Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: Rajendra Chandra Singh Samant, J., while addressing a petition made an observation with regard to matrimonial disputes that,

“…in a matrimonial dispute, the cause of action can arise again and again, even if the dispute is settled and compromised before the court and the case has been withdrawn.”

Present matter pertained to the quashing of an order passed by the Family Court, Bilaspur in a Civil Suit.

Petitioners’ counsel submits that respondent had filed a civil suit under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and during the pendency, it was placed before the National Lok Adalat and as the respondent did not want to press on the said proceedings, it was disposed of.

Respondent in the present matter has filed a repeat application under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act. Petitioner challenged the maintainability of the civil suit under Order 7 Rule 11 read with Section 23 Rule 4 of CPC on the ground that the previous application filed by the respondent had been disposed of by award.

Order 23 Rule 4 of CPC specifically provides about the abandonment of a suit under sub-rule 1 without permission of Court.

Further, it has been submitted that Section 21 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 provides that any award passed in the Lok Adalat shall be final and binding on all the parties and no appeal shall lie to any court against the award, hence in view fo the said the repeat application filed by the respondent stands unsustainable.

Respondent’s Counsel submitted that since the petitioner did not honour the ut of court compromise, respondent was compelled to file an application under Section 9 of the HMA, 1955.

Bench on perusal of the submissions and facts stated that under Section 21 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, an award of Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a decree of a civil court which includes the order on compromise or settlement between the parties before the Lok Adalat.

Court stated that Lok Adalat has no authority to exercise the power under Order 23 Rule 1 of CPC. The Lok Adalat on taking cognizance in any matter referred to it from a court, can act only in accordance with Section 20 sub-section 4, 5 & 6 of the Act, 1955 and there is no mention that the Lok Adalat can allow the withdrawal of the civil suit.

Hence the Lok Adalat’s order having lo legality is not an order at all.

“the case of the respondent against the petitioner was terminated on the basis of the statement made by the respondent side, that some agreement has taken place between the parties out of the court.”

Court added that, in a matrimonial dispute, the cause of action can arise again and again, even if the dispute is settled and compromised before the court and the case has been withdrawn.

Therefore,

When a dispute crops up again at any subsequent stage on account of differences between the parties to the matrimony, that would be a separate cause of action, on which the party aggrieved, has an entitlement to maintain legal proceeding under the provision of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

In view of the above, the petition was dismissed. [Harsha Dewani v. Ashutosh Gupta, 2020 SCC OnLine Chh 149, decided on 10-08-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: N. Anil Kumar, J. allowed this application for anticipatory bail under Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

The applicant of this bail is the accused in Crime No. 2227 of 2019 of the Sasthamkotta Police Station in Kollam District. The applicant was accused of committing offences punishable under Section 498-A of the Penal Code.

The contentions made by the counsel for the complainant, C.N. Prabhakaran, are that the wife of the accused is the de facto complainant. The de facto complainant got married to the accused on 5-11-2018. After that the wife lived at the matrimonial home of the accused of 3 months where she alleged was treated with cruelty and was mistreated. The wife filed a petition before District Police Chief, Kollam against the accused of the same reasons.

The contentions made by the counsel for the petitioner, M.R. Jayalatha, are that the accused filed O.P. No. 982 of 2019 before the Family Court and alleged that the wife has stolen the gold ornaments which were entrusted with her by the applicant’s family after the marriage.

After hearing both the sides, the Court held that both the parties are in a matrimonial dispute and the Original Petition is already pending in the Family Court. The Court held that because the matter is matrimonial, the petitioner can be granted the bail-in case he gets arrested. Though the Court laid down certain conditions-

  1. the petitioner will be granted the bail-in case of arrest, but he will have to execute a personal bond of Rs 50,000 along with bonds of two solvent sureties amounting to the satisfaction of the arresting officer
  2. the petitioner will have to make himself present before the Investigating Officer, as when directed
  3. the petitioner will not intimidate or influence the prosecution witness
  4. in case of non-compliance with the order of this Court, the Court having jurisdiction over the case can cancel his bail. [Sunil Kumar v. State of Kerala, 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 6060, decided on 27-12-2019]
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Hari Pal Verma, J. allowed the petition filed for quashing of FIR under Section 482 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 on the ground that the matrimonial dispute had been resolved by mediation.

