Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: The Bench of Ahsanuddin Amanullah, J. quashed criminal proceedings against relatives of a man accused of torturing his wife and demanding dowry from her, holding that allegations against them were of general nature and as such, allowing proceedings against them to continue would amount to abusing the process of the Court.

The instant proceedings arose under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 seeking quashing of a complaint case whereunder cognizance was taken against petitioner/husband under Section 498-A of the Penal Code, 1860 for demanding dowry and torture. Primary argument advanced on behalf of the opposite party 2/ wife was that her husband had remarried and was staying with two other wives at Mumbai and that he was refusing to accept her and her two sons without payment of Rs. 5 lakhs for purchase of a kholi.

Learned counsel for the petitioners Mr Uday Kumar submitted that they were the husband’s brothers and his sisters-in-law, who had nothing to do with the matrimonial discord between the parties. It was submitted that they had no objection if opposite party no. 2 and her two sons reside in the matrimonial/ancestral home of the husband.

The Court took note of judgment in Preeti Gupta v. State of Jharkhand, (2010) 7 SCC 667, where it was held that allegations against husband’s relatives must be scrutinized with great care and circumspection. It was observed that allegations against petitioners were general and omnibus in nature. Admittedly, the main grievance of the wife was against the husband.

It was opined that since the petitioners had taken a categorical stand to give sufficient place/space to the opposite party  2, as per share of her husband, in the ancestral/ matrimonial home, therefore letting the criminal proceeding against them to continue would be an abuse of the process of the Court. Accordingly, the application was allowed.[Bablu Khan v. State of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 386, decided on 27-03-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Bench of Jyoti Singh and G.S. Sistani, JJ. dismissed an appeal filed against the order of the family court rejecting the appellant-wife’s application for grant of maintenance pendente lite under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1951.

The parties married to each-other in June 2012 and had been living separately since September of that year. The wife was living in Gurgaon and the husband was in Singapore. The husband sought a decree of nullity of marriage under Section 12(1)(a) and (c), pending which the wife filed the application under Section 24 claiming pendente lite maintenance of Rs 2.50 lakhs per month along with litigation expenses. The same was rejected by the family court. Aggrieved thereby, the wife filed the present appeal.

The High Court noted that the wife was well educated and earning a monthly salary of around Rs 1.25 lakhs. On the other hand, the husband was also at a senior position in a reputed company in Singapore and was earning about Rs 13 lakhs per month. Noting all the facts and discussing the law on the subject, the Court was of the view that the impugned order does not need interference. Observing that the cost of living as per the standards of the country where the husband is employed is to be considered, the Court stated, “We cannot agree with the contention of the appellant that merely because the respondent is earning in ‘dollars’ she is entitled to the maintenance claimed by converting his salary in dollars into Indian rupees. We agree with the respondent that his expenditure being in dollars, the salary being in dollars is a fact which cannot be overemphasized.”

Being satisfied that wife’s earnings were sufficient to maintain herself, it was stated, “The provisions of this section (Section 24) are not meant to equalize the income of the wife with that of the husband but are only to see that when divorce or other matrimonial proceedings are filed, either of the party should not suffer because of paucity of source of income and the maintenance is then granted to tie over the litigation expenses and to provide a comfortable life to the spouse. Where, however, both the spouses are earning and have a good salary, merely because there is some salary difference cannot be a reason for seeing maintenance.”

In light of the above discussion, the wife’s appeal was dismissed as being devoid of merits.[KN v. RG, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7704, dated 12-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: The Division Bench of A.M. Shaffique and A.M.Babu, JJ. dismissed an appeal against the judgment of Family Court directing the husband to pay an amount of Rs 2,25,000 to his wife.

In the present case, the appellant and respondent were a married couple. The grievance of the respondent-wife was that at the time of her marriage she was given 25 sovereigns of gold ornaments which was appropriated by the appellant for his business purpose. But, appellant-husband denied the allegation of having appropriated any of her gold ornaments. The Family Court decreed return of respondent’s ornaments. Aggrieved thereby, the instant appeal was filed.

