Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of S.S. Shinde and Manish Pitale, JJ., quashed proceedings initiated against the petitioner (daughter) by her mother under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

In the present matter, a daughter sought the quashing of proceedings initiated by her mother under the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (DV Act) claiming that she was facing the ire of her mother due to matrimonial discord between her mother and father.

Further, she added that she has been unnecessarily dragged into the said proceedings pending before the Magistrate Court which is resulting in a detrimental effect on her career as also her prospects of studying abroad.

Respondent 1, Mother of the petitioner had filed an application against the husband under Sections 12,18, 19, 20 and 22 of the DV Act before the Metropolitan Magistrate. Respondent 1 had raised various grievances seeking protection order, monetary relief, residence order and order for grant of compensation.

Petitioner has plans to go abroad for further studies and for that in the application forms while seeking Visa a declaration was to be given regarding pendency of criminal cases against the applicant. But due to the pendency of said proceeding initiated under the DV Act by her mother are creating hurdles for the petitioner to successfully seek Visa.

In view of the above circumstances, present petition was filed to seek quashing of the said proceedings by her mother, insofar as she was concerned.

Analysis, Law and Decision

The intent of the DV Act is to ensure that a woman who faces abuse at the hands of her husband or a male partner has an avenue to raise her grievance against such person and also any relative of such person. Ordinarily, this would include the relatives on the side of the husband or male partner.

In the present matter, only at place of the application filed by respondent 1 under the DV Act before the Magistrate, allegation was made against the petitioner.

It is only at one place in paragraph (m) of the application that an allegation is made against the Petitioner that on the husband of Respondent No.1 (father of the Petitioner) instigating the Petitioner, she allegedly assaulted the Respondent No.1.

As per the material on record, petitioner continued to live with her father, and this was perhaps a reason why she added the petitioner as a party to the proceedings initiated under the DV Act.

Bench stated that it appeared that a single allegation made against the petitioner was an exaggeration and it had arisen out of anger of respondent 1 against the petitioner, as she continued to reside with her father, i.e. the husband of respondent 1.

“…bitterness in the matrimonial relationship between Respondent No.1 and her husband has spilled over to the children, particularly against the Petitioner”

Respondent 1 developed bitterness and anger, not only against her husband but her daughter.

Bench was surprised to note that petitioner’s own mother was hell-bent upon creating obstructions in her progress. This was evident from the affidavit filed by respondent 1, wherein it was stated that it is not necessary for the petitioner to go abroad for higher education and that the said ground was being raised only as an excuse to avoid legal proceedings initiated by respondent 1.

High Court opined that the said allegation raised against the petitioner was exaggerated and her anger and bitterness arose from the matrimonial discord with her husband leading to serious impediment in the progress of her own daughter.

“…allegations seem to be made in a fit of anger and they could be said to be improbable in the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case.”

Bench referred to the Supreme Court decision in State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal, 1992 Supp (1) SCC 335, with regard to exercising jurisdiction to quash the proceedings.

Following categories of cases by way of illustrations wherein such power could be exercised either to prevent abuse of the process of any court or otherwise are:

“(1)Where the allegations made in the first information report or the complaint, even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety do not prima facie constitute any offence or make out a case against the accused.

 (2) Where the allegations in the first information report and other materials, if any, accompanying the FIR do not disclose a cognizable offence, justifying an investigation by police officers under Section 156(1) of the Code except under an order of a Magistrate within the purview of Section 155(2) of the Code.

(3) Where the uncontroverted allegations made in the FIR or complaint and the evidence collected in support of the same do not disclose the commission of any offence and make out a case against the accused.

(4) Where, the allegations in FIR do not constitute a cognizable offence but constitute only a non-cognizable offence, no investigation is permitted by a police officer without an order of a Magistrate as contemplated under Section 155(2) of the Code. 

(5)Where the allegations made in the FIR or complaint are so absurd and inherently improbable on the basis of which no prudent person can ever reach a just conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused.

(6) Where there is an express legal bar engrafted in any of the provisions of the Code or the concerned Act (under which a criminal proceeding is instituted) to the institution and continuance of the proceedings and/or where there is a specific provision in the Code or the concerned Act, providing efficacious redress for the grievance of the aggrieved party.

(7) Where a criminal proceeding is manifestly attended with malafide and/or where the proceeding is maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on the accused and with a view to spite him due to private and personal grudge.”

Observing the above-stated, and in view of the facts and circumstances of the case, Bench held that the allegations levelled by respondent 1 against the petitioner, borne out of the matrimonial discord with her husband, can be said to be inherently improbable and therefore, they fall in Category-5 laid down in the above-quoted portion of the Supreme Court decision.

High Court held that the present case was fit to exercise jurisdiction to quash the proceedings initiated by respondent 1 under the DV Act, insofar as they pertain to the petitioner. [Vanisha Vincent Rodrigues v. Jyoti Vincent Rodrigues, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 613, decided on 20-04-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: Shampa Sarkar, J., expressed that Hindu Marriage Act is a gender-neutral provision and further expressed the scope of maintenance.

In the present revisional application, the issue was with respect to the wife being aggrieved with the quantum of maintenance.

Wife had filed an application under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act and maintenance pendente lite @Rs 30,000 per month and Rs 75,000 as litigation cost was prayed.

Wife was aggrieved that the lower court allowed 1/5th of the husband’s income as maintenance pendente lite and considering the husband’s income as Rs 60,000, Court proceeded to grant an amount of Rs 12,000 as maintenance.

Hindu Marriage Act provides for the rights, liabilities and obligations arising from a marriage between two Hindus.

Sections 24 and 25 make provisions for providing maintenance to a party who has no independent income sufficient for his or her support and necessary expenses. This is a gender-neutral provision, where either the wife or the husband may claim maintenance. The pre-requisite is that the applicant did not have independent income which is sufficient for his or her support during the pendency of the lis.

Justice Krishna Iyer’s decision of Supreme Court in Captain Ramesh Chander Kaushal v. Veena Kaushal, (1978) 4 SCC 70 was referred to regarding the object of maintenance laws.

Supreme Court’s decision in Rajnesh v. Neha, (2021) 2 SCC 324 discussed the criteria for determining the quantum of maintenance and the relevant factors to be taken into consideration in order to quantify the amount. The object behind granting maintenance is to ensure that the dependent spouse was not reduced to destitution or vagrancy on account of failure of the marriage and not as a punishment to the other spouse.

In the instant case, wife’s potential to earn may exist as she had a post-graduate degree but as per the evidence, it appeared that she had been out of employment Since May, 2014. Records revealed that the husband had been appointed at a salary of Rs 23,000. It was expected that in the intervening period, husband’s income must have gone up by at least 3 times.

Supreme Court noted that some guesswork could not be ruled out estimating the income when the sources or correct sources are not disclosed. Hence, Trial Court rounded the figure at Rs 60,000 as the expected income of the husband at present.

Bench considered it prudent to award Rs 20,000 to the wife as maintenance pendente lite.

Bench dismissed Mr Chatterjee’s contention that wife should be directed to disclose her present income and file the affidavit of assets.

Further, the Court stated that in the absence of any evidence on the part of the husband, this Court is of the opinion that taking into consideration the criteria as laid down by several judicial precedents on the subject from time to time, Rs 20,000/- as maintenance pendete lite per month is just and proper.

High Court modified the impugned order to the above extent. It was directed that the current maintenance shall be paid with effect from April, 2021 within 20th of the month.  Thereafter on and from May 2021 the maintenance shall be paid within 15th of every month as directed by lower court.[Upanita Das v. Arunava Das, C.O. No. 4386 of 2019, decided on 09-04-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner: Mr Srijib Chakraborty and Ms Sudeshna Basu Thakur

For the Opposite Party: Mr Aniruddha Chatterjee and Mr Sachit Talukdar

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: The Division Bench of Prashant Kumar Mishra and N.K. Chandravanshi, JJ., while finding error in trial court’s decision held that wife attempting to commit suicide and consistently showing abnormality in her behaviour by pressing neck of daughter and husband, jumping to neighbour’s roof will amount to mental cruelty forming ground of dissolution of marriage.

