There is a divergence of judicial opinion on the interpretation of the word 'wife' in section 125 CrPC. In Yamunabai Anantrao Adhav v. Anantrao, AIR 1988 SC 644, a two Judge Bench of the Supreme Court held that the expression 'wife' in section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code should be interpreted to mean only a legally wedded wife. Again in a subsequent decision in Savitaben Somabhat Bhatiya v. State of Gujarat , AIR 2005 SC 1809, reiterating the same finding, the Court held that this inadequacy in law can be amended only by the Legislature.
Very recently, the Supreme Court has held that in light of the constant change in social attitudes and values, which have been incorporated into the forward-looking Act, Domestic Violence Act of 2005, the same needs to be considered with respect to section 125 CrPC and accordingly, a broad interpretation of the same should be taken. A request has been made to refer the following questions to be decided by a larger Bench:
- Whether the living together of a man and woman as husband and wife for a considerable period of time would raise the presumption of a valid marriage between them and whether such a presumption would entitle the woman to maintenance under section 125 CrPC.
- Whether strict proof of marriage is essential for a claim of maintenance under section 125 CrPC having regard to the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
- Whether a marriage performed according to customary rites and ceremonies, without strictly fulfilling the requisites of section 7(1) of the Hindu Marriage Act or any other personal law would entitle the woman to maintenance under section 125 CrPC?
It has been held that a broad and expansive interpretation should be given to the term 'wife' to include even those cases where a man and woman have been living together as husband and wife for a reasonably long period of time.
Chanmuniya v. Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha , Civil Appeal of 2010 arising out of SLP (Civil) No. 15071 of 2009; Decided on 7-10-2010 (SC) [G.S. Singhvi and Asok Kumar Ganguly, JJ.]
HINDU LAW: Dissolution of Marriage on basis of consent
No Court can assume jurisdiction to dissolve a Hindu marriage simply on the basis of the consent of the parties dehors the grounds enumerated under section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, unless of course the consenting parties proceed under section 13B of the Act.
In the instant case, about three years after the marriage, the husband filed a petition before the Family Court for dissolution of his marriage on grounds of cruelty and desertion as provided in clauses (ia) and (ib) of section 13(1) of the Hindu Marriage Act. The Family Court arrived at findings against the husband. In appeal before the High Court, the husband filed an affidavit before the court declaring his willingness to pay a sum of Rs. 10,00,000 as life term maintenance of the wife and for the expenses of marriage of their daughter, in consideration of the dissolution of his marriage with his wife by a decree of divorce. The High Court disposed of the appeal in terms of the affidavit filed by the husband.
The Supreme Court held the order passed by the High Court completely unsustainable holding that the record did not indicate that the wife had given her consent for dissolution of her marriage on payment of Rs. 10,00,000. The Apex Court has held, more importantly, the consent of the parties was of no relevance in the matter.
Sanjeeta Das v. Tapan Kumar Mohanty , 2010 (10) SCALE 100 (SC) (22-9-2010) [Aftab Alam and R.M. Lodha, JJ.]
The married life should be assessed as a whole and a few isolated instances over certain period will not amount to cruelty. The ill-conduct must be precedent for a fairly lengthy period. Making certain statements on the spur of the moment and expressing certain displeasure about the behaviour of elders may not be characterized as cruelty. Mere trivial irritations, quarrels, normal wear and tear of married life which happens in day-to-day life in all families would not be adequate for grant of divorce on the ground of cruelty. Sustained unjustifiable and reprehensible conduct affecting physical and mental health of the other spouse may lead to mental cruelty.
In the instant case, both the husband and wife being highly qualified persons, the husband being Principal in ITI College, the wife working as a Librarian in a Government Institute, an isolated friction on some occasion like festival of Lohri even in the presence of others cannot be a valid ground for dissolving the marriage. The husband had projected few instances in which, according to him, the wife abused his parents. The Supreme Court has held that on the basis of such instances, marriage cannot be dissolved.
Gurbux Singh v. Harminder Kaur ; Civil App. No. 5010 of 2007; Decided on 8-10-2010 (SC); [P. Sathasivam and Dr. B.S. Chauhan, JJ.]
JUDICIAL SERVICE: Knowledge of Computer Operation
The Indian judiciary is taking steps to apply e-governance for efficient management of courts. In the near future, all the courts in the country will be computerized. In that respect, the new judges who are being appointed are expected to have basic knowledge of the computer operation. It will be unfair to overlook basic knowledge of computer operation to be an essential condition for being a judge in view of the recent development being adopted. Therefore, requirement of having basic knowledge of computer operation as one of the criteria for selection for post of a judicial officer should not be deleted.
Vijendra Kumar Verma v. Public Service Commission , Civil Appeal No. 8861 of 2010; Decided on 8-10-2010 (SC) [Dr. Mukundam Sharma and Anil R. Dave, JJ.]
SAJJAN KUMAR CASE: 1984 Anti Sikh Riot Case
Framing of charges against Mr. Sajjan Kumar after 25 years of occurrence is held neither bad in law nor abuse of process of law. As held, though delay is also a relevant factor and every accused is entitled to speedy justice in view of Article 21 of the Constitution, ultimately it depends upon various factors/reasons and materials placed by the prosecution.
The present case arises out of 1984 Anti-Sikh Riot cases in which thousands of Sikhs were killed. After investigation, a closure report was filed in the Court on 15/22-12-2005. However, pursuant to the recommendation of Justice Nanavati Commission, the Government of India entrusted the investigation to CBI. After fresh investigation, CBI filed charge sheet in the present case on 13-1-2010. The trial court framed charges against Mr. Sajjan Kumar. The Supreme Court has held that it could not be concluded that framing of charges against Mr. Sajjan Kumar was either bad in law or abuse of process of law or without any material.
Sajjan Kumar v. CBI , 2010 (10) SCALE 22 (SC); Decided on 20-9-2010 (P. Sathasivam and Anil R. Dave, JJ.]
WITNESSES TURNING HOSTILE: Conviction sustained
Where the eye witnesses have no regard for the truth and concealed the material facts from the court only in order to protect the accused, for the reasons best known to them, such an unwarranted attitude on the part of the witnesses disentitles any benefit to the accused, who has committed a heinous crime.
The offence as alleged, had been committed by the accused, killing three persons and injuring three other persons who were members of his own family, deceased being his brother and two nephews and injured being his father and other nephews. The alleged motive had been annoyance because of the denial of his share in the immovable property by his father. The witnesses, relation witnesses, in their respective depositions had admitted their presence at the place of incident and admitted to suffering those injuries. In their statements under section 161 CrPC they had also admitted that they suffered the aforesaid injuries at the hands of the accused. It was at a later stage that all seven eye witnesses denied any role of the accused. Sustaining conviction of the accused, the Supreme Court has held that the crime had been committed against the society/State and not only against the family and therefore, the pardon accorded by the family and Panchayat has no significance in such a heinous crime.
Paramjeet Singh v. State of Uttarakhand , 2010 (10) SCALE 258 (SC); Decided on 27-9-2010; [P. Sathasivam and Dr. B.S. Chauhan, JJ.]
RITA ARYAN LL.M. (Medalist)