The appellant submitted that being from a poor family, respondent did not have the capacity to purchase any gold ornaments. Therefore his family had purchased the ornaments from a gold merchant. But the same was returned to merchant later since they did not have enough money to pay for it. However, later he vacillated from his statement and contended that the ornaments were imitation gold. Respondent argued that if the ornaments were imitation gold, then, in that case, the appellant’s contention that the ornaments were returned to the seller, itself was wrong.

The Court noted that though specific details regarding appropriation of gold ornaments had not been given by the respondent-wife; but she had specifically stated in her petition that her gold ornaments were taken and invested for appellant’s business purpose. It was opined that as far as a wife is concerned when her husband demands gold ornaments for his business it may not be possible for her to refuse. Therefore, there was every reason to believe the version of the respondent in view of contradictory contentions taken by appellant. In view thereof, no infirmity was found in the impugned order.[Muraleedharan Pillai v. Ambili Chellappan, 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 688, Order dated 22-02-2019]

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Bombay High Court at Goa: C.V. Bhadang, J., allowed a petition filed by the husband and quashed trial court’s order whereby it had partly allowed the wifes’ application filed under Section 20 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

The wife, along with her minor son, filed a domestic violence petition against the husband. By its order, the trial court partly granted the application in terms of Section 20 directing the husband to pay a monthly maintenance of Rs 5,000. Subsequently, the wife appealed to the additional sessions judge who partly allowed the appeal by enhancing the maintenance to Rs 7,000. Aggrieved, thereby the husband filed the revision petition.

Agha Iftikhar, Advocate for the husband submitted that there was no finding of any act of domestic violence being committed by the petitioner against the wife. It was further submitted that such a finding was a sine qua non for the trial court to grant any relief under the Act. On the other hand, A.D. Bhobe, Advocate appearing for the wife fairly did not dispute the above-said submission.

The High Court took note of the submissions made by the husband that he shall continue to pay Rs 5,000 per month for a limited period for the wife and minor son. Resultantly, the Court allowed the petition and quashed the impugned order. However, it was left open for the wife to take recourse to any other remedy as may be available under law. The husband was directed to pay a monthly sum of Rs 5,000 for a period of six months. [Vijayanand Dattaram Naik v. Vishranti Vijayanand Naik, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 314, dated 13-02-2019]

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Delhi High Court: Sunil Gaur, J. allowed a petition filed by petitioner (wife) for striking off respondent’s (husband) defence in proceedings pending under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

Earlier, the trial court vide its order dated 2-3-2017 had dismissed the wife’s application for striking off husband’s defence observing that non-payment of maintenance/arrears of maintenance cannot be a ground to do so. Aggrieved thereby, the wife preferred the present petition.

Jatin Sehgal, Adhirath Singh and Raymon Singh, Advocates appeared for the wife. On the other hand, the husband was represented by Laksh Khanna, Advocate who supported the trial court’s order.

The High Court noted that the respondent was in arrears of Rs 9,00,000 towards payment of maintenance to the wife. Furthermore, the Appellate Court vide its order dated 14-7-2017 evolved an equitable solution whereby husband’s employer was to deduct Rs 50,000 from his salary every month and pay that sum directly to the wife. Out of this, Rs 25,000 was to be the current monthly maintenance amount, and remaining Rs 25,000 were to be adjusted against the arrears. However, this order was not complied with by the husband.

In view of such facts and circumstances, the Court found that the husband’s failure to clear arrears of maintenance in terms of the Appellate Court’s order justified striking off his defence. Consequently, the wife’s application was allowed. [Swati Kaushik v. Ashwani Sharma, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7133, dated 11-2-2019]

Law made Easy

[Disclaimer: This note is for general information only. It is NOT to be substituted for legal advice or taken as legal advice. The publishers of the blog shall not be liable for any act or omission based on this note]

 Introduction

“Maintenance” is an amount payable by the husband to his wife who is unable to maintain herself either during the subsistence of marriage or upon separation or divorce. Various laws governing maintenance are as follows:

for Hindus – Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956

for Muslims – Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986

for Parsis – Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936

for Christians – Divorce Act, 1869

secular laws – Criminal Procedure Code, 1973; Special Marriage Act,1954

Temporary Maintenance (pendente lite)

Temporary maintenance is granted by the court during the pendency of proceeding for divorce or separation to meet the immediate needs of the petitioner.

