Chhattisgarh High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: A Division Bench of Arvind Singh Chandel and Sanjay K. Agrawal, JJ. dismissed the acquittal appeal being devoid of merits.

The facts of the case are such that marriage between the deceased and the son of the Respondent/accused was solemnised in the month of April, 2018. In November the same year, Mahima Kaushik committed suicide by hanging herself. FIR was registered and charges were framed and the Trial Court acquitted the accused. Assailing this acquittal order, instant appeal was filed.

Counsel for the Appellant/State submits that the Sessions Judge has committed manifest illegality in acquitting the Respondent/accused of the charge under Section 304B IPC as all the ingredients constituting the offence have been duly established by the prosecution and, therefore, the judgment of acquittal deserves to be set aside.

The Court relied on judgment Anjanappa v. State of Karnataka, (2014) 2 SCC 776, it has been held by the Supreme Court as follows:

“9. It is well settled that an order of acquittal is not to be set aside lightly. If the view taken by the trial Court is a reasonably possible view, it is not to be disturbed. If two views are possible and if the view taken by the trial Court is a reasonably possible view, then the appellate Court should not disturb it just because it feels that another view of the matter is possible. However, an order of acquittal will have to be disturbed if it is perverse. We have examined the trial Court’s order of acquittal in light of above principles. We are of the considered opinion that the High Court was justified in setting it aside as it is perverse.

The Court after perusing evidence and facts observed that the finding of the Trial Court that the prosecution has failed to prove that soon before the death of the deceased she was subjected to cruelty on account of demand of dowry is totally based on the evidence available on record. Furthermore, from perusal of the evidence, it also appears that the fact regarding demand of dowry itself is suspicious.

The Court thus held “there is no manifest legal error in the judgment of acquittal recorded by the Learned Additional Sessions Judge and we do not consider it a fit case where this Court should re-appreciate the entire evidence on record or it is not a case where the view taken by the Additional Sessions Judge is so arbitrary or bears manifest error requiring interference.”

[State of Chhattisgarh v. Chameli Kaushik, 2022 SCC OnLine Chh 691, decided on 11-04-2022]


Appearances

For Appellant/State: Shri Kapil Maini


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Explaining the significance of ‘shared household’ Asha Menon, J., explained that where a residence is clearly a shared household, it would not bar the owner from claiming eviction against her daughter-in-law, if circumstances call for it.

An instant suit was filed for possession, damages and permanent injunction in respect of the property. The plaintiff claimed to be the exclusive and absolute owner of the suit property.

The suit was filed against the daughter-in-law of the plaintiff who is defendant 1 and her mother who is defendant 2. Son of the plaintiff and the husband of the defendant 1 expired in 2020.

Even if it was accepted that defendant 2 had come to reside with her daughter then, to be of comfort to her daughter, clearly, she had no right to continue to stay in the suit premises once the plaintiff had expressed her desire that the defendant 2 should leave.

Whether defendant 1 raised a triable issue with regard to the title of the plaintiff?

In Court’s opinion, defendant’s claim reflected a desperate attempt to question the plaintiff’s exclusive title to the suit property, which attempt has failed.

Reasoning the above-said further, High Court stated that accepting the fact that the plaintiff’s husband had bequeathed the property to the children, it was also a fact that the children relinquished their shares and rights in favour of their mother.

The Relinquishment Deed was of the year 1999 and the son of the plaintiff married three times, and the defendant 1, being the third wife, entered his life in 2014. Between 1999 till 2014, neither the deceased son of the plaintiff nor her daughter questioned the Relinquishment Deed executed in favour of their mother or the execution of the Conveyance Deed in 2000 solely in the name of the plaintiff.

Even after the marriage of the deceased son of the plaintiff to the defendant 1, the son never questioned the validity of the Relinquishment Deed, by instituting any legal proceedings.

Hence, in view of the above, challenge raised by the defendant 1 was completely untenable and the plaintiff was clearly the exclusive owner of the suit property.

In the present matter, Court noted that the defendants admitted the existence of the Relinquishment Deed and Conveyance Deed executed in favour of the plaintiff and expressed that,

Merely raising the bogey of a life interest does not detract from the admissions made, thus acknowledging the exclusive title of the plaintiff to the suit property.

Shared Household

Defendant 1 raised the plea that the suit premises constituted her shared household.

The significant point to be noted was that the plaintiff herself did not dispute the fact that the suit premises formed the shared household, hence no other evidence or proof was required to establish the said fact.