An FIR was filed against the petitioner’s husband accusing him of cruelty and breach of trust against her under Sections 498-A, 406 and 120-B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The parties were directed for the process of mediation and they further decided to compromise before the Mediation and Conciliation Center, Barnala. The complainant agreed upon the settlement agreement and stated that she had no objection on quashing of the all the proceedings against the petitioner.

The present court directed the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Barnala to get the statements recorded and send its report in order to check the genuineness of the compromise. Further the same was received by the Court and it stated that it was unnecessary to continue the proceeding before the trial court.

Relying on the decision of Supreme Court in Gold Quest International (P) Ltd. v. State of Tamil Nadu, (2014) 15 SCC 235 which held that under matrimonial or civil property disputes of criminal nature if the parties have entered into settlement then it is legal to quash the proceeding under Section 482 of Code of Criminal Procedure along with Article 226 of the Constitution of India; this Court allowed the petition for quashing of FIR and all subsequent proceedings as per compromise entered between the parties. [Sheenu Gupta v. State of Punjab, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 1399, decided on 02-08-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Sanjay Kumar Singh, J. while allowing the application under Section 482 CrPC observed that even the law provides that it may not be necessary for every criminal offence to mete out punishment, particularly, if the victim wants to bury the hatchet.

In the instant case, applicant 1 is the husband and applicant 2 is the brother-in-law of opposite party 2 (OP). Due to non-fulfilment of dowry demands, OP was tortured, beaten and harassed and thereby made OP lodge an FIR against the applicants, her father-in-law and sister-in-law.

On the request of applicants, time was granted to them to make arrangement of payment to settle the dispute amicably. Afterwards, a joint affidavit was filed by the applicants and OP submitting that they have settled their matrimonial dispute outside the Court and they have no grievance against each other. The settlement was based on certain terms and conditions like OP will receive an amount of Rs 22 lakh from applicant 1 and would not prosecute each other or family members with regard to present matrimonial dispute between them.

After observing the submissions of the parties, the Court looked into some relevant judgments of the Supreme Court where guidelines for quashing of criminal proceedings on the basis of compromise and amicable settlement of the matrimonial dispute between the parties concerned was laid down.

In Madhavrao Jiwajirao Scindia v. Sambhaji-Rao Chandrojirao Angre, (1988) 1 SCC 692, it was laid down that the inherent power under Section 482 CrPC should be used where special features appear or it is expedient and in the interest of justice to permit a prosecution to continue.

In G.V. Rao v. L.H.V. Prasad, (2000) 3 SCC 693, the Supreme Court made some apt observations in relation to matrimonial disputes. Little matrimonial skirmishes suddenly escalate which often assume serious proportions resulting in commission of heinous crimes in which elders of the family are also involved. Instead of fighting out in the Court, the parties should amicably terminate their disputes.

In Swati Verma v. Rajan Verma, (2004) 1 SCC 123 similar to the present case, the Supreme Court had quashed the criminal proceedings under Sections 498A and 406 IPC before the CJM as the divorce litigation between the sparring spouses was decided on the basis of a compromise.

With these cases referred and a few others, the Court observed that If the offender and victim want to move on in matrimonial cases, they may be allowed to compound the offences in terms of the settlement.[Alok Jaiswal v. State of U.P., Application u/s 482 No.  27720 of 2019, decided on 08-08-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court:  Fateh Deep Singh, J. allowed the application of bail on the ground that petitioner was behind the bar and that culpability will be determined during the trial which was not going to be concluded in near future.

A petition for regular bail was made for the offence under Sections 342, 354B, 376, 511/34, 450 of the Penal Code, 1860.