Under Section 24 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 either of the spouses, husband or wife can be granted relief if the court is satisfied that the applicant has no independent income sufficient for his or her support and necessary expenses of the proceedings pending under the Act.

Interim maintenance may also be claimed under Section 125 CrPC by the wife during the pendency of proceeding for regarding monthly allowance for maintenance under Section 125(1) CrPC.

Furthermore, Section 36 of Special Marriage Act, 1954 also makes provision for the wife to seek expenses from the husband if it appears to the district court that she does not have independent income sufficient for her support and necessary expenses of proceedings under Chapters V or VI of that Act.

Still further, under Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936 either Parsi wife or husband is entitled to claim expenses where the proceeding is pending under the Act. Section 39 of the Act which is substantially the same as Section 36 of the Special Marriage Act makes a provision in this behalf.

Also, under Section 36 of Divorce Act, 1869 which applies to persons professing Christain religion, a wife is entitled to expenses of proceeding under the Act and maintenance while the suit is pending.

All these provisions specify that the application for interim maintenance has to be disposed of within sixty days of service of notice on the respondent.

Permanent Maintenance

It is the maintenance granted permanently after the disposal of the proceeding for divorce or separation.

Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Section 25 – Applicant, either wife or husband is entitled to receive from the spouse for his/her maintenance and support a gross sum or monthly or periodical sum for a term not exceeding the applicant’s lifetime or until he/she remarries or remains chaste.

Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, Section 18 – Hindu wife is entitled to be maintained by her husband during her lifetime. Wife also has a right to separate residence and maintenance if any of the condition in Section 18(2) [desertion, cruelty, leprosy, any other wife/ concubine living in the same house, conversion of religion or any other reasonable cause] is fulfilled until she remains chaste or does not convert to other religion. It may also be noted that Section 19 of this Act makes a provision for a widowed wife to be maintained by her father-in-law.

Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, Section 125 – This section provides for maintenance not only to the wife but also to child and parents. Court may order a husband who has sufficient means but neglects or refuses to maintain his wife who is unable to maintain herself to provide monthly maintenance to her. However, wife shall not be entitled to receive maintenance if she is living in adultery, or refuses to live with husband without any sufficient reasons, or living separately with mutual consent.

Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, Section 3 – A divorced Muslim woman is entitled to a reasonable and fair provision and maintenance to be paid to her within the iddat period by her former husband; an amount equal to the sum of mahr or dower agreed to be paid to her at the time of her marriage or at any time thereafter according to Muslim law; and all the properties given to her before or at the time of marriage or after her marriage by her relatives or friends or the husband or any relatives of the husband or his friends. If husband fails to provide her the above mentioned then Magistrate can order for payment of the same.

Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936, Section 40 – A Parsi husband or wife may apply to the Court under this section whereupon the Court at the time of passing any decree under the Act or anytime subsequent thereto order that the defendant pay the plaintiff a gross or monthly sum for his/her maintenance and support. Such order may also be modified subsequently if the Court is satisfied that change in circumstances warrants so. The order may also be rescinded or modified if the party in whose favour the order was made remarries; or in case of wife, she does not remain chaste; or in case of the husband, he has sexual intercourse with any woman outside the wedlock.

Special Marriage Act, 1954, Section 37 – This section is also similar to Section 40 of the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act. The difference being that under this section maintenance may be claimed only by a wife against the husband from a court exercising jurisdiction under Chapters V or VI of the Act. An order made under this section may be modified or rescinded by the district court at the instance of the husband if it is shown that the wife has remarried or is not leading a chaste life.

Divorce Act, 1869, Section 37 – This section empowers the district court to order the husband to secure a reasonable gross sum to the wife or annual sum not exceeding her lifetime when a decree of dissolution or decree or judicial separation is obtained by the wife. While passing such order, the court may have regard to fortune of the wife, ability of the husband and conduct of the parties. The court may also order the husband to pay such monthly or weekly sum to the wife for her maintenance as the court may think reasonable. If subsequently, the husband becomes unable to make such payments, the court may discharge or modify such order.