High Court opined that in light of the decision of the Supreme Court in Satish Chander Ahuja v. Sneha Ahuja, (2021) 1 SCC 414 the mere fact that premises take on the nature of shared household would not per se be a complete defence to a suit for possession filed by the owner of the property, being the in-laws of the defendant/aggrieved person, nor is such a suit barred.

The protection under the DV Act assuring the residence of the aggrieved person in the shared household does not vest any proprietary or indefeasible right on the aggrieved person. It is also subject to eviction being initiated in accordance with law.

Right of residence allowed to aggrieved person does not extend to her insisting on the right of residence in a particular premises.

Section 19 of the DV Act provides for an alternate accommodation being given to the aggrieved person of the same level in certain circumstances.

 “…even where a residence is clearly a shared household, it does not bar the owner, the plaintiff herein, from claiming eviction against her daughter-in-law, if the circumstances call for it.”

Whether the plaintiff must be put to the rigours of a trial to determine whether she made out a case for reclaiming possession of the suit premises or whether the facts as set out in the written statement and the plaint would be sufficient to come to a conclusion?

As per the written statement, the relationship between the parties was far from cordial.

Defendant 1’s case was that the plaintiff and her grandson subjected her to abuse along with this she also stated that she was entitled to half share in the property and thus was entitled to half of the rental income as per the Will of the late father-in-law. She even alleged that her stepson being the grandson of the plaintiff was wasting away the assets of her late husband and was operating various bank accounts and mutual fund accounts of her late husband on the basis of being the nominee, without accounting for her share.

Court noted that defendant 1 in order to wrest settlement from the plaintiff, had made efforts to pressurize her while staying in her premises.

Bench opined that, the defendants admitted in their written statement that the plaintiff had one bedroom in her possession whereas the defendants had two bedrooms in their possession with kitchen, drawing and dining being common portions. By inducting her mother and for a short time her sister, defendant 1 seemed to have made an attempt to assert rights in respect of the suit property, clearly causing distress to the plaintiff.

The averments made in the written statement were sufficient to establish a justification for the plaintiff to seek the eviction of the defendants.

High Court held that the plaintiff was entitled to seek possession of the suit premises from the two defendants without the rigours of an unnecessary and prolonged trial at her age.

Suppression of Facts

Plaintiff counsel submitted that the defendants had a place in Pune.

In the written statement the allegation was that the plaintiff and the grandson were trying to force the defendants “to return to Pune”. The Bench stated that interestingly the affidavit of defendant 2 stated her residential address to be the suit premises but it cannot be her permanent residence. Defendant 2 arrives from somewhere upon the death of her son-in-law.

Hence, there had been suppression of facts by the defendants. [Madalsa Sood v. Maunicka Makkar, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 5217, decided on 10-12-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Plaintiff:

Rajat Aneja & Chandrika Gupta, Advocates.

For the Defendants:

D.K. Goswami, Sr. Advocate with Saharsh Jauhar & Kuldeep Singh, Advocates for D-1 & D-2.

Case Briefs

Supreme Court: The Division Bench of S. Abdul Nazeer* and Krishna Murari, JJ., held that neither the percentage of deduction for personal expenses be governed by a rigid rule or formula of universal application nor does it depends upon the basis of relationship of the claimant with the deceased.

Passing a landmark decision, the Bench granted compensation to mother-in-law of the deceased considering her to be of the dependents of the deceased. The Bench remarked,

“It is not uncommon in Indian Society for the mother-in-law to live with her daughter and son-in-law during her old age and be dependent upon her son-in-law for her maintenance.”

Through the impugned judgment, the High Court of Kerala had scaled down the amount of compensation payable to the appellants and thereby modified the award passed by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal.

Factual Matrix

The appellants had filed the claim petition before the Tribunal seeking compensation on account of the death of one N. Venugopalan Nair in a motor vehicle accident. Noticing that the deceased had four dependants, the Tribunal awarded a total sum of Rs.73,18,971 towards loss of dependency making the total sum Rs.74,50,971 towards compensation with interest at 7.5 per cent per annum.

In appeal the High Court held that the appellant 4, i. e. mother-in-law of the deceased was not a legal representative of the deceased. Similarly, without denying the fact that the deceased was a meritorious person who possessed the qualification of M.Sc. M.Phil and was availing the monthly salary of Rs.83,831, the High Court took the monthly income of the deceased as Rs.40,000/for the purpose of calculation of loss of dependency opining that the deceased was aged 52 years at the time of the accident, hence he would not have earned the same monthly income after his retirement.