The facts of the case were that the accused petitioner and his sons forcibly took the complainant into a room, tore off her clothes, abused her, tried to violate her and gave her beatings against which the FIR was made the very next day of the incident.

G.C. Shahpuri, counsel for the petitioner argued that bare perusal of the FIR would show that no allegation of actual rape has come about and being a pure case of matrimonial dispute, in which the petitioner has no role to play except that he happens to have intervened into the matrimonial dispute, he has been falsely implicated. Thus, prayed for the anticipatory bail.

Baljinder S. Virk, Deputy Advocate General, stoutly opposed the grant of relief on the grounds that if allowed bail the petitioner might stifle the trial.

The High Court opined that no useful purpose will be served by keeping the petitioner in the custody as petitioner was already behind the bars for more than seven months and culpability shall be determined at the end of the trial which was not likely to conclude in the near future.  It was also instructed that anything observed herein shall not be construed as an expression on the merits of the case. Thus, ordered the release of petitioner on regular bail. [Dalip Bera v. State of Haryana, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 669, decided on 28-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: R.K. Gauba, J., referring to the relevant authority on the subject, allowed a petition filed under Section 482 CrPC for quashing of an FIR registered under Sections 498-A and 406 read with Section 34 IPC.

The parties were married to each other. The wife had lodged the aforesaid FIR against her husband and in-laws. Investigation concluded, the police filed a charge-sheet and cognizance was taken. Subsequently, the parties reached a settlement as per which they agreed to obtain a divorce and terminate the present criminal case. Consequent to the same, the present petition was moved and the wife supported the same.

The High Court noted pertinently that the offence under Section 498-A is a non-compoundable offence. Thereafter, it cited various decisions of the Supreme Court and the observations therein which pertain to the law on the present subject.

Reliance was placed upon B.S. Joshi v. State of Haryana, (2003) 4 SCC 675 wherein it was stated, “…the ends of justice are higher than the ends of mere law…”, Gian Singh v. State of Punjab, (2012) 10 SCC 303 was also quoted wherein the Supreme Court observed, “…the power of compounding of offences given to a court under Section 320 is materially different from the quashing of criminal proceedings by the High Court in exercise of its inherent jurisdiction.” Further reliance was placed on Jitendra Raghuvanshi v. Babita Raghuvanshi, (2013) 4 SCC 58 wherein it was held, “… it is the duty of the courts to encourage genuine settlements of matrimonial disputes…”

Following the well-settled principle that continuing criminal action which arose essentially out of the matrimonial dispute and where parties decide to hurry the hatchet, will be an abuse of judicial process, the Court allowed the petition and quashed the subject FIR and proceedings arising therefrom. [Naman Jethani v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7681, Order dated 14-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: A Bench comprising of V.M. Vellumani, J. has held in the case of matrimonial dispute regarding the irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground for divorce valid.

In the present case, the appellant has averred various incidents, by which, the respondent has repeatedly caused mental agony and cruelty to the appellant. The learned counsel for the appellant stated that the respondent has admitted in his evidence that he put up 10 locks, not 22 locks to lock the home. Any normal prudent man would not put 10 locks to lock the home. This fact coupled with the fact that the respondent was friendly with the parents of the appellant in their presence and talked about them shows mental illness of the respondent.

Thus, the appeal has been filed by the wife claiming for divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty and the fact that both the appellant and respondents have been living separately for more than ten years. The respondent is alleged to be mentally ill as well.

“Marriages are made in heaven. Both parties have crossed the point of no return.”