Appellant was aggrieved by the impugned judgment and decree passed by the Family Court dismissing his application under Section 13(1)(i—a) of the Hindu Marriage Act for grant of divorce.

Factual Matrix

Parties were married and their daughter was now residing with the respondent/wife.

It was submitted that from the very next day of the marriage respondent insisted to leave the matrimonial house, but on persuasion stayed for 5-6 days and called her mother to return to her parental house and did not come back for 15-20 days.

Later respondent’s mother informed the elderly persons of the society that she is a schizophrenic, which was not informed to the appellant before the marriage.

Incidents of abnormal behaviour

She used to call elderly persons in the in-laws’ family by their name and on one night she jumped to the neighbour’s house from the roof of appellant’s house. She used to leave her matrimonial house every now and then without any rhyme or reason. When the appellant and other family members objected to her behaviour she used to filthily abuse them and locked the door from inside.

Respondent denied all the allegations.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Decisions pertaining to the concept of mental cruelty were referred to. In the Supreme Court decision of Samar Ghosh v. Jaya Ghosh, (2007) 4 SCC 511, illustrative cases where inference of mental cruelty could be drawn was indicated.

Supreme Court decision in V. Bhagat v. D. Bhagat, (1994) 1 SCC 337, held that mental cruelty in Section 13(1)(i—a) can broadly be defined as that conduct which inflicts upon the other party such mental pain and suffering as would make it not possible for that party to live with the other.

Mental cruelty must be of such a nature that the parties cannot reasonably be expected to live together.

In Naveen Kohli v Neelu Kohli, (2006) 4 SCC 558, the Supreme Court held that the word “cruelty” has to be understood in the ordinary sense of the term in matrimonial affairs. If the intention to harm, harass or hurt could be inferred by the nature of the conduct or brutal act complained of, cruelty could be easily established. But the absence of intention should not make any difference in the case.

In view of the above decisions, Court in the present matter stated that in light of the facts of the case, it can be seen that the respondent-wife admitted to attempting to commit suicide and assaulting her mother-in-law.

As per the evidence placed, it was stated that the respondent once jumped from the roof to fall in the neighbour’s house and tried to strangulate her daughter and husband. There have also been instances of respondent-wife leaving the house during the night hours wearing white saree without putting bangles and vermilion on the forehead.

Hence, considering the instance as stated above along with the psychiatrist treatment, Bench held that it was sufficient to prove that her conduct amounted to sustained reprehensible unjustifiable conduct affecting physical and mental health of the appellant.

When she attempts to commit suicide, this singular act by itself amounts to causing such mental cruelty, which is beyond repair.

Bench noted that in the present case there was consistent irresponsible or abnormal behaviour of the respondent, therefore, when the entire married life is reviewed as a whole, inference was that the relationship was being deteriorated and it was extremely difficult for the appellant-husband to live with respondent-wife.

While concluding the decision High Court expressed that the wife was guilty of committing mental cruelty, furnishing a ground for dissolution of marriage.

Trial Court committed an error in not appreciating the evidence, hence the impugned judgment and decree was set aside. [Rajeshwar Prasad Kaushal v. Gayatri Kaushal, 2021 SCC OnLine Chh 799, decided on 31-03-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For Appellant Mr D.N. Prajapati, Advocate

For Respondent Mr C.K. Sahu, Advocate

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: A Division Bench of Arindam Sinha and Suvra Ghosh, JJ. confirmed a decree of divorce passed in favour of the husband by the trial court on grounds of cruelty by the wife. The instant appeal, dismissed by the High Court, was preferred by the wife against the judgment of the trial court.

Backdrop and Factual Matrix

The husband filed for divorce against the wife on grounds of cruelty, alleging that she made false allegations against him of having illicit relations with other women as well as their own daughter. The trial court found that no cogent proof of illicit relationship was forthcoming from the wife which could prove the allegations made by her against the husband. Therefore, the trial court held it amounted to cruelty against the husband under Section 13(i)(i-a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; and granted a decree of divorce in favour of the husband.

Contentions ─ Wife

The wife argued that the allegation of cruelty was erroneously held to be proved against her. She submitted that the persons named were not produced as witness. Extreme financial hardship had prevented her from fully participating at the trial, but that by itself did not justify finding in the trial court’s judgment and decree that the allegation of cruelty was proved against her.

Contentions ─ Husband

The husband submitted that the suit was filed in year 2004. Dilatory tactics were adopted by the wife. He gave evidence and was cross-examined, which could not shake his evidence. Such unshaken testimony was corroborated by their daughter. The daughter was married and living happily in her matrimonial home. Grave and serious allegations against him were made regarding carrying on with several women, including, their daughter. This part of the evidence was also corroborated by the daughter. The daughter took to the witness box and corroborated unshaken testimony of the husband, and therefore the wife did not cross-examine her, nor turn up to give evidence and be cross-examined. In such circumstances, further corroboration was not required and the Court below correctly appreciated the evidence to find cruelty inflicted on him.

It was further submitted that he had allowed the wife to stay in his flat and is regularly paying her enhanced permanent alimony. Eighteen years of separation had happened and there should not now be reversal of the trial court’s judgment and decree. He relied on the Supreme Court decision in Adhyaatmam Bhaamini v. Jagdish Ambala Shah, (1997) 9 SCC 471.

Law, Analysis and Decision

The High Court analysed the facts and allegations in two parts. Firstly, the allegations were regarding the wife having taken up a 9 am to 9 pm job, after which she became very ill. The husband, in his evidence, stated that he put pressure on the wife to leave the job. On the other hand, the wife said that the husband forced her to work on a sales office to earn money to meet family expenses. On examining the record, it appeared to the High Court that the wife took up the job, after which she fell ill, and the husband caused her to leave the job. Therefore, the wife’s account on this point was disbelieved by the Court.

Secondly, the allegation against the wife was that in July-August 2003, she visited the husband’s office, informing the Committee of Housing about him maintaining illicit relationship with their daughter. As a consequence, members of the Committee came to their residence. The wife admitted that on one occasion, she went to her husband’s office, but only to meet him. She did not meet allegations regarding her approaching the Committee members.

The allegations of the husband against the wife, were corroborated by their daughter in her evidence-in-chief. Although some statements in her affidavit were hearsay. The Court opined that:

There are some statements in her affidavit-in-chief, which are hearsay. The parts of her affidavit that can be attributed to be her evidence is in corroboration of what her father said in the petition, his affidavit-in-chief and from the Box, in cross-examination.”    

 On a complete analysis, the High Court held that the wife made reckless allegations against the husband, amounting to cruelty. The Court was convinced that there is no scope of interference in the trial court’s judgment and decree. The appeal was fount without any merit and was therefore dismissed. [Radha Majumder v. Arun Kumar Majumder, 2021 SCC OnLine Cal 1398, decided on 23-03-2021]


Advocates who appeared in this case:

Mr. Pradip Kumar Roy

Ms. Shraboni Sarkar … for appellant wife

Mr. Debabrata Acharyya

Mr. Sital Samanta … for respondent-husband

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: V. Bhavani Subbaroyan, J., while addressing a very significant issue with respect to a divorce being sought, expressed that:

“…concept of marriage in the present generation has been taken very lightly and even for trivial issues, divorce is filed, and marriage is broken.”

Wife filed the present petition against the petition filed by the Husband before the Family Court. The husband’s petition was filed on the ground that the wife was suffering from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and was not fit for cohabitation or to give birth to a child.

Husband also filed an interlocutory application seeking for an amendment to include the provision of law from 12(1)(a) and 12(1)(a) and (c). The said petition seeking for amendment was pending before the Family Court for decision.

