself only after the dissolution of the first marriage, he contracted the second marriage.

Court concluded its decision as follows:

  • Disciplinary Proceedings can be initiated even if the second marriage is contracted with the knowledge of the first wife so also even if the first wife does not prosecute the husband for the same and hence the complaint given by the third party alleging contract of the second marriage, departmental proceedings can still be maintainable.
  • A plea of customary divorce is a valid defence in departmental proceedings initiated for the misconduct of bigamy under Service Rules/Conduct Rules.
  • To substantiate plea of customary divorce a specific plea has to be raised in the statement of defence by the delinquent officer and has to be proved on up to the decree of the preponderance of probability and execution of the customary divorce as projected by the delinquent.

Hence, in view of the above, the petition was allowed and the punishment was set aside. [Sudalaimai v. Deputy Inspector General of Police, WP (MD) No. 17504 of 2014, decided on 09-09-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: J.R. Midha, J. laid modified directions and affidavit of assets, income and expenditure to be filed by both the parties at the very threshold of a matrimonial litigation. The Court has modified the directions and the format of affidavit already issued in earlier judgments of the Delhi High Court.

These modified directions/guidelines shall apply to all matrimonial cases including cases under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005; Section 125 CrPC; Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956; Special Marriage Act, 1954; Indian Divorce Act, 1869; Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 and Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956.

Earlier directions and affidavit

The directions to be followed while dealing with matrimonial cases were first issued in Kusum Sharma (1) v. Mahinder Kumar Sharma, 2014 SCC OnLine Del 7672. Further, in exercise of the powers under Section 10(3) of the Family Courts Act, 1984 read with Sections 106 and 165 of the Evidence Act and Article 227 of the Constitution of India, the format of affidavit of assets, income and expenditure was formulated by the Court in Kusum Sharma (2) v. Mahinder Kumar Sharma, 2015 SCC OnLine Del 6793 and the directions were modified. By its judgment in Kusum Sharma (3) v. Mahinder Kumar Sharma, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 11796, the Court modified the affidavit formulated in Kusum Sharma (2). Finally, in Kusum Sharma (4) v. Mahinder Kumar Sharma, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 12534, the directions and the affidavit were further modified. The modified directions in Kusum Sharma (4) have been in effect since 1st January 2018.

Need for modification

The High Court has now modified the earlier affidavit in Kusum Sharma (4) to make it more comprehensive. In the earlier judgments, the High Court considered International Best Practices including 10 affidavits of assets, income and expenditure used in 5 countries. 50 more formats of affidavits of assets, income and expenditure of various countries namely USA, UK, Ireland, Singapore, Canada, Australia and South Africa had now come to the notice of the Court. Thus, the Court was of the view that its judgment in Kusum Sharma (4) warrants modification.

The Bhandari Engineers case connection

In Bhandari Engineers & Builders( P) Ltd. (1) v. Maharia Raj Joint Venture (Ex. P. 275 of 2012, dt. 5-12-2019), the Delhi High Court had formulated an affidavit of assets, income and expenditure to be filed by the judgment-debtor in execution cases. By its decision in Bhandari Engineers & Builders( P) Ltd. (2) v. Maharia Raj Joint Venture (Ex. P. 275 of 2012, dt. 5-8-2020), the Court modified and improved the format of the affidavit to make it more comprehensive and further directions were passed so that the execution cases are decided within a period of 1 year from the date of their institution. In the Court’s opinion, the affidavits formulated in Bhandari Engineers (2) are far more comprehensive than the affidavit formulated by the Court for matrimonial cases. Therefore, the Court considered it appropriate to incorporate the benevolent features of Bhandari Engineers (2) in the format of the affidavits of assets, income and expenditure in matrimonial cases.

Affidavit of Assets, Income and Expenditure in matrimonial cases

The modified affidavit of assets, income and expenditure (“Annexure A2” in the present Judgment) is very comprehensive and is useful to determine the maintenance in matrimonial litigation.

Salaried person

A salaried person is required to disclose the particulars of his employment including salary, DA, commissions, incentives, bonus, perks, perquisites, other benefits, Income tax, etc.

Self-employed person

A self-employed person is required to disclose the nature of business/profession, share in the business, net worth of the business, number of employees, annual turnover/gross receipts, gross profit, Income Tax, net income and regular monthly withdrawal/drawings from the business.