-Durga Prasanna Tripathy v. Arundhati Tripathy; (2005) 7 SCC 353

According to Hindu Law, irretrievable breakdown of marriage is not considered as a valid ground for divorce but this court, following the precedents, has held irretrievable breakdown of marriage a valid ground for divorce. To prevent the appellant from more cruelty, the appeal of divorce has been allowed. Furthermore, this Court has also dismissed the claim filed by the respondent for the restitution of conjugal rights. [Salome v. Prince D. Immanuel, 2017 SCC OnLine Mad 1651, decided on 06-04-2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A Division bench comprising of Rajiv Sharma and Alok Singh, JJ. dismissed an appeal filed against the judgment of Family Court, granting a decree of divorce, for want of substantiation of the appellant-wife’s allegations against the respondent-husband.

Facts of the case were that marriage was solemnized between the parties as per Hindu rites and ceremonies. Immediately after their marriage, a few differences cropped up between them and the appellant/ wife left the matrimonial home after seven months of marriage as she wanted to stay away from her in-laws. The respondent was working in Indian Army and posted in Kanpur. In order to maintain peace in his marital life, he took the appellant along with him to Kanpur where they stayed in the government-allotted quarters. However, their disputes continued and in the meantime, respondent got transferred to Arunachal Pradesh. He could not take the appellant along with him over there due to duty restrictions and sent her back to his parents’ home. After two months, the appellant left her matrimonial home and made complaints to the superior officers of respondent; pursuant to which the respondent/ husband sent her a legal notice to stop harassing him. Thereafter, the appellant along with her parents threatened to implicate him in a dowry case and filed a case under Section 125 CrPC. The respondent also filed a suit under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 which was decreed vide impugned judgment.

The High Court perused entire evidence on record and noted that there were several inconsistencies in the appellant’s statements – on one hand, she stated that she wanted to live with her husband and on the other hand, she stated that she has a threat to her life from him. Further, the appellant had failed to produce any witness or documentary evidence in support of her bare allegations of harassment, torture, and demand for dowry. While she contended of having complained to the respondent’s senior officers at Kanpur, no copy of the complaint was filed by her. She also alleged demand for dowry, harassment and that her husband wanted to have a second marriage but had failed to substantiate all of her allegations.

As such, the High Court opined that the Family Court had appreciated and discussed the evidence on record elaborately and there was no infirmity in the impugned judgment. On this holding, the instant appeal was dismissed. [Sangeeta Bhakuni v. Pushkar Singh Bhakuni,2018 SCC OnLine Utt 868, decided on 28-09-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Abhay Manohar Sapre, J. speaking for himself and his brother Judge Uday U. Lalit, gave judgment in a civil appeal arising out of matrimonial dispute whereby the appellant challenged the decree of divorce passed by family court and affirmed by High Court of Jharkhand.

The appellant-wife was married to the respondent-husband, and they had a daughter born out of the wedlock who was of marriageable age. The parties married in 1997, but their relations were not cordial from soon after the marriage. This led to the filing of a divorce petition by the husband against the wife on grounds of cruelty and desertion. The Family Judge dissolved the marriage and the decree was confirmed by the High Court.  Aggrieved thus, present appeal was filed by the wife.

The Supreme Court heard the parties and perused the record. It was noted that the parties were living separately for more than a decade. All attempts to conciliation through mediation had failed. There was absolutely no chance of them living together to continue their marital life.  While referring to Naveen Kohli v. Neelu Kohli, (2006) 4 SCC 558 and Sanghamitra Ghosh v. Kajal Kumar Ghosh, (2007) 2 SCC 220, the Court held that in order to ensure that parties may live peacefully in future and their daughter would be settled properly, a quietus must be given to all litigation between the parties. Consistent with the broad consensus arrived at between the parties, the Court directed the husband to pay Rs 10 lakhs towards permanent alimony and maintenance to the appellant and the daughter. [Manju Kumari Singh v. Avinash Kumar Singh,2018 SCC OnLine SC 739, dated 25-07-2018]

Legislation UpdatesNotifications

The Integrated Nodal Agency (INA), decided to issue one more Look-out-Circular (LoC). The Ministry has already issued 6 LoCs since April 2018, after examining the complaints received regarding NRI matrimonial disputes. The INA meets regularly to discuss issues related to NRI matrimonial disputes and chart the way forward.