Petitioners Counsel, S.P. Arthi submitted that PCOS disorder is an endocrine system disorder that affects the capacity of reproduction in women, and which is totally distinct and different from claiming to be impotence.

As per the contention of counsel for the petitioner, the said claim made by the husband was absolutely incorrect and the said usage of terminology of impotency against the wife could not be sustained and on the said ground striking off the petition was sought.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Bench noted the categorical allegation placed by the husband with regard to the issue of PCOS in the wife due to which the husband sought a divorce.

High Court expressed that:

The term ‘PSOS’ by itself cannot be termed as ‘impotency’. Impotency is different and unable to give birth to a child is different, owing to various physical and mental reasons.

 On careful consideration of the contentions placed on record, it was clear that the husband did not plead the wife’s inability to give birth to a child as ‘Impotency’, but he sought annulment of marriage on the reason that there was no cohabitation and wife could not bear a child. He also submitted that the wife did not cooperate for cohabitation owing to her medical condition, as she was almost 25 days on her menstrual cycle.

Marriage being a bondage between men and women as husband and wife, it not only limits to a biological needs and desires, but also as a companion in life caring forward to the next generation through their children.

Elaborating more in respect to the present set of facts and circumstances, Bench added that Family Courts have increased in numbers to cater to the demand of intolerant couple, who are unmindful of the institution of marriage, break the relationship on unimaginable trivial reasons.

As per the pleadings placed, nowhere the husband used the word connoting impotency towards his wife. He mainly approached with the complaint that the wife could not bear a child for two reasons:

  • No Cohabitation
  • Suffering from ‘PCOS’ due to which wife suffers from improper menstrual cycle.

Legitimate Expectation?

Bench expressed that it is the husband’s legitimate expectation to live with his wife and have cohabitation and bear children and if the same is not achieved owing to some physical or mental problems, it is quite logical that either of the parties will approach the Court for seeking a divorce.

Except for some case wherein the couple are understanding and come forward with the life issue-less or even go for adoption, however, the same has to be proved by the person claiming that his or her partner is incapacitated to give or bear the child.

Petitioner/Wife could not show the husbands averments to be illusive.

Hence, High Court did not find any grounds seeking for the intervention of this Court under Article 227 of the Constitution of India with regard to striking off the petition.[ Annapoorani v. S. Ritesh,  2021 SCC OnLine Mad 1079, decided on 16-03-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: The Division Bench of A. Muhamed Mustaque and Kauser Edappagath, JJ., held that to get a decree of divorce under Section 13(1)(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, it is necessary for the party seeking divorce to prove that the other party’s unsoundness of mind is incurable or that the mental disorder is of such kind that the petitioner cannot be reasonably expected to live with his/her spouse.

The instant petition was filed by the wife in a marital dispute challenging the Family Court’s Order allowing the application filed by the husband to constitute a medical board and to direct the wife to appear before it for the assessment of her mental condition.

Husband had initiated the divorce proceedings before the Court under Section 13(1)(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act on the ground of mental order. He added in his submissions that the mental condition of the wife was not normal as she was suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder as well as a borderline personality disorder.

The husband filed a petition before the Court below to direct the wife to undergo medical examination for borderline personality disorder before a medical board to be constituted for the said purpose, but the wife objected the same.

Analysis, Law and Decision

 Bench while analysing the facts and circumstances of the cases stated that the Court has the power to direct the parties to the litigation to undergo a medical test.

Further, Court referred to the Supreme Court decision in Sharda v. Dharmpal, (2003) 4 SCC 493, wherein it was held that even though the right to privacy is implicit in the right to life and liberty guaranteed to the citizens of the country under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, a matrimonial Court has the power to order a person to undergo a medical test and such a direction need not be in violation of any right to personal liberty.

“…while exercising the power to order a medical test to be undergone by a person, the Court should exercise restraint and there must be strong prima facie case and sufficient material before the Court to pass such an order.”

 In the present matter, wife’s alleged mental order is an issue to be decided.

Divorce Decree

High Court expressed that, in order to get a divorce decree under Section 13(1)(iii) of HMA, the husband must establish that unsoundness of mind of the wife is incurable or her mental disorder is of such kind and to such an extent that petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with her spouse.

Family Court

The Family Court has the power to direct a party to appear before a medical board to undergo a medical examination and the question of such action being violative of Article 21 of the Constitution of India would not arise.

It was noted that the husband had produced documents wherein it was stated that the wife was treated by the psychiatrist for the alleged illness. The said documents were perused by the lower court.

“The fact that the wife’s alleged mental disorder is an issue to be decided in the case itself constitutes a prima facie case.”

Medical Board’s opinion regarding the medical condition of the wife may be of utmost importance for granting or rejecting the prayer for a decree of divorce under Section 13(1)(iii) of the HMA.

Further, while concluding its decision, Bench added that the above-stated opinion is relevant under Section 45 of the Evidence Act.

When a party to a litigation alleges existence of certain facts, the Court can draw no inference of its existence unless it is proved through the manner in which the Evidence Act is envisaged.

Therefore, the Family Court’s decision was justified in its order and no interference was required.[Devika M. v. Shibin Prakash, 2021 SCC OnLine Ker 1235, decided on 10-03-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Counsel for the petitioner Sri. T.R. Harikumar

Counsel for the respondent Sri. Sharan Shahier.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Subramonium Prasad, J., partly allowed a revision petition filed by the husband and reduced the amount of interim maintenance granted to the respondent-wife and son from Rs 12,500 per month to Rs 4,500 per month. While so deciding, the Court held that:

It is trite law that it is for the wife to establish that the petitioner [husband] was earning some amount from the business of his father and that even after the death of the petitioner’s father the business was continued by the family members. Some material ought to have been produced by the respondent to substantiate the contention that the petitioner was also running some business in the name of Rakesh & Company.

The husband filed the instant petition against the order of the Family Court, Saket, whereby he was directed to pay the maintenance at Rs 12,500 per month to the applicant wife and their son (Rs 7,500 for the wife and Rs 5,000 for the son).

Backdrop

The petitioner and respondent 1 got married in 2012. A son was born to them. However, disputes arose, and the husband filed a petition for restitution of conjugal rights against the wife under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. On the other hand, the wife filed an application under Section 125 CrPC for grant of maintenance. An application for interim maintenance was also pressed. The wife alleged that the husband was earning Rs 35,000 per month. This included salary of Rs 20,000 drawn by working in a shop and another Rs 15,000 earned from his father’s business. An amount of Rs 18,000 (Rs 10,000 for the wife and Rs 8,000 for the son) was claimed as maintenance.

The husband disputed his income as alleged by the wife. The Family Court, however, estimated the husband’s income at Rs 30,000 per month and fixed the maintenance at Rs 12,500 per month.

On the husband’s inability to pay the amount as awarded by the Family Court, he was taken into judicial custody.

Contentions

The petitioner contended that the judgment of the Family Court was based on conjectures and surmises. He filed an affidavit and stated that his father was running a business of Sesame Oil, but it was closed after the father’s death. The petitioner husband also filed an affidavit of the Manager of the shop where the petitioner was working. The Manager deposed that the petitioner was drawing a salary of Rs 9,000 per month.

On the other hand, the respondent-wife contended that the husband was concealing his actual income.

Law, Analysis and Decision

Perusing the record, the High Court was of the opinion that the entire judgment of the Family Court was based on guesswork. There was no material, whatsoever, for the Family Court to conclude that the husband was earning Rs 30,000 per month. No reason was forthcoming as to why the appointment letter given by the employer of the husband was disbelieved/discarded by the Family Court.

It was held that it is trite law that it is for the wife to establish that the petitioner was earning some amount from the business of his father and that even after the death of the petitioner’s father the business was continued by the family members. Some material ought to have been produced by the respondent to substantiate the contention that the petitioner was also running some business in the name of Rakesh & Company. The Court was of the view that:

“In the absence of any material on record, the judgment of the Family Court fixing the salary of the petitioner at Rs 30,000 per month and awarding Rs 12,500 for the wife and children cannot be sustained.”