Income from other sources

The parties are further required to disclose income from other sources, namely, agricultural income, rent, interest on bank deposits and other investments, dividends, mutual funds, annuities, profit on sale of movable/immovable assets, etc.

Assets

With respect to the assets, the parties are required to disclose the particulars of the immovable properties, financial assets including bank accounts, DEMAT accounts, safety deposit lockers; investments including FDRs, stocks, shares, insurance policies, loans, foreign investments; movable assets including motor vehicles, mobiles, computer, laptop, electronic gadgets, gold, silver and diamond jewellery, etc.; intangible assets; garnishee(s)/trade receivables; corporate/business interests; disposal and parting away of properties; properties acquired by the family members, inheritance.

Standard of living and lifestyle

The affidavit requires the parties to disclose their standard of living and lifestyle, namely, credit/debit cards, membership of clubs and other associations, loyalty programmes, social media accounts, domestic helps and their wages, mode of travel in city and outside city, category of hotels, category of hospitals for medical treatment, frequency of foreign travel, frequent flyer cards, brand of mobile, wrist watch, pen, expenditure ordinarily incurred on family functions, festivals and marriage of family members, etc.

Household expenditure, etc.

The affidavit further requires the disclosure of expenditure on housing, household expenditure, maintenance of dependents, transport, medical expenditure, insurance, entertainment, holiday and vacations, litigation expenses, discharge of liabilities, etc.

 Modified Directions

The modified directions laid down by the Court in the present decision in Kusum Sharma (5) are delineated below:

(1) The Court has to ascertain the financial capacity/status of the parties for determining the maintenance and permanent alimony. A comprehensive affidavit of assets, income and expenditure of both the parties is necessary to determine their financial capacity/status.

 (2) Upon completion of the pleadings in the maintenance application, the Court shall fix the date for reconciliation and direct the parties to simultaneously file the affidavits of their assets, income and expenditure. The Court shall also direct the party seeking maintenance to produce the passbook of his/her savings bank account in which maintenance can be directly deposited/transferred by the opposite party.

(3) The Court shall simultaneously take on record the affidavit of assets, income and expenditure of both the parties. The simultaneous filing of the affidavit by the parties is very important and should be strictly adhered to. The simultaneous filing of the affidavit by the parties would avoid any undue advantage to the party who files his/her affidavit later. It is clarified that the affidavit of assets, income and expenditure is not to be filed along with the petition/application or written statement/reply.

(4) If a party is carrying on the business as proprietor of proprietorship concern/partner of a partnership concern/director of a company/member of a HUF/trustee of a trust/ member of a society or in any other form/entity, the Court may consider directing the party to file an additional affidavit with respect to the assets of the proprietorship concern/partnership concern/ company/society/HUF/Trust, as the case may be, in the format of Annexure B1 attached to Bhandari Engineers (2).

(5) In pending maintenance cases, if the parties have not already filed the affidavit of their assets, income and expenditure, the Court shall direct the parties to file their affidavit in the format of Annexure A2.

(6) If the reconciliation fails, the Court shall grant an opportunity to the parties to respond to the affidavit of the opposite party and list the maintenance application for hearing.

(7) The Courts shall ensure that the filing of the affidavits by the parties is not reduced to a mere ritual or formality. If the affidavit of the party is not in the prescribed format or is not accompanied with all the relevant documents, the Court may take the affidavit on record and grant reasonable time to the party to remove the defects/deficiencies.

(8) In appropriate cases, the Court may direct a party to file an additional affidavit relating to his assets, income and expenditure at the time of marriage and/or one year before separation and/or at the time of separation.

(9) If the party does not truly disclose all his assets and income, the opposite party is at liberty to serve the interrogatories under Order 11 CPC and/or seek production of relevant documents from the party filing the affidavit.

(10) In appropriate cases, Court may order interrogatories, discovery, inspection, production of any document and/or order any fact to be proved by affidavit under Section 30 CPC.

(11) The Court shall, thereafter, consider whether the oral examination of the party is necessary under Section 165 of the Evidence Act. If so, the Court shall proceed to examine the party to elicit the truth. The principles relating to the scope and powers of the Court under Section 165 of the Evidence Act have been summarised in Ved Parkash Kharbanda v. Vimal Bindal, 2013 SCC OnLine Del 994, which may be referred to.