Cases

Maintenance defined

Maintenance includes — (i) in all cases, provisions for food, clothing, residence, education and medical attendance and treatment; (ii) in the case of an unmarried daughter also the reasonable expenses of and incident to her marriage, Section 3(b), Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956.

Maintenance necessarily must encompass a provision for residence. Maintenance is given so that the lady can live in the manner, more or less, to which she was accustomed. The concept of maintenance must, therefore, include provision for food and clothing and the like and take into account the basic need of a roof over the head, Mangat Mal v. Punni Devi, (1995) 6 SCC 88.

 Sustenance defined

Maintenance of wife for her ‘sustenance’ does not mean animal existence but signifies leading life in a similar manner as she would have lived in the house of her husband. Husband is duty bound to enable his wife to live life with dignity according to their social status and strata, Bhuwan Mohan Singh v. Meena, (2015) 6 SCC 353.

Wife defined

“Wife” Includes a woman who has been divorced by or has obtained a divorce from, her husband and has not remarried,  Section 125(1) Explanation (b), CrPC 1973.

“Wife” in Section 125 CrPC means a legally wedded wife and also includes a divorced wife, D. Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal, (2010) 10 SCC 469.

Maintenance only to legally wedded wife

Only a legally wedded wife is entitled to maintenance. A Hindu woman marrying a Hindu male having a living wife, is not entitled to maintenance as this marriage is void, Yamunabai Anantrao Adhav v. Anantrao Shivram Adhav, (1988) 1 SCC 530.

Maintenance to ‘previous wife’

A Muslim husband contracting another marriage or taking a mistress is liable to pay maintenance to the previous wife who also has right to live separately which is payable from the date of the other marriage. Irrespective of religion, husband cannot absolve his liability by offering to take back the wife and maintain her, Begum Subanu v. A.M. Abdul Gafoor, (1987) 2 SCC 285.

 Maintenance to second wife

Husband who conceals subsistence of his earlier marriage while marrying the second wife is entitled to give maintenance to second wife. Second wife is to be treated as a legally wedded wife for the purpose of maintenance, Badshah v. Urmila Badshah Godse, (2014) 1 SCC 188.

Wife ‘living separately with mutual consent’ does not include divorced wife

The meaning of ‘wife’ under Sections 125(1) and 125(4) CrPC is different. Section 125(4) contemplates a married woman. Wife living separately from husband with mutual consent does not mean wife who obtains divorce by mutual consent and lives separately and therefore cannot be denied maintenance on this ground, Vanamala v. H.M. Ranganatha Bhatta, (1995) 5 SCC 299.

Is an earning wife entitled to maintenance?

Wife having a school of her own and possessing wet lands is in a better financial position than husband who is not doing well in his profession and has no land. Hence, it is unnecessary to pay any maintenance to the wife, Rosy Jacob v. Jacob A. Chakramakkal, (1973) 1 SCC 840.

Wife’s income to be accounted for determining maintenance

Wife’s income has to be taken into account while determining the amount of maintenance payable to her. It is not an absolute right of a neglected wife to get maintenance nor it is an absolute liability of husband to support her in all the circumstances, Bhagwan Dutt v. Kamla Devi, (1975) 2 SCC 386.

Maintenance to woman in a live-in relationship

The Supreme Court expressed its opinion that a broad interpretation of “wife” should include cases where man and woman live together as husband and wife for a reasonably long period of time (live-in relationship/ presumed marriage/ de facto marriage/ cohabitation). A strict proof of marriage should not be a precondition for maintenance under S. 125 CrPC so as to fulfill the true spirit and essence of the beneficial provision of maintenance, Chanmuniya v. Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha, (2011) 1 SCC 141. (This judgment has however been referred to a larger bench)

Recently, it is held that a woman in a live-in relationship has an efficacious remedy to seek maintenance under Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 even if it is assumed that she is not entitled to the same under Section 125 CrPC. In fact, under the Domestic Violence Act, the victim would be entitled to more relief than what is contemplated under Section 125 CrPC, Lalita Toppo v. State of Jharkhand, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 2301.