Further, the High Court found that it cannot ignore the fact that the husband was in jail because of his inability to pay maintenance to his wife:

Had the petitioner been capable of paying the maintenance, the petitioner would have made the payment rather than going to jail.

In view of the above and in view of the absence of any material to the contrary and the only material being the affidavit filed by the husband that he is earning Rs 9,000 per month, the High Court reduced the amount of maintenance as granted by the Family Court and directed the husband to pay a sum of Rs 4,500 as interim maintenance to the wife and their son from the date of filing of the petition, i.e. 1-3-2016. He was further directed to clear the arrears of maintenance within two months.

It was made clear that all the observations made in the instant order are only restricted for the purpose of calculating the interim maintenance; and the amount of maintenance to be paid under Section 125 CrPC would be arrived at by the Family Court after taking into account the entire evidence adduced by the parties before it. [Amit Kumar Sindhi v. Monika, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 1324, decided on. 23-3-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Tripura High Court: S.G. Chattopadhyay, J., elaborated on the aspect of economic abuse in term of Section 3 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

Factual Matrix

Wife had presented an application under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, wherein she referred to several incidents of domestic violence against her husband.

Further, she alleged that her husband subjected her to harassment and torture for dowry and since she was unable to meet his demand, she was physically assaulted by her husband on various dates. Gradually he developed an extramarital affair. When the wife raised a protest against his conduct he assaulted her.

Trial Court found the wife to be entitled to a protection order, residence order and monetary relief, respondents were directed to make payment of Rs 2000/- per month as rent for accommodation to the aggrieved and further payment of Rs 15,000/- per month as monetary relief in the form of maintenance.

Additional Sessions Judge also partly allowed the appeal of the husband, his mother, brother and sister, by which the husband was solely proved to have committed domestic violence upon his wife and others were discharged from the liabilities.

In the present revision petition, husband has challenged the impugned judgment of the Additional Sessions Judge.

Core Issue agitated by the husband’s counsel:

Relief under the DV Act had been provided to the wife in absence of any proof of domestic violence.

Under Section 12 of the DV Act only the aggrieved person or a protection officer appointed under the DV Act or any other person on behalf the aggrieved person may present an application to the magistrate seeking one or more reliefs under this Act.

Allegation of domestic violence is a sine qua non for pursuing a petition under the DV Act.

Further, Court observed that under Section 3 of the DV Act which defines domestic violence, ‘economic abuse’ is a form of domestic violence.

Section 3 relates to ‘economic abuse’ which includes deprivation of all or any economic financial resources to which the aggrieved person is entitled under any law or custom whether payable under an order of a court or otherwise.

Bench held that in the present matter, wife is obviously legally entitled to maintenance allowance from her husband who is a government employee since she made a good case of justifying why she was living separately.

Denial of maintenance to wife would definitely cause ‘economic abuse’ within the meaning of Section 3 of the Domestic Violence Act, therefore no infirmity in the impugned judgment was found.

Court directed that the monetary relief shall be paid by the husband by depositing the same in the wife’s savings bank account. The Family Court will determine the mode of payment of the outstanding arrear till 31-01-2021 after issuing notice to the parties and hearing them in person.

If the husband fails to pay the arrear, the same shall be deducted from his salary and paid to the wife.

In view of the above. Petition was dismissed. [Ramendra Kishore Bhattacharjee v. Madhurima Bhattacharjee, 2021 SCC OnLine Tri 79, decided on 10-02-2021]


Advocates for the parties:

For the Appellant: Mr B. Deb, Adv.

For the Respondent: Mr S. Debnath, Addl. PP Mr Raju Datta

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: Mary Joseph, J., while addressing an issue of maintenance under Section 125 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, expressed that the said provision does not say that wife, children or parents who are at the mercy of the parents, grandparents or relatives are not entitled to get monthly maintenance or else in the case of a wife, children or parents who are neglected and surviving at the mercy of other near relatives are not entitled to get maintenance.

Respondents in the present matter had sought for enhancement of the sum ordered originally by the Family Court as monthly maintenance which was ordered at the rate of Rs 1,000 but the petitioner defaulted in payment after some time.

Revision petitioner contended that he was physically handicapped and that the eldest of the children being employed and financially affluent were maintaining the respondents. Hence, due to being devoid of any means of livelihood he submitted that he was not liable to maintain the respondents.

Petitioner had proved before the Family Court that the respondent was remarried and respondents contention that he had no means and therefore was not liable to pay maintenance to the petitioners could not be accepted for the sole reason that he got married secondly and begotten children.

Muslim Personal Law is self-contained of the obligation of the husband to maintain his wife by providing her with food, clothing and lodging. In the Code, a legal recognition is given to the right of a deserted wife, son/daughter, and parents who are unable to maintain themselves.

Section 125 CrPC specifically provides that wife, children or parents unable to maintain themselves are entitled to receive monthly maintenance from a male who holds status respectively with reference to them as husband, father or son.

Bench held that the Husband cannot be exonerated from his legal obligation to maintain on the ground that deserted or neglected ones are surviving somehow or else being maintained by someone.

Hence, the Family Court rightly appreciated the evidence and passed the impugned orders modifying the monthly maintenance payable to the petitioner justly and reasonably. [Mohammedkunhi v. Safura, 2021 SCC OnLine Ker 407, decided on 04-01-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of A.S. Chandurkar and N.B. Surawanshi, JJ., upheld the decision of the family court.

Present appeal was filed under Section 19 of the Family Courts Acts, 1984 by the appellant-husband, in view of his petition being dismissed by the Family Court for judicial separation and in the alternative for a decree of divorce on cruelty and desertion ground.

According to the husband, he was Mangalik as per his horoscope and hence was in search of a girl who was having a Mangalik horoscope. As per the girl’s biodata, she was depicted as Mangalik.

After her marriage with the appellant she started living in the joint family of her husband where she usually used to stay aloof. Further, it has been stated that she avoided giving her educational certificates on the pretext that they were lost.

On receiving her educational certificates from her father, the husband was shocked to know her actual date of birth therefore she was Non-Mangalik. She had even failed BA-II.

The wife left the matrimonial house at midnight without informing anyone and during the search, she was found with her brother and brother in law who were taking her to her maternal home.

The husband along with his family members went to bring the wife back, but her parents refused to send her and also threatened to involve them in a false case. According to the husband, the wife lodged false complaint on that day.

Husband alleged that the wife caused mental and physical harassment to the husband. He, therefore, contended that the wife deserted him on account of false complaint lodged by the wife and the husband from time to time.

Due to the continuous torture by the wife, the life of the husband had become miserable. He was not in a position to concentrate on his work due to continuous harassment by the wife. The husband, therefore, lost all the hopes that the smooth relations between him and wife were possible. Hence, he filed the petition seeking divorce on the ground of cruelty and desertion.

Wife while declining all the above allegations claimed that she was ready to cohabit with the husband and hence prayed for the dismissal of the petition filed by the husband.

Family Court dismissed the petition of the husband, hence the husband preferred the present appeal.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Points for determination:

  1. Whether the appellant is entitled for decree of divorce?
  2. Whether the learned Family Court dismissing the petition of husband is legally correct?

Bench noted in the cross-examination of the appellant that he admitted that prior to his marriage there were negotiations as well as internal talks and his sister had inquired about the education of the respondent as well as her family background. The appellant also admitted that he married the respondent as he liked her. He also stated that he did not take decision in his life on the basis of horoscope. The marriage was performed after verifying the background, houses and all the details of both the families. His father in his evidence admitted that the horoscopes of the appellant and the respondent were not tallied. Further, he deposed that he did not have any document to show that the appellant was a Mangalik. He even admitted that at the time of marriage the age of the appellant was beyond marriageable age.

Hence, all these admissions belie the case of the appellant that there was cheating on the part of the respondent and her parents at the time of settlement of marriage.