In criminal matters involving NRI’s, LoC could be issued by the INA in cognizable offences, when the overseas husband is deliberately evading arrest or not appearing in the trial court despite non-bailable warrants and other coercive measures or there is a likelihood that he will leave the country to evade trial or arrest. The LoC will be issued after having the case scrutinised by NCW.

Ministry of Women and Child Development

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: In the instant application wherein the applicant invoked the inherent power of the Court under Section 482 of CrPC thereby seeking quashment of proceedings under Section 498-A read with Section 114 IPC, the Bench of J.B. Pardiwala, J., held that for the purposes of Section 498-A IPC, a former wife will not come under the category of the “relative of the husband”. Thus even if the former wife is the cause of matrimonial disputes, she cannot be prosecuted under Section 498-A IPC.

As per the facts the accused in the present case was the former husband of the applicant and their marriage was dissolved in the customary manner. However, after getting married to the respondent in the present case the accused went back to the applicant, thereby giving rise to matrimonial disputes between the accused and the respondent. This led to the applicant being charged as a co- accused.

After hearing the submissions of the parties, the Bench observed that even though the accused went back to the applicant, the same does not constitute any offence of cruelty under Section 498-A. Quashing the proceedings against the applicant the Court observed that, the marriage between the applicant and the accused was dissolved, therefore she is not a “relative of the husband” and does not fall under the ambit of Section 498-A. [Honeyben Ashokbhai Patel v. State of Gujarat,  2017 SCC OnLine Guj 1558, decided on 30.11.2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: While allowing the application for suspension of sentence of the applicant/accused under Sections 498-A and 306 read with Section 34 of the IPC, the Bench of A.M Badar, J., observed that, matrimonial cruelty is included from the definition of legal cruelty as envisaged in Section 498-A of IPC. It was further observed by the Bench that, ordinary tantrums and discord or differences in domestic life does not amount to cruelty.

In the present case, the applicant/accused married his deceased wife in 2009; however in 2014 she committed suicide by hanging herself. It was alleged by the parents of the deceased wife that the applicant/accused subjected her to cruelty, thereby abetting her to commit suicide, thus resulting in the conviction and sentencing of the applicant/accused under Sections 498-A, 107, 306 and 34 of the IPC and Section 113-A of the Evidence Act. The counsel for the applicant contended that the evidence of the alleged cruelty committed by the applicant/accused is insufficient to prove his guilt.

Perusing the facts and contentions of the case at hand, the Court delved in the interpretation of ‘cruelty’ as envisaged under Section 498-A IPC. The Court observed that a dispute between the applicant and the deceased started over a ‘kaccha chapati’ (improperly cooked bread) and other trivial matters, and the deceased took an extreme step of calling her parents and brothers. It was also observed that the deceased wife was apparently berated for her ‘bad cooking’. Upon examining the aforementioned facts, the Court stated that deceased wife’s reaction was nothing more than a hyper-sensitivity of a wife.

Examining Section 498-A  IPC, the Court observed that, “cruelty implies harsh and harmful conduct with certain intensity and persistence. It covers acts causing both physical and mental agony and torture or tyranny and harm as well as unending accusations and recrimination reflecting bitterness putting the victim thereof to intense miscarries.” Therefore for a conviction under Section 498-A, it must be shown that the conduct of the accused has stirred such strong feelings in the mind of a married woman, that she feels that dying is the only option left with her to escape the torture. Thus in the opinion of the Court, the parents of the deceased wife have spoken more about the matrimonial cruelty committed upon their daughter, than the legal cruelty, moreover the incidents mentioned by her parents which ultimately led to the suicide of wife, were more of an ordinary petulance and discord in matrimonial life. Thus the Court deemed it fit to allow the application and suspend the sentence of the applicant/accused. [Neeraj Subhash Mehta v. State of Maharashtra, 2017 SCC OnLine Bom 62, decided on 13.01.2017]