Woman knowingly entering in a live-in relationship with a married man

All live-in relationships are not relationships in the nature of marriage. There has to be some inherent/ essential characteristic of marriage though not a marriage legally recognised. A live-in relationship between an unmarried woman knowingly entering into relationship with a married male cannot be termed as a relationship in the “nature of marriage” and her status would be that of a concubine or mistress and therefore is not entitled to maintenance, Indra Sarma v. V.K.V Sarma, (2013) 15 SCC 755.

 Muslim woman entitled to maintenance under CrPC

A divorced Muslim woman has right under Section 125 CrPC to claim maintenance even beyond the iddat period. If the woman is able to maintain herself then the liability of husband to maintain her ceases with the expiration of iddat period. However, on the inability of maintaining herself, she can take recourse of that section. Section 125 has an overriding effect on personal law in case of conflict between the two, Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum, (1985) 2 SCC 556.

Divorced Muslim woman can claim maintenance from State Wakf Board

A divorced Muslim woman unable to maintain herself can directly claim maintenance from the State Wakf Board in the first instance under Section 4 of Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 and in the same proceeding can plead inability of her relatives to maintain her. Relatives can be added as parties to the litigation if they have enough means to pay maintenance, T.N. Wakf Board v. Syed Fatima Nachi, (1996) 4 SCC 616.

Husband to make fair provision and maintenance within iddat period for ex-wife’s whole life

Section 3(1)(a) of Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 makes husband liable to make a reasonable and fair provision and maintenance to divorced Muslim wife on or before the expiration of the iddat period. However, this maintenance is not limited only for the iddat period but extends to her whole life unless she remarries. Husband is obliged to provide a reasonable and fair provision in addition to maintenance to contemplate the future need of ex-wife, Danial Latifi v. Union of India, (2001) 7 SCC 740.

Maintenance not restricted to iddat period

A divorced Muslim wife is entitled to maintenance not merely until the completion of the iddat period, but for her entire life unless she remarries. Sabra Shamim v. Maqsood Ansari, (2004) 9 SCC 616.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of M.S. Sonak, J. held in a petition by relying on several decisions that, “an agreement, in which wife gives up or relinquish her right to claim maintenance at any time in the future,is  opposed to public policy and therefore, such an agreement, even if voluntarily entered, is not enforceable.”

The facts in the present case are as follows, Learned Counsel Sandeep Koregave placed his submissions for the petitioner that, during the Lok Adalat proceedings, petitioner and respondent 1 filed a consent pursis, in which they not only agreed to dissolve their marriage but also agreed not to claim any maintenance from each other. Further, he stated that respondent-wife had made false allegations that her consent was obtained by fraud. The main contention placed by the learned counsel for the petitioner was that, in terms of agreement recorded in the consent decree, respondent having waived her right to receive maintenance, cannot now maintain an application under Section 125 CrPC.

Counsel for the respondent-wife Mr Nagesh Chavan stated that there can be no agreement in derogation of the provisions of Section 125 CrPC since such provisions have been designed as a matter of public policy to protect against destitution and vagrancy.

The High Court, relied on various decisions, such as Shahnaz Bano v. Babbu Khan ; 1985 SCC OnLine Bom 200, wherein it was observed: “even in a case covered by Clause (c) of Section 127 (3) of CrPC, where the wife has surrendered her rights voluntarily, in a given case, if after waiving her rights to maintenance, she becomes vagrant and destitute and is unable to maintain herself, then irrespective of her personal law, she would be entitled to avail statutory remedy for maintenance under Section 125 of CrPC.”

and Ranjit Kaur v. Pavittar Singh; 1991 SCC OnLine P&H 693 for the proposition that: “The statutory right of a wife of maintenance cannot be bartered, done away with or negatived by the husband by setting up an agreement to the contrary. Such an agreement in addition to it being against public policy would also be against the clear intendment of this provision”

After so referring, the Court stated that there is no reason to interfere with the views taken by the two courts in the present matter. Therefore, application of respondent 1 under Section 125 CrPC is held as maintainable and there is no doubt that the Magistrate will dispose of the application under Section 125 CrPC, in accordance with law and on its own merits. Further, learned Judicial Magistrate in the present case is directed to dispose of application of respondent 1. [Ramachandra Laxman Kamble v. Shobha Ramachandra Kamble, 2018 SCC OnLine Bom 7039, dated 21-12-2018]

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Kerala High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Raja Vijayaraghavan V, J. set aside an order of Family Court refusing maintenance to wife on the basis of husband’s submissions.