(12) If the admitted income of the parties is on record, such as, in the case of a salaried employee whose salary slip is on record, the Court may fix ad-interim maintenance on the basis of the admitted documents pending filing of the affidavit of the assets, income and expenditure by both the parties. The Court may record the statement of the parties, if considered necessary for fixing the ad-interim maintenance.

(13) If any party delays in filing of the affidavit of assets, income and expenditure or the affidavit filed by a party is not in terms of these directions or a party delays the disclosure of further information/documents and the delay is causing hardship, the Court is at liberty to fix ad-interim maintenance after hearing the parties.

(14) If the statements made in affidavit of assets, income and expenditure are found to be incorrect, the Court shall consider its effect by drawing an adverse inference or imposing additional cost, while fixing the maintenance. However, an action under Section 340 CrPC is ordinarily not warranted in matrimonial litigation till the decision of the main petition unless the Court, for the reasons to be recorded, considers it expedient in the interest of justice, to deal with it earlier.

(15) At the time of issuing notice on the petition for dissolution of marriage, the Court shall consider directing the petitioner to deposit such sum, as the Court may consider appropriate for payment to the respondent towards interim litigation/part litigation expenses; except in cases, such as, divorce petition by the wife who is unable to support herself and is claiming maintenance from the respondent husband.

(16) The interim litigation expenses directed by the Court at the stage of issuing notice, does not preclude the respondent from seeking further litigation expenses incurred by the respondent at a later stage. The Court shall consider the respondent‘s claim for litigation expenses and pass an appropriate order on the merits of each case.

(17) At the time of passing a decree of divorce, the Court shall bring to the notice of the party concerned, as the case may be, that he/she can claim permanent alimony without prejudice to his/her right to challenge the decree of divorce and if the party seeks permanent alimony, at that stage, for which an oral prayer/application is sufficient, the Court shall fix the permanent alimony on the basis of the affidavits of assets, income and expenditure, after hearing both the parties. However, if the affidavits have not been filed at the stage of fixing the permanent alimony, the Court shall direct the parties to file the same before fixing the permanent alimony.

(18) In Bhandari Engineers & Builders( P) Ltd. (2) v. Maharia Raj Joint Venture (Ex. P. 275 of 2012, dt. 5-8-2020) the Delhi High Court has laid down comprehensive guidelines and has formulated affidavit of assets, income and expenditure to be filed by the judgment-debtor in execution proceedings, which may be considered in execution cases of the maintenance order apart from following the specific statutory provisions such as Sections 125 to 127 CrPC.

(19) The affidavit of assets, income and expenditure is to be treated as guidelines to determine the true financial capacity/status of the parties. The Courts are at liberty to determine the nature and extent of information/documents necessary and to direct the parties to disclose relevant information and documents to determine their financial capacity/status. The Courts are at liberty to pass appropriate directions as may be considered necessary to do complete justice between the parties and in appropriate cases, such as, the cases belonging to the lowest strata of the society or case of a litigant who is a permanently disabled/paralytic, the Court may, for reasons to be recorded, dispense with the requirement of filing of the affidavit or modify the information required.

(20) These modified directions/guidelines shall apply to all matrimonial cases including cases under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005; Section 125 CrPC; Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956; Special Marriage Act, 1954; Indian Divorce Act, 1869; Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 and Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956.

(21) Matrimonial jurisdiction deserves a special attention and the maintenance applications should be decided expeditiously.

(22) The Courts below shall expedite the maintenance proceedings and shall make an endeavour to decide them within the prescribed time. The Family Courts shall send the list of all pending maintenance cases which are more than one year old, through the Principal Judge, Family Court. The list shall contain the name of the case; date of institution; number of hearings that have taken place; and the reasons for such delay. List be prepared according to the seniority, i.e. the oldest case shall be mentioned first. The Principal Judge, Family Court shall compile the lists of all Family Courts and shall send them to the Registrar General of the Delhi High Court by 31st December 2020 for being placed before the High Court.

Ancillary directions and suggestions

(a) The amici curiae submitted that the matter be kept pending for seeking feedback/comments of the Family Courts after implementation of the modified directions/guidelines. The matter is to be listed on 18th December 2020.