In view of the above, Bench observed that there was no fraud played by the wife or her family.

Appellant failed to make out a case of fraud and even if it is assumed that there was misrepresentation in respect of the date of birth, it does not affect the matrimonial relations between the appellant and the respondent, as the appellant failed to prove that he was Mangalik and he intended to marry the girl having Mangalik Yog.

Father of appellant, admitted that for initial two years of the marriage, there was no dispute between the appellant and the respondent in respect of age difference as well as the respondent being non-mangalik. According to the respondent, the ill-treatment started only after the appellant got government job.

Therefore, evidence laid by the respondent did not spell out cruelty caused by the respondent to him.

With regard to Desertion, Court noted that as per the evidence led by the respondent she was beaten and her sister and her husband saw the marks of beating on her person. After they left, she was again beaten and threatened with life. Apprehending danger to her life, she had to take shelter in the house of neighbour Shri Gordey. From there, she called her parents and her brother, sister Kiran, her husband and others took her from the house of Shri Gordey to her parent’s house

Further, there was no material that depicted that the appellant tried to bring the respondent back for cohabitation.

 “…since the appellant attributed cheating and fraud to the respondent and her parents, it is not possible to believe that he tried to bring the respondent back for cohabitation.”

Therefore, family court rightly appreciated the evidence on record and appellant failed to prove cruelty and desertion on the part of respondent-wife.

In view of the above discussion. The appeal against the family court’s decision was dismissed. [Kartik Narayan Dhawle v. Vaishali Kartik Dhawle, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 241, decided on 23-02-2021]


Advocates who appeared before the Court:

B.R. Hindustani, Advocate holding for A.N. Ansari, Advocate for the appellant,

S.N. Thengari, Advocate for the respondent.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Revati Mohite Dere, J., while addressing a very significant issue of assault, expressed that:

“There is imbalance of gender roles, where wife as a homemaker is expected to do all the household chores.”

Factual Matrix

Appellant was married to Manisha (deceased) and they both used to reside with the appellant’s mother.

According to the prosecution, the appellant was suspecting Manisha’s character as a result of which, there used to be frequent quarrels between them.

On 19-12-2013, Manisha was leaving the house without preparing tea on account of which, there was an exchange of words between the appellant and the deceased. Since the appellant was suspecting Manisha’s character and as she refused to make tea for the appellant, it was alleged that the appellant had given a blow on Manisha’s head from behind, with a hammer.

Further, it was alleged that the said incident was witnessed by Rohini, the appellant and Manisha’s daughter.

Prosecution submitted that after Manisha was assaulted, the appellant gave her a bath, wiped the bloodstains from the spot and thereafter took Manisha to Vitthal Hospital.

At the time when Manisha was admitted, her uncle visited, during that time appellant informed Manisha’s uncle that he had assaulted Manisha. Hence a complaint was lodged and a charge sheet was filed against the appellant for the offence punishable under Sections 302 and 201 of the Penal Code, 1860.

Sessions Judge convicted the appellant for the above-stated offences.

Analysis, Law and Decision 

High Court observed that on the day of the incident on being refused tea, the appellant assaulted Manisha with a hammer, but in Court’s opinion:

“…deceased-Manisha, by refusing to make tea for the appellant, by no stretch of imagination, can be said to have offered grave and sudden provocation for the appellant to assault her, much less, such a brutal assault.”

Bench also observed that:

“…a wife is not a chattel or an object.”

Cases as the present one, reflect the imbalance of gender – skewed patriarchy, the socio-cultural milieu one has grown up in, which often seeps into a marital relationship.

While making very essential observations, Bench quoted from a study, ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife For Chattel’ by Margo Wilson and Martin Daly:

“by `proprietary’, we mean first that men lay claim to particular women as songbirds lay claim to territories, as lions lay claim to a kill, or as people of both sexes lay claim to valuables. Having located an individually recognizable and potentially defensible resource packet, the proprietary creature proceeds to advertise and exercise the intention of defending it from rivals. Proprietariness has further implication, possibly peculiar to the human case, of a sense of right or entitlement”. 

Medieval notion of the wife being the property of the husband to do as he wishes, unfortunately, still persists in the majority mindset. Nothing but notions of patriarchy.

Bench refused the appellant counsel’s argument the deceased by refusing to make tea for the appellant offered grave and sudden provocation.

In view of the present set of circumstances and arguments, Court stated that appellant not only assaulted his wife, but also after assaulting her, he wasted precious and crucial time by wiping the blood from the spot and bathing Manisha before taking her to hospital, if the deceased would have been rushed to the hospital, her life could have been saved.

Therefore, Court found no infirmity in the impugned judgment and dismissed the present appeal.[Santosh Mahadev Atkar v. State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 248, decided on 02-02-2021]


Advocates who appeared before the Court:

Sarang Aradhye for the Appellant

V. Gavand, A.P.P for the Respondent–State

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Division bench of A.S. Chandurkar and Pushpa V. Ganediwala, JJ., upheld the family court’s finding that “the behaviour and the conduct of the husband of making wild and unsubstantiated allegations resulted in causing mental cruelty to the wife.”

Factual Matrix

Appellant and the respondent were married since 2008 and a child was born out of the said wedlock. Appellant and his family started ill-treating the respondent. Respondent was driven away from her matrimonial home, after all, her gold articles were taken away.

In view of the above, she proceeded to file a case under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for restitution of conjugal rights.

The above proceedings were however withdrawn and later, wife filed a petition seeking divorce on the grounds of cruelty and desertion. She alleged that the appellant and his family members were ill-treating the respondent physically and mentally. Respondent approached the Mahila Cell with her grievances and after understanding given to both the parties, they started residing together, but the same did not continue for long as the respondent found herself in an unsafe environment and proceeded to file the present proceedings.

Family Court held that the respondent had proved that the appellant was treating her with cruelty. Hence by the impugned judgment, the Family Court proceeded to pass a decree for divorce on the ground of cruelty. Being aggrieved the appellant has preferred this appeal.

Issue for Consideration:

Whether in the facts of the case the Family Court was justified in granting a divorce on the ground of cruelty?

Decision

Bench in view of the facts and circumstances found the Family Court’s decision to be justified.

“…making of unfounded allegations against the spouse or his/her relatives in the pleadings or making complaints with a view to affect the job of the spouse amounts to causing mental cruelty to the said spouse.”

Mental Cruelty: What led to it?

Court elaborated on the above point that the conduct of the husband of not pleading that the wife was suffering from epilepsy and stating the same for the first time in his deposition as well as making wild allegation that the wife and her relatives had secured false caste certificate without attempting to substantiate the said allegation resulted in causing mental cruelty to wife.

Bench also added regarding the husband’s conduct that, it appeared from his conduct in one or the other he intended to prejudice the service of the wife.

The impugned judgment was affirmed. [Thalraj v. Jyoti, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 255, decided on 10-02-2021]


Advocates who appeared for the parties:

P.K. Mishra, Advocate for the appellant.

A.B. Bambal, Advocate for the respondent.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: K. Murali Shankar, J., addressed the issue with regard to payment of maintenance, whether from the date of application or date of order.

Factual Matrix

In the present matter, the second respondent is the mother and respondents 3 and 4, brothers of the first respondent who had married the petitioner. After a while misunderstandings arose between the petitioner and first respondent due to which they started living separately.

Petitioner had filed a maintenance case earlier and the Magistrate passed an order directing the first respondent to pay monthly maintenance at Rs 5,000 per month to the petitioner and her minor children.

Petitioner’s case

Petitioner stated that in order to avoid the payment of maintenance, respondents conspired and took the petitioner and her children to Chennai so as to resume their cohabitation. In the period of two months that the petitioner lived with first respondent, she was harassed and tortured physically and mentally and the petitioner was forcefully sent out of the matrimonial home by forcibly retaining the minor children.

In view of the above petitioner invoked the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic violence Act, 2005.

