Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Debasish Kar Gupta and Shampa Sarkar, JJ. dismissed the petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution due to inordinate delay in filing the application thereunder.

Father of the petitioner was working for gain as a temporary employee with Respondent 3. He died in harness in 1986. The petitioner was a minor, 11 years old, at the relevant time. After four years of attaining majority, the petitioner submitted an application to Respondent 3 for appointment on compassionate grounds. However, the application was rejected and further, the appeal filed before the Administrative Tribunal was also dismissed on grounds of inordinate delay. The petitioner challenged the decision of the Tribunal in the instant petition.

The High Court perused the record and found that the petitioner was a minor at the relevant time. The Court held it to be settled law that a minor had no vested right to claim appointment at the time of the death of his father in harness. The Court also took notice of unexplained inordinate delay of over four years in submitting the application for appointment even after attaining majority. The High Court found no fault with the impugned decision of the Administrative Tribunal. Thus, the petition was dismissed. [Kamal Adhikari v.  State of W.B., 2018 SCC OnLine Cal 3394, dated 04-06-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court (Goa Bench): A Single Judge Bench of the Goa Bench comprising of C.V. Bhadang, J. allowed a criminal writ petition filed against the judgment of the Sessions Judge whereby the petitioner was directed to pay maintenance to his adult son.

Earlier, Respondent 1 (wife of the petitioner) had filed an application under Section 12 of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 (DV Act), seeking, inter alia, monetary reliefs. Learned Magistrate by his order granted interim maintenance of Rs. 8000 per month for Respondent 2, son of the petitioner. It was not disputed that Respondent 2 was a major, aged 25 years. The petitioner filed an appeal before the Sessions Judge against the order of the Magistrate contending that under the provision, only a ‘child’ is entitled to maintenance. However, the Sessions Judge dismissed his appeal holding that the petitioner was liable to pay maintenance to Respondent 2 since he was an engineering student with no source of income. Feeling aggrieved, the petitioner approached the High Court.

In order to settle the issue, the High Court referred to Section 2(b) of the DV Act. On perusal of the section, the Court observed that ‘child’ within the meaning of the section means any person below the age of 18 years. In light of the undisputed fact that Respondent 2, son, was 25 years of age, the High Court held that he could not be included within the definition of ‘child’ as envisaged under Section 2(b). Hence, the petition was allowed and the impugned order was set aside. [Antonio De Matos Sequira Almeida v.  Felicidade Wilma Almeida, 2018 SCC OnLine Bom 1123, dated 04-06-2018]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

High Court of South Africa, Eastern Cape Division: In a landmark judgment delivered by M.J. Lowe J., in the case of a minor being attacked by dog and claiming compensation in that reference, the High Court granted compensation.

The minor was below the age of 10 years and was attacked by the dog owned by the defendant while sitting on the brick wall separating the two properties. In a statement by defendant it was stated on his part that he had earlier warned the minor to not climb the wall in his absence showing his concern to not be able to control the dog (Bull Mastiff).

The Court analysed the case by discussing the points of law thoroughly. To start with “The Law of Delict in South Africa” wherein it has been explained, “the actio de pauperie for harm caused by domestic animals” in which owner of a domestic animal is strictly liable for the harm caused to another person in contradiction to its nature. For the said act the owner of the animal who had caused injury or damage will be liable. Liability under this point of law “actio de pauperie” would apply only when the animal must have acted “contra naturam sui generis.” The interpretation of “contra naturam” rule is wide in nature and suitability to the case.

The Court further dealt with the issue of provocation in which it was observed that on record there was nothing to indicate in the behaviour of the minor that constituted to any particular external stimuli for the dog to act “contra naturam”. Though, on the other hand it was also analysed by the Court that any reasonable dog would not have attacked a child simply on his climbing the boundary wall, which clearly puts the dog into the arena of acting “contra naturam”. Further it was also stated that the action of “actua de pauparie” is a special action limited to those who are lawfully on the defendant’s land when bitten and dealing with the present case, it was held that the child has a “pauperian” claim even if found without direct lawful entitlement. [Phildentia Kohl v. Charl Grobbelaar; Case No. 4962/2017; dated 22.05.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The sentence of the appellant who was convicted for kidnapping and rape, was reduced to the period already undergone by him, by a Single Judge Bench comprising of K.K. Sonawane, J.