(b) The Court was of the view that the mandatory filing of the affidavit of assets, income and expenditure by the parties in a detailed prescribed form should be incorporated in the statutes, as in the developed countries. The Court was of the view that this suggestion be considered by the Central Government. Copy of the present judgment along with Annexure A2 is directed to be sent to Chetan Sharma, ASG, for taking up the matter with Ministry of Law and Justice.

(c) The modified directions and format of affidavit of assets, income and expenditure (Annexure A2) is directed to be uploaded on the website of the District Court (in .pdf format) to enable the lawyers/litigants to download the same.

(d) Copy of the present judgment and modified format of the affidavit of assets, income and expenditure (Annexure A2) is directed to be sent to the Registrar General of this Court who shall circulate it to the District Judge (Headquarters) and Principal Judge, Family Courts (Headquarters) for being circulated to all the concerned courts.

(e) Copy of the judgment along with the modified format of the affidavit of assets, income and expenditure (Annexures A2) is directed to be sent to the Delhi Judicial Academy to sensitise the judges about the modified directions laid down by the High Court.

(f) National Judicial Academy is reporting the best practices of the High Courts on their website (www.nja.nic.in) under the head of Practices & Initiatives of various High Courts. Copy of the present judgment along with Annexure A2 is directed to be sent to National Judicial Academy.

Note of appreciation

The Court appreciated the assistance rendered by Sunil Mittal, Senior Advocate and Anu Narula, Advocate as amici curiae. The Court also appreciated the extensive research on corresponding law in other countries by Akshay Chowdhary, Law Researcher, attached to the Delhi High Court. [Kusum Sharma (5) v. Mahinder Kumar Sharma, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 931, decided on 6-8-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A Division Bench of Ravi Malimath and Narayan Singh Dhanik, JJ., allowed an appeal which was filed aggrieved by the order passed by the trial court in ordering the medical examination of the wife.

The respondent-wife was alleged to have committed various acts of cruelty; that she had also deserted her husband, therefore, he filed the petition before the Family Court under Sections 13 (ia) and 13 (ib) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. During the pendency of the proceedings, on an application made by the husband, the impugned order was passed by the trial court directing the medical examination of the wife to ascertain whether she was in a position to conceive or not. Thus, the present appeal.

The Counsel for the appellant wife, Harshpal Sekhon contended that wife undergoing a medical test to ascertain whether she can conceive or not is something unheard of and further whether she can conceive or not is irrelevant to the facts and circumstances of the case.

The Court while allowing the appeal quashed the Family Court’s Order and  stated that husband had sought for a decree of divorce on the grounds under Sections 13 (ia) and 13 (ib) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Section 13 (ia) is with regard to cruelty and Section 13 (ib) is with regard to desertion. Therefore, the husband would have to establish these two facts before the court in order to seek divorce on these grounds. The ability of the wife to conceive or not has no relevance or any nexus with sub-section (ia) or (ib) of Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act. Her ability to conceive or not is irrelevant in the present proceedings. [Rashmi Gupta v. Yogesh Babu, 2020 SCC OnLine Utt 339 , decided on 01-07-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Sudhir Mittal, J., addressed a matter of registration of marriage.

Issue in focus 

Application for registration of marriage was filed in the year 2019, yet the same has not been registered till date.

Counsel for the petitioners submit that petitioner 2 was below 21 years of age on the date of marriage and thus it is in violation of Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

However, in view of Section 11 and 12 of HMA, marriage was only voidable. Parties did not seek to avoid marriage and thus, there is no legal bar on registration of the same.

Bench

In view of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, in case a marriage is solemnized in violation of the age restriction laid down therein, the marriage is only voidable.

Since parties have not sought the annulment of marriage the same is being sought to get registered and thus there is no legal bar to its registration.

Court directed Respondents 2 to 4 to ensure that the marriage be registered within 2 weeks. [Deepak Kumar v. State of Haryana, 2020 SCC OnLine P&H 759 , decided on 15-06-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: While deciding the instant petition filed by a runaway couple seeking protection from arrest and bodily harm that they apprehend, can be caused by the police and the private respondents respectively, the Bench of Rajiv Narain Raina, J., held that in matters such as one raised in the instant petition, the Courts should abstain itself from evaluation of social norms and introduction of personal ideas related to social morality.

The matter was taken up via video conferencing due to ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. It was contended by the counsel for the respondents that the petitioner is minor. The Court also noted that the petitioners have already submitted their Aadhar Card as proof of their majority, thereby rebutting the respondent’s claim.