Trial Court passed impugned order, wherein first respondent was directed to pay the maintenance of Rs 5,000. On not being satisfied with the maintenance amount also the order of the trial court directing the first respondent to pay maintenance from the date of the order, petitioner/wife came forward with the present revision.

Analysis

Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 does not provide the date from which the maintenance to be awarded and there is no provisions in the Hindu Adoption and Marriage Act with respect to the date from which the maintenance order may be made effective. But, at the same time, Section 125(2) CrPC, contemplates that the Magistrate may award maintenance either from the date of order or from the date of application.

 In the Supreme Court decision of Jaiminiben Hirenbhai Vyas v. Hirenbhai Rameshchandras Vyas, (2015) 2 SCC 385, it was held that Section 125 CrPC, impliedly requires the Court to consider making the order for maintenance effective from either of the two dates, having regard to the relevant facts.

It is neither appropriate nor desirable that a Court simply states that maintenance should be paid from either the date of order or the date of the application in matters of maintenance.

As per Section 354(6) of the CrPC, the Court should record reasons in support of the order passed by it, in both eventualities and that the purpose of the provision is to prevent vagrancy and destitution in society and the Court must apply its mind to the options having regard to the facts of the particular case.

Supreme Court in its decision of Rajnesh v. Neha,2020 SCC OnLine SC 903, after analyzing the provisions in various enactment of the Judgments of the appeal and considering the divergent views taken by the various Courts issued necessary direction to bring about the uniformity in the orders passed by all the Courts.

Right to claim maintenance must date back to the date of filing of the application, since the period during which maintenance proceedings remained pending is not within the control of the applicant. Considering the above, the Supreme Court categorically directed that all the Courts award maintenance from the date of application.

 Conclusion

In the present matter, the petitioner had filed the case in the year 2014 and the impugned order was passed on 11-07-2017.

In view of the above discussion, Court held that it has no hesitation to hold that the impugned order granting maintenance from the date of order is liable to be set aside and the petitioner would be entitled to get maintenance from the date of application.

Hence, criminal revision case was partly allowed. [Mohamed Nisha Banu v. Mohamed Rafi, 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 801, decided on 17-02-2021]


Advocates who appeared for the parties:

For petitioner : S.M. Jinnah

For Respondent: No appearance

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court:  In a revision petition filed against the enhanced amount of alimony H.S. Madaan, J., upheld Family Court’s decision that,

If salary of the husband increases the wife would be entitled to increased maintenance as well.

The Petitioner, one Varun Jagotta had filed the instant revision petition against his wife Diksha Kapur, feeling aggrieved by the order of the Family Court whereby the Court had granted interim maintenance at Rs 20,000  per month till September, 2019 and thereafter at Rs 28,000 per month. The petitioner was basically aggrieved by the portion of the impugned order granting maintenance at Rs 28,000 w.e.f. October, 2019 onwards.

Taking note of the fact that there had been increase in the salary of the respondent from Rs 95,000 per month to Rs 1,14,000 per month in September, 2019 and there had been increase in rent being paid by the petitioner at the rate of Rs.1,500 per month, the Family Court opined that  if the petitioner is awarded a sum of Rs 20,000/- per month by way of interim maintenance from the date of filing the application (on 03.10.2018) till September, 2019 and henceforth, at the rate of Rs 28,000/- per month, it would suffice the purpose and ends of justice would be met.

The petitioner contended that as per pay slip of the petitioner for the month of December, 2019, his net carry home salary after all the deductions came out to Rs 92,175, therefore, grant of maintenance at Rs 28,000 per month was not justified.

Noticing that salary of the petitioner had increased from Rs 95,000 per month to Rs 1,14,000 per month, the Bench held that,

 “Increase in maintenance by Rs.8,000 when there was increase in salary of revision petitioner by 19,000, was justified.”

Hence, it was held that the impugned order did not suffer from any illegality or infirmity and was not perverse or passed in an arbitrary manner. The instant petition was dismissed. [Varun Jagotta v. Diksha Kapur, CRR(F)-28 of 2021, decided on 05-02-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this story together.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Dr Yogendra Kumar Srivastava, J., expressed that:

The remedy of writ of habeas corpus at the instance of a person seeking to obtain possession of someone whom he claims to be his wife would therefore not be available as a matter of course.

The present matter for writ of habeas corpus was filed to produce the corpus of petitioner 1 stated to be under detention.

On investigation, it was revealed that petitioner 1 had left her matrimonial home on her own on account of discord with her husband, petitioner 2 for the reason that he is stated to have entered into another marriage and a child was also stated to have been born out of the wedlock.

Petitioners counsel though disputing the factum of the second marriage did not controvert the fact of petitioner 2 being in an extra marital relationship and also that a child was born out of the said relationship.

Analysis and Decision

The writ of habeas corpus is a prerogative writ and an extraordinary remedy.

Bench observed that writ of habeas corpus is of right and not a writ of course and may be granted only on reasonable ground or probable cause being shown, as held in Mohammad Ikram Hussain v. State of U.P., 1964 AIR 1625 and Kanu Sanyal v. District Magistrate Darjeeling, (1973) 2 SCC 674.

Elaborating more on writ of Habeas Corpus, Court added that it has been held as a festinum remedium and accordingly the power would be exercisable in a clear case.

Hence, High Court held that in view of the other remedies available for the purpose under criminal and civil law, issuance of writ of habeas corpus at the behest of a husband to regain his wife may not be available as a matter of course and the power in this regard may be exercised only when a clear case would be made out.

Therefore, petitioner 1 having left the matrimonial home on her own due to a matrimonial discord, the present petition for a writ of habeas corpus at the behest of husband would not be entertainable.[Soniya v. State of U.P., 2021 SCC OnLine All 174, decided on 10-02-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: The Division Bench of Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli, JJ., upheld the Family Court’s decision and directed the parties approach the local Court of Singapore with regard to sorting out their matrimonial dispute. 

Issue

Present appeal was filed seeking a direction against the Family Court’s decision, wherein the appellant/plaintiff sought an anti-suit injunction against the defendant/respondent to seek restraint against him for proceeding with a divorce petition filed by him to seek dissolution of marriage before the Family Justice Courts of the Republic of Singapore.

Family Court had granted injunction till the next date of hearing, restraining the defendant/respondent from prosecuting, pursuing or going ahead with his divorce action or any other proceedings as emanating from the matrimony in the case pending in Singapore Court.

Analysis

Bench found that the Family Court took note of the law laid down by the Supreme Court decisions on the aspect of grant on anti-injunction suit. Following were decisions of Supreme Court that were relied upon by the Family Court:

Y.Narasimha Rao v. Y. Venkata Lakshmi, (1991) 3 SCC 451

Modi Entertainment Network v. WSG Cricket PTE Ltd., (2003) 4 SCC 341

Dinesh Singh Thakur v. Sonal Thakur., AIR 2018 SC 2094

Appellant’s submission before the Court is that she would be severely prejudiced in case the divorce proceedings were allowed to continue in Singapore Courts, since the divorce would be granted without the appellant being granted any maintenance, or alimony, as also the custody of the children.

Opinion

Court on perusal of the submissions, facts and circumstances of the case stated that:

Firstly, regarding the rights of the parties in a matrimonial dispute according to the law of Singapore can hardly be a reason for the Court to grant the injunction, for the simple reason that the parties were domiciled in Singapore and were continuously residing there since 2012.

Secondly, no reason can be seen why the Singapore Courts would treat the appellant unfairly. Pertinently she had moved an application before the Court at Singapore to seek maintenance. Therefore, the Court cannot accept her claim that she would be prejudiced in any manner on account of her being the wife in the matrimonial dispute before a Singapore Court.

Appellant had also moved an application challenging territorial jurisdiction of the Court at Singapore, which application was rejected.

Decision

Hence, the High Court held that the Family Court had rightly rejected the application preferred by the appellant under Order 39 Rule 1 and 2 CPC.