The appellant was accused of forcibly taking away the prosecutrix (victim), who was a minor at the time of incident. She was taken away on the pretext of marriage and the appellant had sexual intercourse with her a number of times during that period. The appellant was charged under Section 361 read with Section 363, Sections 366 and 376 IPC. He was convicted by the trial court for the offences charged under. The appellant challenged the order of the trial court.

On considering the record, the High Court found that at the relevant time, the victim was 14 years of age. It was proved by the School Leaving Certificate signed by the Headmaster of the School. The evidence led by the prosecution and the statement of witnesses proved that the appellant kidnapped the victim and therefore committed the offence under Section 361 read with 363 IPC. Further, the fact of the appellant having sexual intercourse with the victim was proved by the medical report. And since the victim was below 16 years of age, therefore, her consent doesn’t count and the appellant was guilty of offences under Sections 366 and 376. However, the facts remained that the victim never raised alarm as to her kidnapping, never informed or tried to contact her family, lived with the appellant as husband and wife, and also that the appellant was a youngster, 24 years old, at the time of commission of the offence. The High Court finally upheld the conviction of the appellant; however, his sentence was reduced to the period already undergone by him in light of the mitigating circumstances as noted hereinabove. Thus, the appeal was partly allowed. [Bapu v. State of Maharashtra, 2018 SCC OnLine Bom 920, dated 03-05-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: The Single Judge Bench comprising of Tarlok Singh Chauhan, J., addressed a very unusual petition in which the court exercised its “parens-patriae” jurisdiction.

In accordance to the facts of the case, petitioner is said to have requested her parents to marry “L” who is a facebook friend of the petitioner/ “K”, but after several attempts also petitioner’s parents did not agree for the marriage and instead they lodged a complaint against “L” under Sections 363, 366 376  IPC and Sections 3 and 4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. Further the petitioner was handed over to her parents when she had claimed to have married “L” but later the petitioner came back to “L’s” house.

On filing the instant petition, the petitioner had sought reliefs on not being restrained by her parents or the police from living in her husband’s house or from any kind of harassment and also provision of police protection.

However, the Court had earlier asked for a status report in which it was seen that the petitioner is happily living with “L’s” parents and is being treated well by them. On looking at this report the Court directed that no authority shall remove the petitioner from such custody without the leave of this Court.

Therefore, the Hon’ble High Court, exercised “parens-patriae” jurisdiction to secure the welfare of the minor by taking instance from the Supreme Court case of Lata Singh v. State of U.P., (2006) 5 SCC 475 and proposing to the petitioner to live at Balika Ashram till the time she attains the age of majority and thereby, she will be free to go anywhere, marry anyone and love anyone she likes on reaching the age of majority, till that time no authority or person shall have the permission of the Court to take the petitioner from the Balika Ashram. [‘K’ v. State of H.P., 2018 SCC OnLine HP 432, dated 12-04-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

High Court of Kerala: The Division Bench comprising of V. Chitambaresh and Sathish Ninnan, JJ., recently dealt with a writ petition filed by the mother for presenting the child in question to the Court since he had allegedly been removed from her custody without any orders from a court of law.

The petitioner contended that following her separation from her husband, despite her having full custody of the child, he was taken away by his paternal grand parents from his maternal aunt’s house while she was away working and was never returned back. The paternal grand parents refuted the claims and instead alleged that he was found abandoned in a store nearby the school. They also contended that by virtue of their son, the father of the child, being the natural guardian and since he was living abroad, they would have custody of the child.

The Court referred to Section 352 of Mulla’s Principles of Mahomedan Law wherein it has been laid down that a mother is entitled to the custody of her male child until he has completed 7 years of age or her girl child until she has attained puberty. The only exception to the rule arises if the mother has remarried, in which case, the father gets custody of the child. In the present case, since the child has not completed 7 years, the mother gets the custody.

