Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: An important question of law relating to the Special Marriage Act, 1954 (hereinafter ‘Act’) has arisen before a Single Judge Bench comprising of JR Midha, J, for adjudication. The issue is whether the parties married under the Act can be permitted to challenge the jurisdiction of the Family Court to entertain and try a petition for dissolution of marriage under the Act.

The facts leading up to the petition were as follows. The petitioner and respondent were married under the Act on 20.08.1998. The respondent filed for divorce under Section 27(1)(a), (b) and (d) of the Special Marriage Act, 1954. The certificate of marriage was filed by the respondent along with the petition. The petitioner made conflicting statements via written statements corresponding to the fact whether the marriage was solemnized under the Act or some other personal law.

Reiterating the principles of the act, the Court observed that the Act provides a special form of marriage, registration and divorce. The Act being secular and separate from religious law, liberates individuals from traditional communal constraints of marriage. The Court further observed that under the Act, registration of marriage is compulsory and that the registration certificate of the marriage is conclusive evidence of solemnization of marriage under the Act. Therefore, the contention that the marriage in question was not solemnized under the Act cannot be said to be tenable. Therefore, finding that the Family Court has clear jurisdiction to entertain and try the respondent’s petition, dismissed the petition with costs along with an order to expedite the divorce proceedings and to ideally decide the same within one year. [M v. A,  2018 SCC OnLine Del 8005, decided on 23.03.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: An appeal against the order of acquittal filed by the State was decided by a Division Bench comprising of Prashant Kumar Mishra and Ram Prasanna Sharma, JJ., wherein acquittal of the respondents as ordered by the Sessions Judge was upheld.

The respondents were accused in a criminal case under Section 302 read with Section 32  IPC for the murder of one Tushkumar and his wife. The prosecution while trying to prove its case submitted that the relation between the respondents and the deceased were strained and they had threatened to kill him; corroborative piece of seizure of deadly weapons from the respondents was an incriminating circumstance against them. However, the trial court acquitted the respondents of the charges above-mentioned. Aggrieved thus, the State filed the instant appeal.

The High Court perused the record and found that there was no eyewitness to the incident; the case of the prosecution was based on circumstantial evidence. And even the chain of circumstances was not unbroken so as to link the respondents with the crime. The statements of prosecution witness at best created suspicion against the respondents. The case of the prosecution was entirely based on suspicion. The Court observed that however strong the suspicion may be, it can not take place of proof. The High Court was of the opinion that the view taken by the trial court was correct and did not warrant interference. The appeal filed by the State was accordingly dismissed. [State of Chhattisgarh v. Nabbu @ Bafataddin, ACQA No. 137 of 2010, order dated 13-02-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the Swami Gadadharanand murder case, the bench of Kurian Joseph and A.M. Khanwilkar, JJ upheld the conviction of 2 Assistant Kotharis and one disciple of the Board of Trustees of the Swami Narayan sect of Vadtal Gadi Temple who killed the chairman of the Trust in the year 1998 when he proposed to transfer the Kotharis away from the Vadtal Temple as they feared being exposed of their misdeeds and maladministration.

Apart from the strong motive for committing the murder of Gadadharanandji and the criminal conspiracy hatched in that behalf and executed, the following factors led to the conviction of the accused persons in the present case:

  • the presence of Gadadharanandji at Vadtal Temple complex on the day of incident, the evidence that he was last seen together with Accused No.3, who hasn’t filed an appeal against the order of the High Court, going from Vadtal Temple complex in a car,
  • the recovery of a dead body in village Barothi in the neighboring state of Rajasthan on the next day of disappearance of the deceased,
  • the disclosure made by Accused No.3 about the location as to where the dead body was dumped by him in a village at Barothi,
  • the discovery of the fact after subsequent medical examination that the dead body so recovered was of none other than that of the deceased,
  • the disclosure made by Accused No.5 of the location where the deceased was strangled at Navli Temple complex, the conduct of Accused No.3 in misleading the investigating agencies,
  • the burning of the vehicle used in the commission of the crime and then filing of a false insurance claim which was rejected by the insurance company,