Bench reiterated that parties being permanent resident of Singapore, residing there since 2012, should sort out their matrimonial dispute before the local Court in Singapore.

Adding to the above, Court expressed that Courts in India cannot be said to be forums that would be convenient to either of the parties. Enforcement of orders passed by the Courts in India- when the parties; their children, and; their assets/properties are situated in Singapore, would be a practical impossibility.

On finding no merit in the appeal, it was dismissed. [Rakhee Bahl v. Pankaj Bahl, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 766, decided on 03-02-2021]


Advocates for the parties:

For Appellant: Osama Suhail with Surabhi Diwan, Advs.

For Respondent: Shashank Agrawal, Adv.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: J. Nisha Banu, J., while addressing a revision petition directed the Family Court to waive off the cooling-off period in view of the petitioners living separately for the past 13 years.

The instant petition was filed to seek direction to waive off the cooling period.

The revision petitioners had preferred the petition on the file of the Family Court under Section 13-B of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Husband and Wife had been living separately for 13 years and mutually agreed to dissolve their marriage.

The grievance that arose was that, since they had been living separately for the past 13 years, the family Court ought to have disposed of the petition. Hence, petitioners are constrained to move the present revision petition before the Court for granting speedy disposal of the petition.

Revision petitioners’ counsel while narrating the facts of the matter, relied upon the decision of the Supreme Court in Amardeep Singh v. Harveen Kaur, (2017) 8 SCC 746, wherein it was held that:

18. In determining the question whether provision is mandatory or directory, language alone is not always decisive. The Court has to have the regard to the context, the subject matter and the object of the provision. ….

… we are of the view that where the Court dealing with a matter is satisfied that a case is made out to waive the statutory period under Section 13B(2), it can do so after considering the following :

i) 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;

ii) 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 to reunite the parties have failed and there is no likelihood of success in that direction by any further efforts;

iii) the parties have genuinely settled their differences including alimony, custody of child or any other pending issues between the parties;

iv) the waiting period will only prolong their agony.

The waiver application can be filed one week after the first motion giving reasons for the prayer for waiver. 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.

  1. Since we are of the view that the period mentioned in Section 13B(2) is not mandatory but directory, 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.”

Hence, High Court concluded in the present matter that since the petitioners had been separated for the past 13 years and had entered into a compromise along with this in view of the above-referred decision, Family Court shall waive the cooling period and dispose of the petition.[Jaishankar, In Re., 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 708, decided on 01-02-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Suresh Kumar Kait, J., while addressing a criminal revision petition concerning a matrimonial dispute expressed that:

“..husband cannot wriggle out of his responsibilities to provide shelter to his wife and minor children.”

Issue: Modified Maintenance Amount to Wife

Petitioner/Husband sought to quash the Family Court’s Order through which maintenance amount was enhanced to Rs 22,000 from Rs 10,000 to respondent/wife.

Wife whereas sought modification of the Order passed by Family Court vide which interim maintenance amount of Rs 10,000 awarded by the trial court had been enhanced to Rs 22,000 while claiming it to be on the lower side.

Both the above-stated issues have been clubbed together and are being disposed of by this common Judgment.

Analysis

Wife claimed that her husband was living a luxurious life, whereas she herself was unemployed and helpless, and had two children, hence she claimed that her husband could easily maintain her and the children, but he has been deliberately neglecting his responsibilities.

In view of the above status of the husband, she claimed interim maintenance of Rs 40,000 per month.

As far as monthly income of the husband was concerned, as per his affidavit of income, he had declared his income as Rs37,418/- p.m., whereas as per ITR for the assessment year his monthly income was Rs 43,305/- p.m. Further, as per credit in bank account, his salary was shown to be Rs 44,560/- p.m, which the trial court had taken into consideration.

According to his salary slip, his total gross pay was Rs 50,003 per month and deduction of Rs 10,249 was made towards the pension scheme, insurance, society membership and repayment of the loan.

Court’s Opinion: Calculating Quantum of Maintenance

High Court opined that the income has to be ascertained keeping in mind that the deductions only towards income tax and compulsory contributions like GPF, EPF, etc. are permitted and no deductions towards house rent, electric charges, repayment of loan, LIC payments etc. are permitted.

In view of the above aspect, Bench referred to the Supreme Court decision in Dr Kulbhushan Kunwar v. Raj Kumari, (1970) 3 SCC 129, which was followed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Seema v. Gourav Juneja, 2018 SCC OnLine P&H 3045.

Applying the similar ratio as was in above cases, Court found that while calculating the income of the husband, deduction of Rs 1,000 towards NZRE BH NDLS contribution (which is a kind of saving) and Rs 4,451 NZRE BH Loan, from his gross income of Rs 50,003/-, cannot be permitted. Hence, the husband’s net income in hand comes to Rs 44,552/- p.m. and rounding it off to Rs 44,560.

Argument with regard to accommodation by the husband, that he has to pay rent for the same could not be considered as husband is duty-bound to arrange accommodation for his wife and children who are dependent upon him.

Court also cited the Supreme Court decision in Jasbir Kaur Sehgal v. Distt. Judge, Dehradun (1997) 7 SCC 7.

Trial Court’s Error

Whether the court below was right in dividing husband’s income into six shares while calculating and granting interim maintenance?

Husband’s mother used to receive a pension of Rs 17,199 and medical benefits, etc. and she used to live in three-storeyed building wherein one floor was occupied by her, one by her husband a and another by husband’s brother.

Since the husband pays Rs 8,000 as monthly rent and the same would be the position of the other son of the husband’s mother, her rental income would amount to Rs 16,000.

Even if it’s assumed that the rent agreement placed on record might have been manipulated to save income tax, then also it cannot be lose sight of that mother is receiving a good amount of pension and is thus, financially independent.

Another plea that the husband placed was that he had gotten employment on compassionate grounds when his father passed away, hence he is liable to maintain his mother.

On noting the above, Supreme Court decision on Bhuwan Mohan Singh v. Meena, (2015) 6 SCC 353 was referred, wherein it was held that:

“2. Be it ingeminated that Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (for short “the Code”) was conceived to ameliorate the agony, anguish, financial suffering of a woman who left her matrimonial home for the reasons provided in the provision so that some suitable arrangements can be made by the court and she can sustain herself and also her children if they are with her. The concept of sustenance does not necessarily mean to lead the life of an animal, feel like an unperson to be thrown away from grace and roam for her basic maintenance somewhere else. She is entitled in law to lead a life in the similar manner as she would have lived in the house of her husband. That is where the status and strata come into play, and that is where the obligations of the husband, in case of a wife, become a prominent one. In a proceeding of this nature, the husband cannot take subterfuges to deprive her of the benefit of living with dignity. Regard being had to the solemn pledge at the time of marriage and also in consonance with the statutory law that governs the field, it is the obligation of the husband to see that the wife does not become a destitute, a beggar. A situation is not to be maladroitly created whereunder she  is compelled to resign to her fate and think of life “dust unto dust”. It is totally impermissible. In fact, it is the sacrosanct duty to render the financial support even if the husband is required to earn money with physical labour, if he is able-bodied.” 

In view of the above discussion, Court found an error in the trial court’s decision in keeping the mother’s share in the income of the husband.

Hence, in this view of the matter, taking the income of husband @ Rs 44,560/- p.m. and diving it into two shares for him and remaining for his dependants i.e. wife and two children, that is to say by making five shares, each one is entitled to the share @Rs 8912/- (round of Rs 8910/-p.m.). Resultantly, the wife shall be entitled to interim maintenance @Rs 26,736/- p.m. and in round figure Rs 26,000/- instead of Rs 22,000/- p.m.

Bench modified the impugned order in the above terms. [Nitin Sharma v. Sunita Sharma, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 694, decided on 18-02-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of Sadhana S. Jadhav and N.J. Jamadar, JJ., while addressing the present matter, expressed that:

Where the prosecution succeeds in discharging its primary burden and brings evidence on record which indicates that the facts, thereby proved, rest within the special knowledge of the accused, Section 106 of the Evidence Act comes into play.