Disposing off the petition, the Court referred to Lata Singh v. State of U.P., (2006) 5 SCC 475 and observed that since the petitioner’s prayer for protection is based on Article 21 of the Constitution, therefore it is necessary that the police attends to the matter in all earnestness and ensures that adequate protection is provided to the petitioners from any kind of bodily injury and harm. The Court further noted that, even if it assumes that the petitioner girl is minor, under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 marriage of a minor girl is not void, but voidable upon reaching the marriageable age. [Sumanpreet Kaur v. State of Punjab, 2020 SCC OnLine P&H 694, decided on 12-05-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

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

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

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

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

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: 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

Jammu and Kashmir High Court: A Single Bench of Sanjay Kumar Gupta, J., dismissed a petition filed to challenge the order of Sessions Judge who modified the order of the Chief Judicial Magistrate reducing the interim maintenance payable to the respondents from Rs 4000 per month to Rs 2700 per month. 

The facts of the case were that the petitioner was legally married to the respondent and from the wedlock, a child was born. Thereafter respondents filed a petition under Section 488 CrPC for grant of interim maintenance on the grounds of demand of dowry and cruelty. An application for interim maintenance was also filed, the quantum of which is the moot question here. 

The main contention forwarded by the counsel for the petitioner, Mr C.M. Gupta, was that the petitioner had only a salary of Rs 7500 per month, so he was unable to pay the interim maintenance which was on higher side. Also, the respondent was already getting maintenance under Section 30 of the Hindu Marriage Act. 

The Court while dismissing the petition held that the purpose of granting interim maintenance was to save claimant from vagrancy and destitution. Further, the argument that the petitioner was already getting maintenance under Section 30 of the Hindu Marriage Act, was not tenable as the petitioner had statutory right to get maintenance. Also, petitioner had not annexed any evidence in this regard. [Krishan Singh v. Jyoti Jamwal, 2018 SCC OnLine J&K 991, decided on 18-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, J. allowed a challenge to the order of Additional District Judge for execution of an order passed under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

The facts of the case are such that the Additional District Judge, while taking up an execution case in connection with an alimony order passed under the Hindu Marriage Act, suffered an identity crisis and acted as a Magistrate to invoke provisions of Section 125(3) CrPC and allied provisions to issue a distress warrant against the husband. The Collector was directed to realise the maintenance allowance as arrears of land revenue. The husband assailed the order as sans jurisdiction.

The High Court, at the outset, observed that it is unheard of that an order passed under Section 24 HMA would be executed by taking resort to the provisions of CrPC. In view of the Court, this was a case the execution application was filed under the correct provisions of law, but the Additional District Judge consciously resorted to powers which have no nexus with the proceedings under consideration; the powers that are conferred on a Magistrate and not on an Additional District Judge. As such, it was held that the order impugned was devoid of inherent jurisdiction and could not stand a moment’s scrutiny. Accordingly, the order impugned was set aside. The Additional District Judge was directed to dispose of the matter in accordance with appropriate provisions of law. [Taraknath Mukherjee v. Sandhya Mukherjee, 2018 SCC OnLine Cal 6154, dated 07-09-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Rajiv Sahai Endlaw, J. allowed an appeal filed under Section 28 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 against the judgment of the Additional District Judge whereby the divorce petition filed by the husband was dismissed.

One of the grounds claimed by the husband as an instance of cruelty meted out by the wife was that she filed false complaints against him under Sections 406 and 498-A IPC. It is pertinent to note that the appellant-husband was acquitted of both the charges and no appeal was filed thereagainst by the wife. The husband filed a petition for divorce under Section 13(1)(ia) and (ib) of the HMA which was dismissed by the Additional District Judge. The wife submitted that she would consent to a decree for dissolution of marriage only if the husband agrees to her other demands. Aggrieved thus, the husband preferred the instant appeal.