Accordingly, the High Court awarded compensation of Rs.23,65,728 towards loss of dependency for preretiral period and a sum of Rs.22,40,000 towards loss of dependency for postretiral period. In total, a sum of Rs.48,39,728 was awarded as compensation by the High Court.

Observation and Analysis

Whether the High Court was justified in precluding the mother-in-law of the deceased as his legal representative?

The MV Act does not define the term ‘legal representative’. Generally, ‘legal representative’ means a person who in law represents the estate of the deceased person and includes any person or persons in whom legal right to receive compensatory benefit vests. A ‘legal representative’ may also include any person who intermeddles with the estate of the deceased; such person does not necessarily have to be a legal heir. Hence, the Bench observed,

“In our view, the term ‘legal representative’ should be given a wider interpretation for the purpose of Chapter XII of MV Act and it should not be confined only to mean the spouse, parents and children of the deceased.”

Opining that the As MV Act is a benevolent legislation, therefore, it calls for a liberal and wider interpretation to serve the real purpose underlying the enactment and fulfil its legislative intent, the Bench held that in order to maintain a claim petition, it is sufficient for the claimant to establish his loss of dependency.

Reliance was placed on Gujarat SRTC v. Ramanbhai Prabhatbhai, (1987) 3 SCC 234, by the Bench, wherein it had been held that, “We should remember that in an Indian family brothers, sisters and brothers’ children and sometimes foster children live together and they are dependent upon the breadwinner of the family and if the breadwinner is killed on account of a motor vehicle accident, there is no justification to deny them compensation relying upon the provisions of the Fatal Accidents Act, 1855.”

Hence, considering that the mother-in-law of the deceased was staying with the deceased and his family members since a long time and was dependent on him for her shelter and maintenance, the Bench held that she might not be a legal heir of the deceased, but she certainly suffered on account of his death. Therefore, the Bench declared that she was a “legal representative” under Section 166 of the MV Act and was entitled to maintain a claim petition.

Whether the High Court was justified in applying a split multiplier?

The deceased was aged 52 years at the time of the accident and was working as an Assistant Professor on a monthly salary of Rs.83,831. Considering that the deceased was a Selection Grade Lecturer in Mathematics and was a subject expert, the Bench stated that evidence on record also shows that there is acute shortage of lecturers in Mathematics for appointment in colleges and retired Mathematics Professors are  appointed in so many colleges.

It is common knowledge that the teachers, especially Mathematics teachers, are employed even after their retirement in coaching centers. They may also hold private tuition classes. This would increase their income manifold after retirement.”

In the above backdrop, the Bench rejected the findings of High Court that the deceased’s income would necessarily reduce after his retirement, the Bench held that at the time of calculation of the income, the Court has to consider the actual income of the deceased and addition should be made to take into account future prospects. Accordingly, it was held that the High Court was not justified in applying split multiplier in the instant case by bifurcating the deceased’s income as pre- retirement and post-retirement.

What is the amount of compensation that should be awarded to the appellants?

The deceased was aged 52 years at the time of his death and had a permanent job. The annual income of the deceased was Rs.10,00,572, which after income tax deduction came to Rs.8,87,148.

Relying on the decision in National Insurance Company Limited v. Pranay Sethi, (2017) 16 SCC 680, the Bench added additional 15% of his actual salary towards future prospectus, which made the actual salary of the deceased as Rs.1,33,072.

Since the deceased was 52 years at the time of his death, the applicable multiplier was ‘11’.  Similarly, considering that he had four dependants, following compensation was granted to the dependants: (i) Towards Loss of dependency Rs.84,16,815 ( ii) Loss of Estate Rs.16,500 iii) Funeral Expenses Rs.16,500 (iv) Spousal Consortium Rs.44,000 ( v) Parental Consortium Rs.88,000. Total Rs.85,81,815 was granted as compensation along with interest at the rate of 7.5% per annum.

[N. Jayasree v. Cholamandalam Ms General Insurance Company Ltd., 2021 SCC OnLine SC 967, decided on 25-10-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together


Appearance by:

For the Appellants: Adv. Seshatalpa Sai Bandaru

For the Respondents: Adv.  Chander Shekhar Ashri


*Judgment by: Justice S. Abdul Nazeer