Petitioner, who was respondent’s wife, filed a petition seeking maintenance for herself and her daughter under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973. The respondent undertook to pay his daughter’s fee directly to school but refused to maintain his wife. He submitted a memo stating that petitioner was a qualified doctor having BDS degree who refused to work and earn for herself, and therefore he was not willing to provide maintenance to her. On the basis of said memo, Family Court refused the petitioner’s claim. Aggrieved thereby, the instant petition was filed.

The Court noted that petitioner had been refused maintenance on the sole ground that she was qualified and could maintain herself. No reasons had been stated in the impugned order, other than making a reference to the respondent’s memo. The Court relied on the decision in Sunita Kachwaha v. Anil Kachwaha, (2014) 16 SCC 715 holding that even if the wife was earning some amount, that may not be a reason to outrightly reject her maintenance application. It was held that, in the instant case, Family Court should have applied its mind carefully before rejecting petitioner’s prayer for maintenance.

It was further opined that the concept of sustenance does not necessarily mean to live life in penury and roam around for basic maintenance. Wife is entitled to lead a life in the same manner as she would have lived in the house of her husband. Husband is not entitled to contend that he is not prepared to pay any maintenance and courts are not expected to accept the blatant refusal of the husband with folded hands.

In view of the above, the petition was allowed and Family Court was directed to pass fresh orders in the petition expeditiously and in any case within one month. [Alphonsa Joseph v. Anand Joseph,2018 SCC OnLine Ker 5012, decided on 29-11-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of  Devan Ramachandran, J. granted relief to a helpless senior citizen holding that the wife of her deceased nephew was obliged to maintain her.

Petitioner herein was the wife of nephew of a senior citizen who had executed a gift deed in favour of her now deceased nephew, with a specific covenant therein that he will take care of her during her life time. However, petitioner’s husband (nephew) subsequently died leaving the gifted property to petitioner. Subsequently, the senior citizen was driven out of her house by the petitioner and was taken back only under order of the Maintenance Tribunal.

The instant petition assails the order of Maintenance Tribunal contending that petitioner was not a ‘relative’ statutorily obligated to take care of the senior citizen, she being only the wife of nephew of senior citizen.

Sole question for determination was: whether the wife of deceased nephew of a senior citizen was obligated as per Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 to maintain the senior citizen after her husband’s death solely because the senior citizen had, during the life time of nephew, gifted property to him with the reciprocal covenant to maintain her.

The Court noted that as per Section 2(g) of the Act, a person would be construed to be relative of a childless senior citizen, if such person is in possession of or would inherit his/her property. Further, as per Section 4(4) of the Act, any person being a relative of a senior citizen, who is in possession of the property of such citizen, would be obligated to maintain him/her. Thus, a conjoint reading of these two provisions bound the petitioner with obligation to maintain senior citizen.

In view of the aforesaid interpretation, the petition was dismissed.[S. Sheeja v. Maintenance Appellate Tribunal,2018 SCC OnLine Ker 4949, decided on 14-11-2018]

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Karnataka High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Dinesh Maheshwari, CJ and S. Sujatha, JJ. dismissed a PIL and condemned the act of petitioner wife who had filed the said petition for her personal interests in the garb of public interest.

The instant petition was filed praying for a writ of mandamus to the Central and State government suggesting certain guidelines to be implemented by law enforcement authorities to ensure protection of women and strict implementation of dowry and domestic violence laws. The averment of petitioner was that out of court settlements made with intrusion of politicians, rowdy elements or police by shelling out money has defeated the justice delivery system.

The Court noted that multiple proceedings involving the petitioner relating to disputes raised under Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and Sections 498-A, 506, 504, 420 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 were pending. It further observed that though the petition was styled as public interest litigation, it was essentially filed to foster personal disputes and vendetta. As such, the action of petitioner pretending to act pro bono publico only to get personal gain ought to be discouraged.