The High Court perused the record and took notice of the complaint made by the wife against the husband and also the order of acquittal passed in his favour. Reference was also made to Vishwanath Agrawal v. Sarla Vishwanath Agrawal (2012) 7 SCC 288 and Shobha Rani v. Madhukar Reddi, (1988) 1 SCC 105. The Court found that the complaints filed by the wife were false. It was held that the conduct of wife of using her consent to dissolution of marriage by a decree of divorce, to gain an advantage in other litigation, also constitutes cruelty. It shows that the respondent wife also was not interested in matrimonial bond but still wanted to keep the husband bound therewith, till he agrees to her other demands. In the aforesaid state of affairs, the appeals were allowed and the marriage between the parties was dissolved. [Daulat Ram Gupta v. Usha Gupta,2018 SCC OnLine Del 10376, dated 30-07-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: An appeal filed by the wife against the decree of divorce by mutual consent, was allowed by a Division Bench comprising of Pankaj Mithal and Rajiv Joshi, JJ.

A decree was passed by the family court under Section 13-B of Hindu Marriage Act (HMA), 1955 for dissolution of the marriage of the appellant-wife and her husband by mutual consent. The wife preferred the appeal under Section 28 HMA read with Section 19 of Family Courts Act 1984, against the said decree contending that her consent was obtained by undue influence. The question before the Court was ‘whether an appeal under Section 19 of Family Courts Act would lie against a decree passed under Section 13-B HMA?’

The Court perused Section 13-B and held that a decree of divorce by mutual consent could be passed by the Court only if all the conditions mentioned under the said Section are complied with. The Court referred to Section 23(1) (bb) and relying on Sureshta Devi v. Om Prakash, (1991) 2 SCC 25, held that before passing a decree under Section 13-B, the Court must satisfy itself that the consent of the parties was not obtained by coercion, fraud or undue influence. Further, Section 28 HMA did not place any rider on appeals against a consent decree under the Act. In light of the discussion as mentioned herein, the Court admitted the appeal and directed the issuing of notice to the respondent. [Pooja v. Vijay Chaitanya,  2018 SCC OnLine All 513, dated 06-04-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Ajay Mohan Goel, J. allowed the matrimonial proceedings to be transferred from the Court of Additional District Judge at Amb to the Court of Additional District Judge at Dehra.

Proceedings under Section 13 (1), (1-a) and (1-b) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 were pending against the petitioner before the said Court at Amb. She prayed for transfer of proceedings to Circuit Court at Dehra as she was presently serving as an Assistant Professor (Economics) at the Government College, Kangra. Also, she had a minor school going daughter who was residing with her. According to her, it was difficult to contest the case at Amb.

Having gone through the averments made in the petition, the High Court was of the view that transferring the said proceedings from Amb to Dehra would be in the interest of justice. The Court relied on a Supreme Court decision in Sumita Singh v. Kumar Sanjay, (2001) 10 SCC 41, wherein it was held, “in matrimonial proceedings, it is the wife’s convenience which must be looked into.” While delivering the judgment, the High Court was alive to the fact that such applications are not to be allowed in each and every case; however, in the facts and circumstances of the instant case, the Court transferred the proceedings pending against the wife under Section 13 of Hindu Marriage Act from the Courts at Amb to Dehra. The petition was accordingly allowed. [Monika Sharma v. Manish Kumar, 2018 SCC OnLine HP 631, dated 24-05-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a unique case where a 19-year-old girl Thushara, who had married a 19-year-old boy Nandakumar on 12.04.2017, was sent to the custody of her father by the Kerala High Court on the ground that Thushara was not lawfully wedded to Nadakumar as Nandakumar was not of a marriageable age, the bench of Dr. AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, JJ removed Thushara from the custody of her father & held that the freedom of choice would be of Thushara as to with whom she wants to live.

The present case holds strong similarities to the Hadiya case, where a father had sought the custody of his major daughter as she had married a man of her choice. In the present case as well, Thushara’s father had alleged that she was in illegal custody of Nandakumar and hence, her custody should be entrusted to her. The High Court noticed the fact that Nandakumar will be attaining the marriageable age of 21 years on 30.05.2018 & hence, Thushara was not lawfully wedded wife. The High Court also remarked that apart from the photographs of marriage which were produced in the High Court, there was no evidence to show that a valid marriage was solemnised between the parties. Hence, the custody of Thushara, who was already a major when she married Nandakumar, was entrusted to her father.

When Nandakumar approached the Supreme Court against the order of the High Court, the Court noticed that merely because Nandakumar was less than 21 years of age, it cannot be said that marriage between the parties is null and void. The Court said that both the parties are Hindus and such a marriage is not a void marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and as per the provisions of section 12, which can be attracted in such a case, at the most, the marriage would be a voidable marriage.