Suspicion, however strong, cannot take the place of proof.

Factual Matrix

Accused-Appellant has challenged the decision of the Additional Sessions Judge, wherein he was convicted for the offence punishable under Section 302 of the Penal Code, 1860 for having committed the murder of his wife Sunita (the deceased).

The accused harassed and ill-treated the deceased on suspecting fidelity of the deceased. The deceased and accused shifted to Beghar Vasti wherein they erected a temporary shed adjacent to the house of the first informant. Later the accused and deceased desired to erect a shed with a thatched roof.

To erect the shed with a thatched roof, both the accused and deceased went to the field in order to collect a wooden log. The first informant also went to the fieLd to graze the goats, wherein he saw that the deceased was lying near a mango tree and her clothes were stained with blood. However, first informant did not find the accused in the vicinity of the said spot. Thus, he suspected that the accused to have done so, after which he lodged a report.

 During the investigation, it was found that the deceased was carrying six months pregnancy and the said occurrence resulted in the death of quick unborn child as well. The accused came to be arrested.

Additional Sessions Judge framed charge against the accused of the offences punishable under Sections 302 and 316 of the IPC.

After the trial, offence for Section 316 IPC was not established against the accused, though he came to be convicted under Section 302 IPC.

Aggrieved with the above, present appeal was preferred.

Analysis and Decision

Bench noted that the fact that the accused did not offer any explanation regarding the circumstances in which he parted the company with the deceased and how the deceased sustained those fatal injuries weighed with the Additional Sessions, Judge.

In the context of the marital relationship between the deceased and the accused and the indisputable fact that they were residing at Khatgun along with the first informant, the “last seen theory” constitutes the linchpin of the prosecution case. 

Court added that the fact that the deceased was found beneath the mango tree in the said field, within a couple of hours of the accused and the deceased having left the house, can also be said to have been proved beyond the shadow of doubt.

Further, since there has been ample evidence to indicate that the first informant found the deceased lying in a motionless state with fatal injuries and when she raised alarm, the prosecution witnesses, Dharam Pawar (PW-6) and Sushila Pawar (PW-9) went to the scene of occurrence and found the deceased lying beneath the mango tree.

Adding to the above, Court also stated that in any event, the interval of time between the accused and the deceased leaving together their home and the deceased having been found dead in the field ‘Kolki’, did not exceed three hours.

It is trite law that the ‘last seen’ theory comes into play when the time gap between the point of time when the accused and the deceased were last seen alive and when the deceased is found dead, is so small that the possibility of any person other than the accused being the perpetrator of the offence, is inconceivable.

In view of the above law and facts of the case, Court held that the prosecution succeeded in establishing that the accused and the deceased were “last seen together”.

Nature of the death

The nature of the injuries found on the person of the deceased and the attendant circumstances are of determinative significance. Bench stated that the injuries found on the person of the deceased were on accessible and elective parts i.e. wrist and neck.

It is true that the accused did not endeavour to offer an explanation as regards the circumstances in which the deceased suffered the aforesaid injuries, when confronted with the incriminating material.

The question that triggers in the above circumstances is whether the failure to offer the explanation is sufficient to fasten the liability on the accused?

In the circumstances of the present case, in the absence of any positive evidence, motive to eliminate the deceased cannot be attributed to the accused on the premise that, before the accused and the deceased shifted to Khatgaun, their marital life was afflicted with discord.

Accused having changed the clothes with a view to conceal the fact that the clothes which he wore at the time of occurrence were stained with blood, is not of conclusive tendency and incriminating nature. Admittedly, the accused was found in an injured condition. Wounds were found on both the wrists and neck of the accused.

Adding to the above, Court expressed that the accused had visible injuries, on his person, when he was apprehended. The presence of bloodstains on the clothes of the accused, which he wore on the day of occurrence, therefore, cannot be construed as an incriminating circumstance.

Though prosecution made an endeavour to draw home the point that the accused had self-inflicted the above-stated injuries overcome by the feeling of guilt. Bench found it hazardous to draw an inference that the said attempt on the part of the accused to cause injuries to himself was due to the fact that the accused was overcome by the guilt, as held by the Additional Sessions Judge.

What emerges from the above discussion?

From all the above discussion, Court observed that there has been clear evidence of ‘last seen’ and the death of the deceased within a couple of hours of the deceased and the accused having been last seen together.

The wounds found on the person of the deceased especially the situs, elective parts, and nature were suggestive of suicidal infliction.

As the fundamental fact of the deceased having met a homicidal death itself is in the corridor of uncertainty.

In Court’s opinion, the circumstance of ‘last seen’, and the failure of the accused to offer a plausible explanation, on their own, were not sufficient to sustain the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.

Section 106 of the Evidence Act does not relieve the prosecution of its general or  primary burden of establishing the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.

 Supreme Court’s decision in Sawal Das v. State of Bihar, (1974) 4 SCC 193 was also referred for the above purpose.

Propositions that emerged from the above discussion:

  • If an accused is last seen with the deceased, he must offer an explanation as to how and when he parted company with the deceased.
  • The failure of the accused to offer a reasonable explanation in discharge of the said burden provides an additional link in the chain of circumstances proved against the accused.

In the present matter, homicidal nature of the death was not established and the prosecution case rested upon the circumstance of “last seen” to a great extent.

With regard to the legal position in respect to sustaining the guilt on the only circumstances of “last seen”, Court referred to the decision of Supreme Court in Dharam Deo v. State of U.P., (2007) 3 SCC 755.

Hence, Bench held that circumstance of ‘last seen’, in the totality of circumstances, cannot sustain the burden of establishing the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt, especially when the fact of homicidal death is in the realm of uncertainty.

High Court concluded its decision by referring to the decision in Navaneethakrishnan v. State, (2018) 16 SCC 161, wherein the legal position in the context of sustaining conviction on the basis of circumstantial evidence was expounded.

Conviction under Section 302 IPC could not sustained in view of the above discussion. [Krishna Mahadev Chavan v. State of  Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 191, decided on 12-02-2021]


Advocates who represented the parties:

Aashish Satpute, Advocate appointed by Court for appellant.

S.R. Agarkar, APP for respondent-State.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Prathiba M. Singh, J., dismissed an application filed under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act on finding no interest in the same by the wife.

Petitioner filed a divorce petition under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, seeking divorce from his wife. To which Family Court granted a decree of divorce to dissolve the marriage. However, on the same date, a notice was issued in the application under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, Family Court called for the detailed affidavits to be filed as to the expenditure, assets and liabilities of both the Petitioner and Respondent.

The above-said application has been challenged.

Bench noted from the Family Court’s decision that the respondent did not contest the divorce petition at all. Respondent’s defence was struck off and cross-examination of the petitioner was also of a limited nature.

Further, the Court added that since the respondent did not set out any substantial defence and the decree of divorce was granted without contest, respondent didn’t seem to be interested in pressing the application under Section 24 of the Act, which is meant for interim maintenance pendente lite.

 While concluding with the decision, Court expressed that the legal position is that a Section 24 application under the Act can survive beyond the dismissal of the main proceeding for grant of divorce, in respect of the period till the dismissal of the said petition.

Adding to the above, bench stated that the decision in Rita Mago v. V.P. Mago, 20(1981) DLT 103 may no longer be good law.

Hence, Bench concluded that in view of the above facts and circumstances the respondent doesn’t seem to be interested in pursuing the application under Section 24 for interim maintenance, therefore the said application was dismissed. [Apurva Anand v. Chanchal Niranjan, CM (M) 426 of 2020 and CM Appl. 20237 of 2020, decided on 29-01-2021]


Advocates for the parties:

Petitioner: Dr Aman Hingorani and Himanshu Yadav, Advocates

 Respondent: None