The Bench observed that the petitioner-wife was seeking relief in a sinister manner through a frivolous litigation masked to resolve family disputes circumventing the regular judicial process. In case there is an infraction of a law by authorities, the appropriate remedy for the same was available under law.

In view of the aforesaid observations, PIL jurisdiction in the present petition was declined. [Anusha N. v. Union of India, WP No. 44038 of 2018, decided on 20-11-2018]

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Patna High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Ravi Ranjan and Madhuresh Prasad, JJ. while hearing a criminal writ petition filed by husband seeking habeas corpus for his wife, ruled that the writ could not be issued if the wife did not want to go back to her matrimonial home.

In the instant case, the petitioner-husband filed a writ seeking habeas corpus for his wife who had left him. On the date of hearing, the petitioner’s wife entered an appearance before the court along with her parents and submitted that the petitioner had assaulted due to which she had left her matrimonial home. She further submitted that she did not wish to go back to her matrimonial house along with the petitioner.

The Court noted the submissions of petitioner’s wife and held that since petitioner’s wife had already been produced before the Court, a writ of habeas corpus could not be issued to the petitioner. On that holding, the writ petition was dismissed.[Virat Arya v. State of Bihar,2018 SCC OnLine Pat 1987, decided on 01-11-2018] 

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Gauhati High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Suman Shyam and Achintya Malla Bujor Barua, JJ., decided a criminal appeal wherein the conviction of the appellant-wife under Section 302 IPC for the murder of her husband was altered to culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 304(II).

The appellant was alleged to have committed murder by attacking her husband with an axe. Before the trial court, the appellant took a defence that her husband mistakenly fell on the axe which resulted in his death. However, considering all the evidence available, the trial court held her guilty. Further, under Section 106 Evidence Act it was the duty of the accused to prove any fact which was exclusively within her knowledge. The appellant herein did not discharge the onus, and accordingly, she was convicted under Section 302. The appellant challenged the order in appeal.

The High Court perused the record and found that the fact-finding by the trial court did not suffer from any infirmity. The appellant, who was alone with the deceased at the time of the incident, was not able to discharge the burden of proving the fact exclusively within her knowledge. Moreover, nature of injuries suffered by the deceased, as shown in the post-mortem report, made the theory of the deceased falling on the axe, improbable. However, as per appellant’s statement and also statements of prosecution witnesses, the deceased was a drunkard who took up fights with the appellant. On the day of the incident also there was a fight between the appellant wife and her husband. The Court held that the incident was an outcome of the fight which gave grave and sudden provocation to the appellant that resulted in commision of the act. Considering the facts, the Court held that the appellant was a victim of circumstances and deserved the benefit of Exception 1 to Section 300. Accordingly, her conviction was altered from that under Section 302 to Section 304(II) IPC. Appeal was disposed of accordingly. [Suljina Dhan v. State of Assam, 2018 SCC OnLine Gau 645, dated 25-6-2018]

 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: With the intent to protect the sanctity of marriage, the Court said that sometimes clash of ego between the couple turns out to be a cause of marital discord, therefore, while dealing with such type of cases, a sincere attempt is required to be made by the concerned Presiding Judge of the Family Court dealing with the case to settle the disputes amicably, if possible, in the very start of the matter.

The Court showed it’s concern on the marital discords resulting in divorce in the matter where the wife had sought reversal of the order of restitution of conjugal rights by taking the plea  that after even giving birth to a son out of this wedlock, the marriage being of 2008, she had completely withdrawn herself from the society of the husband without any reasonable excuse whereas the wife contended that at the time of marriage, she was hardly  20 years old and eager to build up her career, but her husband and his family members, who had initially agreed that they would permit her to go ahead with her further studies, refused and assigned her domestic work. Considering the facts of the case, the Court said that “if an attempt is made, perhaps this young couple can reunite.”

The division bench of Virender Singh J. and  Shree Chandrashekhar CJ., hence, directed the parties to appear in person and then persuaded them to stay together to which the appellant-wife willingly agreed. After 6 weeks the matter was called up again, where the couple made a joint statement that they are staying together very happily and if there was any misunderstanding between them, they have resolved it themselves. The couple also volunteered to work as Para Legal Volunteers (PLVs) Mediators/ Conciliators on behalf of the Jharkhand State Legal Service (JHALSA).