The Court also acknowledged that the question of guardianship is separate from that of custody as was held in Athar Hussain v. Syed Siraj Ahmed, (2010) 2 SCC 654. The Court also referred to Nithya Anand Raghavan v. State (NCT of Delhi),  (2017) 8 SCC 454 wherein it was held that at the threshold the High Court is only supposed to examine whether “the minor is in lawful custody” of the respondent or not and a natural guardian would constitute as one by default. The biological mother is one such natural guardian. Once such a factor has been ascertained, only in exceptional cases can writ petitions for removal of guardianship of the child from the mother be entertained by the High Courts.

The Court thus ordered for the custody of the child to be returned to the mother and the parties to move the Family Court for further remedies if needed. It quoted Cardinal Mermillod’s famous quote, “A mother is she who can take the place of all others, but whose place no one else can take”. [Ancy A. v. Station House Officer, WP(Crl). No. 42 of 2018, order dated 7-2-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ reserved the judgment in the issue relating to criminalising of forced sexual acts by the husband with his minor wife.

The Court was hearing the petition filed by NGO Independent Thought and Advocate Gaurav Agarwal, appearing for the NGO had contended before the Court that by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, the age of consent for sexual intercourse by a girl, which was earlier 16 years has now been increased to 18 years, however, exception 2 to section 375 of the IPC still retains the age of consent as 15 years, due to which there is a huge gap of three years in the age of consent for a married girl child and an unmarried girl. He added that if the object behind increasing the age of consent to 18 years in 2013, was that a girl below that age is incapable of realising the consequences of her consent, then marriage of girl between the age of 15-17 years does not make the girl mature enough, mentally or physically, for the purpose of consent.

Taking note of the argument, the Court had, on 01.09.2017, sought to know whether it can create an offence by striking down the exception 2 of section 375 of IPC which the Parliament has refused to do. It also showed concern over the fate of the children born from such marriages if the provision was struck down. [Independent Thought v. Union of India, Writ Petition(s)(Civil) No(s). 382/2013, order dated 06.09.2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court:  Disposing of an appeal challenging the conviction and sentence under Sections 363, 366 and 376 of the Penal Code, 1860, the Court observed that “From the evidence on record, the prosecution has proved beyond reasonable doubt that the prosecutrix was of 13 years 9 months of age at the time of incident and Raju having allured and enticed the prosecutrix. Thus, her consent was immaterial for the reason she was a minor.”

In response to the appellant’s contention that since from the letters of the prosecutrix it is apparent that she was a consenting party having an affair with the appellant, the sentence of the appellant be reduced, the Court observed that “Section 376 IPC prior to the amendment carried out w.e.f. February 03, 2013, provided that the offence of rape of a woman under 16 years of age with or without her consent was punishable with imprisonment of not less than seven years but which may extend for life or for a term which may extend to ten years and payment of fine, provided, the court may, for adequate and special reasons to be mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than seven years”.

The Court held that “Since the consent of a girl below the age of 16 years is immaterial, the same cannot be treated as a mitigating circumstance so as to award a sentence lesser than 7 years rigorous imprisonment however on the facts and circumstances of the case, the sentence of rigorous imprisonment for 10 years for offence punishable under Section 376 IPC and rigorous imprisonment for 7 years each for offences punishable under Sections 363 and 366 IPC is on the higher side.”

The Court observed that as per Section 376 IPC, the minimum sentence prescribed for the offence of rape of a minor below 16 years is 7 years and hence the sentence of the appellant cannot be reduced to the period already undergone. The appellant’s sentence was modified to 7 years’ RI for the offence punishable under Section 376 IPC with a fine of Rs 10,000 and in default of payment of fine to undergo simple imprisonment for one month,; 4 years’ RI for the offences under Sections 363 and 366 IPC with fine of Rs 2000, and in default of payment of fine to undergo simple imprisonment for one week on both counts. [Raju Kumar Verma @ Raju v. State (Govt. of NCT) of Delhi, 2016 SCC OnLine Del 2993, decided on May 17, 2016]