The Court said that the aforementioned factors leave no manner of doubt about the involvement of the appellants in the commission of the crime and hence, the life imprisonment awarded by the High Court does not warrant any intereference. The Court said that there need not be any direct evidence to establish the kind conspiracy involved in the present case. It can be a matter of inference drawn by the Court after considering whether the basic facts and circumstances on the basis of which inference is drawn have been proved beyond all reasonable doubts and that no other conclusion except that of the complicity of accused to have agreed to commit an offence is evident. The Court said that there is no legal evidence, in the present case, to give benefit of any doubt to the Appellants. [Charandas Swami v. State of Gujarat, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 361, decided on 10.04.2017]

 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the case where the widow of Lt. Hari Kant Jha, a freedom fighter who was accused and arrested in a criminal case emanating from freedom struggle movement of 9th August, 1942, sought pension under Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme, 1980, the bench of Dipak Misra and R. Banumathi, JJ held that being an “absconder” is not synonymous to being “underground” and hence, the freedom fighter in the present case did not meet the eligibility criteria of either being an underground within the meaning of the Scheme for more than six months.

As per the Scheme, where primary evidence viz. records of the relevant period are not available, ‘Non-Availability of Record Certificate (NARC)’ from the concerned authority, in the form of secondary evidence becomes a pre-requisite for claiming “underground suffering”. The instructions require the State Government to issue NARC only after due verification from the concerned sources. The Scheme explicitly lays down that the claim of being “underground” can be proved either by documentary evidence by way of Court’s/Government’s orders proclaiming the applicant as an offender, announcing an award on his head, or for his arrest or ordering his detention; or, Certificates from veteran freedom fighters who had themselves undergone imprisonment for five years or more if the official records are not forthcoming due to their non-availability

The freedom fighter had remained absconding for a period of 2 years starting from 16.08.1942 to 14.10.1944. He was then arrested and discharged from the case on 25.01.1945. The appellant was, however, not able to produce the document supporting the claim of her husband being “undergound” for that period. In the case of appellant, Central Government stated that the appellant has not produced any acceptable record-based evidence duly verified by the State Government to establish the claimed ‘jail’ or ‘underground sufferings’ of Late Shri Hari Kant Jha. She has also not produced NARC from the competent authority as required and that thus, the eligibility criteria is not met. Also, the Central Government stated that the jail suffering of Shri Hari Kant Jha was only for thirteen days whereas the minimum jail suffering required to become eligible for pension is 6 months.

The Court held that the Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme, 1980 is a document based Scheme and the documents required for eligibility for Samman Pension as mentioned in the Scheme are to be produced by the applicant in support of his claimed suffering, duly verified and recommended by the concerned State Government. Hence, due to the discrepancies and ambiguities relating to the documents and also due to non-production of NARC, benefit of the Scheme could not be extended to the appellant. [Jagdamba Devi v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 75, decided on 31.01.2017]

 

Supreme Court

Supreme Court: Dealing with a matter relating to illegal gratification, the 3-judge bench of H.L. Dattu, CJI and V. Goapa Gowda and Amitava Roy, JJ held that the proof of demand of illegal gratification is the gravamen of the offence under Sections 7 and 13(1); (d)(i)&(ii) of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 (Act) and in absence thereof, unmistakably the charge therefor, would fail. It was further said that mere acceptance of any amount allegedly by way of illegal gratification or recovery thereof, dehors the proof of demand, ipso facto, would thus not be sufficient to bring home the charge under these two sections of the Act.

In the present case it was alleged that the appellant, Assistant Director, Commissionerate of Technical Education, Hyderabad had demanded for effecting renewal of the recognition of his typing institute by way of illegal gratification of Rs. 500 in the year 1996. The Court took note of the fact that the prosecution was unable to prove the charges and consequentially, the High Court had acquitted the appellant of the charge under Section 7 of the Act and the State had accepted the verdict and has not preferred any appeal against the same. Hence, reiterating that suspicion, however grave, cannot take the place of proof and that the Court must ensure that miscarriage of justice is avoided and if in the facts and circumstances, two views are plausible, then the benefit of doubt must be given to the accused, the Court held that it would be wholly unsafe to sustain the conviction of the appellant under Section 13(1); (d)(i)&(ii) read with Section 13(2) of the Act in case of absence of proof. P. Satyanarayana Murthy v. Dist. Inspector of Police2015 SCC OnLine SC 814, decided on 14.09.2015