The Court was hence, of the view that this couple would be in abetter position to give effective counseling which would be in the larger interest of the Society. [Priyanka Sarkhel v. Baban Sarkhel, 2016 SCC OnLine Jhar 1620, decided on 17.06.2016]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: While deciding a writ petition the Court has stated that Section 65 B of Evidence Act is not applicable to the evidence in the form of Pin Hole camera with a hard disk memory on which a recording was done, as it was submitted as Primary evidence, since Section 65 B it deals only with Secondary evidence.  The present writ petition was filed by the wife challenging the admissibility of the electronic record (Pin hole Camera, memory and recordings) filed by the husband in a family court, along with the affidavit in evidence in support of the divorce petition. The Court and also held that the privilege in respect of the husband and the wife’s communication under Section 122 of Evidence Act would not attract in Family court proceedings.

The Court observed while rejecting the contention of the wife that, “Section 65B of the Act of 1872 only deals with the secondary evidence qua electronic records. It does not at all deal with the original electronic records, as in the instant case, where the pinhole camera, with a hard disk memory on which the recording was done has been submitted before the Family Court. The Supreme Court in the case of Anvar P.V. v. P.K. Basheer (2014) 10 SCC 473 has held that if an electronic record is produced as a primary evidence under Section 62 of the Evidence Act, the same is admissible in evidence without compliance with the conditions of Section 65B of the Act of 1872. That evidence would take the colour of primary evidence, subject no doubt to its credibility based on forensic examination and cross examination.”

The single judge Bench comprising of Alok Sharma, J. observed that “Section 14 of the Family Court Act, 1984 provides that a family court may receive any evidence, report, statement, documents, information or matter which in its opinion will facilitate the effective adjudication of the disputes before it, whether or not the same would be otherwise relevant or admissible under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. The aforesaid section therefore makes it pellucid that the issues of relevance and admissibility of evidence which regulate a regular trial do not burden proceedings before the family courts. It is the discretion of the family court to receive or not to receive the evidence, report, statement, documents, information etc. placed before it on the test whether it does or does not facilitate an effective adjudication of the disputes before it.”  The bench further observed “the privilege in respect of the husband and the wife’s communication under Section 122 of the Act of 1872 would also not attract, as Section 14 of the Family Court Act eclipses Section 122 of the Evidence Act in proceedings before the Family Court. Section 14 aforesaid is a special law, so to say, as against the general law, which Section 122 of the Act of 1872 encapsulates vis-a-vis privileged communications between husband and wife.” [Preeti Jain v. Kunal Jain 2016 SCC OnLine Raj 2838 Decided on 27.05. 2016]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: While deciding the appeal preferred against the judgement of the Sessions Court, which denied the maintenance granted by the Judicial Magistrate First Class, Karad,  M.S. Sonak J. modified the order of the Judicial Magistrate First Class and directed the respondent to pay  maintenance on monthly basis to the applicant with effect from 1 January 2015 thereby setting aside the order of the Sessions Court.

In the present case Mr. Sawant, learned counsel for the petitioner contended that the evidence on record does establish that the applicant was harassed and therefore compelled to live away from the respondent and the Additional Sessions Judge exceeded the bounds of revisional jurisdiction in interfering with the well reasoned decision of the Judicial Magistrate First Class. On the contrary counsel for the respondent Ms. Bhosale submitted that the Additional Sessions Judge, upon proper appreciation of the material on record has rightly held that the Applicant has abandoned the respondent and his children without reasonable cause.

The Court accepting the contentions of the applicant that the Additional Sessions Judge exceeded his jurisdiction and virtually reassessed the material on record purporting to exercise the appellate jurisdiction, when in fact, revisional jurisdiction was invoked and substituted its own findings in place of those recorded by the JMFC directed the respondent to pay maintenance amount of Rs. 600/- per month to the applicant along with a lump-sum amount of 50,000/- towards maintenance from the date of application till 1 January 2015, and to clear the arrears between 1 January 2015 to the date of this judgement within a month. [ Sou. Vaishali A. Waghmare v. Anil P. Waghmare, decided on December 10, 2015]