Noticing that both the parties were major at the time of marriage, the Court said:

“Even if they were not competent to enter into wedlock (which position itself is disputed), they have right to live together even outside wedlock. It would not be out of place to mention that ‘live-in relationship’ is now recognized by the Legislature itself which has found its place under the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.”

The Court also took note of the 3-judge bench verdict in Shafin Jahan v. Asokan K.M. & Ors.’ [2018 SCC Online SC 343, wherein it was held:

“It needs no special emphasis to state that attaining the age of majority in an individual’s life has its own significance. She/He is entitled to make her/his choice. The courts cannot, as long as the choice remains, assume the role of parens patriae. The daughter is entitled to enjoy her freedom as the law permits and the court should not assume the role of a super guardian being moved by any kind of sentiment of the mother or the egotism of the father. We say so without any reservation.”

[Nandakumar v. State of Kerala, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 492, decided on 20.04.2018]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The Bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar and Dr. DY Chandrachud, JJ refused to interfere with the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 when a 26-year-old Karnataka woman sought direction to make prior consent of a boy or a girl mandatory before marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act. The Court said that the concept of consent is already present in the Act and it does not warrant the interference of the Court. The bench observed that the Section 12C of the Hindu Marriage Act provides for annulment of marriage if there is forced or fraudulent consent.

The woman, who is the daughter of a Karnataka politician had fled to Delhi from her wedding ceremony as she did not approve of the marriage. The Court said that it would treat this petition as a habeas corpus plea and would not deal with the constitutionality of certain provisions of the Act as sought by senior advocate Indira Jaising, who was representing the aggrieved woman.

Though the Court refused pass the directions sought by the woman, it asked the Police to provide security to her. The court directed the superintendent of police concerned to serve notice on the respondents and fixed the matter for further hearing on 5 May.

Source: ANI

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Vineet Kothari, J., decided a writ petition filed by the petitioner-wife under Article 227 of the Constitution, wherein the order of the trial court allowing her Rs. 17,000/- per month as maintenance under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, was upheld.

The parties were before the Family Court in a divorce petition. The abovesaid order allowing pendent lite maintenance was passed under Section 24 of HMA. The petitioner-wife submitted that she was not a working lady, whereas the respondent-husband was a software engineer and was earning Rs. 1,00,000 per month. She contended that the amount of maintenance granted by the court below was very low and needs to be increased.

On perusal of the record, the High Court found that even the petitioner was a highly qualified lady being a software engineer. And this fact was properly considered by the court below while appreciating the evidence and passing the impugned order. After considering this fact the trial court passed the order of maintenance for the wife as well as their son. The High Court was of the view that a highly qualified wife is capable of maintaining herself as well as the child. Therefore, the High Court did not find any error with the order passed by the trial court and accordingly, the petition was dismissed. [Sandhya K. v. A. Manohar, WP No. 8216 of 2018 (GM-FC), decided on 8.3.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: While deciding an appeal filed under Section 28 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, a Division Bench comprising of L. Narayana Swamy, J and Dr. H.B. Prabhakara Sastry, J. dissolved the marriage solemnized between the appellant-husband and the respondent-wife holding that the wife deserted the husband for a continuous period of not less than two years.

The husband filed the petition under Section 13(1)(ib) of HMA against his wife, seeking dissolution of their marriage. The said petition was dismissed by the learned Principal Judge. The appellant contended that the court below committed a serious error even after assessing the evidence of the respondent who categorically stated in her disposition that she did not want to live with the appellant.

The High Court perused the material on record and submissions made in behalf of the parties. The Court found that the respondent in her cross-examination admitted that she resided with her husband for two years after the marriage and she had lived in her parental home after the marriage for about six years. This meant that after her marriage for more than half of the period she lived at her parental home. It was also noticed that even after graduating in her studies she did not join the husband to live with him. The respondent did not give any reason for her living separately from her husband. It was found that in total, the respondent lived separately from her husband for about 16 years, which fact was established. Accordingly the factum of separation was also established.

It was also observed that ‘desertion’ mentioned under Section 13(1)(ib) of the HMA is not the withdrawal from a place but from a state of things, for what the law seeks to enforce is the recognition and discharge of the common obligations of the married state. In the instant case, the wife sated that she was not ready to live with the husband. As such, the animus deserendi on the part of the wife was established.

Accordingly, the appeal was allowed. The impugned order was set aside and the marriage between the parties was dissolved. [Dundappa v. Renuka, MFA No. 21724 of 2010 (MC), order dated 11.10.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Holding that the minimum period of six months stipulated under Section 13B(2) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for a motion for passing decree of divorce on the basis of mutual consent is not mandatory  is not mandatory but directory, the bench of AK Goel and UU Lalit, JJ said that it will be open to the Court to exercise its discretion in the facts and circumstances of each case where there is no possibility of parties resuming cohabitation and there are chances of alternative rehabilitation.

The Court also said that in conducting such proceedings the Court can also use the medium of video conferencing and also permit genuine representation of the parties through close relations such as parents or siblings where the parties are unable to appear in person for any just and valid reason as may satisfy the Court, to advance the interest of justice.

Waiver of the statutory period under Section 13B(2) can be done after considering the following:

  1. the statutory period of six months specified in Section 13B(2), in addition to the statutory period of one year under Section 13B(1) of separation of parties is already over before the first motion itself;
  2. all efforts for mediation/conciliation including efforts in terms of Order XXXIIA Rule 3 CPC/Section 23(2) of the Act/Section 9 of the Family Courts Act, 1984 to reunite the parties have failed and there is no likelihood of success in that direction by any further efforts;
  3. the parties have genuinely settled their differences including alimony, custody of child or any other pending issues between the parties;
  4. the waiting period will only prolong their agony.

The court also said that the waiver application can be filed one week after the first motion giving reasons for the prayer for waiver and if the above conditions are satisfied, the waiver of the waiting period for the second motion will be in the discretion of the concerned Court. [Amardeep Singh v. Harveen Kaur,  2017 SCC OnLine SC 1073, decided on 12.09.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Explaining the scope of ‘cruelty’ as a ground for dissolution of marriage, the Bench of R.K. Agrawal and A.M. Sapre, JJ held that a petition seeking divorce on some isolated incidents alleged to have occurred 8-10 years prior to filing of the date of petition cannot furnish a subsisting cause of action to seek divorce on the ground of cruelty after 10 years or so of occurrence of such incidents. The incidents alleged should be of recurring nature or continuing one and they should be in near proximity with the filing of the petition.

In the present case, the husband had alleged that his wife’s behaviour towards his family immediately after their wedding in the year 1999 amount to cruelty. However, they continued to live together and 2 daughters were born out of the wedlock in 2002 and 2006. Considering the facts of the case, the Court said that few isolated incidents of long past and that too found to have been condoned due to compromising behavior of the parties, as admittedly both lived together till 2006 and the appellant gave birth to their second daughter in 2006, cannot constitute an act of cruelty within the meaning of Section 13 (1)(ia)of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

It was noticed that most of the incidents of alleged cruelty pertained to the period prior to 2006 and some were alleged to have occurred after 2006. Those pertained to period after 2006 were founded on general allegations with no details pleaded such as when such incident occurred (year, month, date etc.), what was its background, who witnessed, what the appellant actually said etc. Hence, the marriage between the parties was held to subsist. [Suman Singh v. Sanjay Singh, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 215, decided on 08.03.2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Hearing an appeal, a Division Bench comprising of BP Dharmadhikari and Swapna Joshi, JJ held that  simply performing two rites, that of sindoor and mangalsutra, does not make a marriage valid. The Court passed this order against an order of the Family Court, Nagpur which had allowed the petition filed by respondent woman in her mid thirties seeking restoration of conjugal rights. The respondent woman was earlier married to another man and later divorced, though she continued to stay with him in the interest of her two children. Later she met the appellant and fell in love with him. The appellant ‘married’ her by putting mangalsutra and applying vermilion on her forehead before the idol of Lord Krishna.

The Court noted that as per provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, a wedding must be performed as per ceremonies, rites and rituals recognised by either of the parties. Under the Act, importance is given to Satpadi which was not performed in this case. The Court also observed that even though there was physical relationship between the two parties, they were not in a live-in relationship, hence there was no valid marriage between the two and the Family Court’s order which held to be erroneous and was quashed. [Nitin Omprakash Agarwal vs. Rekha Agarwal, Family Court Appeal 57 of 2015, decided on 31-01-2017]