Divorce Petition – Before Lapse of One Year From the Date of Marriage

In Manish Sirohi v. Smt. Meenakshi, AIR 2007 All 211, the husband made an application for divorce and the wife took a stand in the written statement that she is not inclined to continue marital relationship with her husband. However the said application was rejected by the court below on the ground that as per Section 14 of the Act, court cannot entertain any petition for dissolution of marriage unless at the date of presentation of the petition one year has elapsed from the date of the marriage. When the matter reached the High Court, it was held as under:

            “We have gone through the provision contained under the proviso to section 14 of the Hindu Marriage Act and we find that the High Court can allow to present the present the petition before lapse of one year from the date of marriage on the ground that the lapse is one of exceptional hardship to the petitioner or of exceptional depravity on the part of the respondent. It appears to us that when immediately after marriage no marital relationship developed amongst themselves and they are voluntarily inclined to withdraw relationship, their life should not be allowed to be deserted. When differences have occurred which cannot be compromised if at this stage they are separated, they can be able to enjoy their happy marital life elsewhere. Continuance of the litigation will cause mental and physical harassment to them unnecessarily when both of them are not inclined to continue with the relationship at all. Both the parties have withdrawn their allegations and counter allegations against each other.”

            In catena of cases relating to  matrimonial dispute, the Hon’ble Apex Court has observed that matrimonial disputes have to be decided by courts in a pragmatic manner keeping in view the ground realties. For this purpose a host of facts have to be taken into consideration and the most important being whether the marriage can be saved and the husband and wife can live together happily and maintain a proper atmosphere at home for the upbringing of their offspring. A. Agarwal v. Principal Judge, 2019 (2) AWC 1735.

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Prosecution Based on Second or Successive Default – In Payment of Cheque Amount

The object of Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act is to infuse credibility to negotiable instruments including cheques and to encourage and promote the use of negotiable instruments including cheques in financial transactions. The penal provision of Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act is intended to be a deterrent to callous issuance of negotiable instruments such as cheques without serious intention to honour the promise implicit in the issuance of the same.

        Having regard to the object of Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, a prosecution based on a second or successive default in payment of the cheque amount is not impermissible simply because no statutory notice had been issued after the first default and no proceeding for prosecution had been initiated. As held in MSR Leathers v. S. Palaniappan, (2013) 1 SCC 177, there is no real or qualitative difference between a case where default is committed and prosecution immediately launched and another where the prosecution is deferred till the cheque presented again gets dishonoured for the second time or successive times. Bir Singh v. Mukesh Kumar, (2019) 4 SCC 197.

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Arbitration – Notice Under Section 21 of the Act is Mandatory

Considering that the running theme of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act is the consent or agreement between the parties at every stage, Section 21 performs an important function of forging such consensus on several aspects viz., the scope of the disputes, the determination of which disputes remain unresolved; of which disputes are time-barred; of identification of the claims and counter claims and most importantly, on the choice of arbitrator. Thus, the inescapable conclusion on a proper interpretation of Section 21 of the Act is that in the absence of an agreement to the contrary, the notice under Section 21 of the Act by the claimant invoking the arbitration clause, preceding the reference of disputes to arbitration, is mandatory. In other words, without such notice, the arbitration proceedings that are commenced would be unsustainable in law. Alupro Building Systems Pvt. Ltd. v. Ozone Overseas Pvt. Ltd., 2017 SCC Online Del 7228.   

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Arbitral Award – Correction of Errors

In Mcdermott International Inc. v. Burn Standard Company, (2006) 11 SCC 181, it was held as under:

            “Section 33 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act empowers the Arbitral Tribunal to make correction of errors in arbitral award to give interpretation of a specific point or a part of the arbitral award and to make an additional award as to claims, though presented in the arbitral proceedings, but omitted from the arbitral award. Sub-section (4) empowers the Arbitral Tribunal to make additional arbitral award in respect of claims already presented to the Tribunal in the arbitral proceedings but omitted by the Arbitral Tribunal provided:

  1. There is no contrary agreement between the parties to the reference;
  2. A party to the reference, with notice to the other party to the reference, requests the Arbitral Tribunal to make the additional award;
  3. Such request is made within thirty days from the receipt of the arbitral award;
  4. The Arbitral Tribunal considers the request so made, justified; and
  5. Additional arbitral award is made within sixty days from the receipt of such request by the Arbitral Tribunal.”

The powers under Section 33 (4) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act cannot be invoked for raising fresh claims or seeking an appeal against the arbitral award. The powers of the Arbitral Tribunal in these proceedings are restricted to making an award for such claims which formed a matter for adjudication and on which the parties had led arguments. Pramod v. Union of India, 2019 (1) AWC 969.

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Annulment of Marriage – Concealment of Material Facts

On a careful reading of Clause (c) of Section 12(1) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, it will appear that both the parties, in case of adult, are obliged to divulge mutually and unequivocally the material fact or circumstances to each other before or at least at the time of marriage so much so that element of deception is ruled out. The words material facts or circumstances have not been defined or specified. It varies from one family to another, according to culture, ethos and social system in ages and situation. For example in a conservative family having attachment with puritan society in a marriage inevitable and unerring expectation is that both the bride and the groom must not have any record of prior marriage in any sense nor will have any marriage in any sense, not even any premarital affairs with other boy or girl (as the case may be). They cannot think of even marrying outside their caste and community, conversely , a family with liberal and cosmopolitan approach, thought, particularly in urban area will not mind in case of marriage even having knowledge of background of prior marriage or premarital affair with other counter sex outside their caste and community. In case of former, concealment of caste, community or background of prior marriage or premarital affairs before or at the time of marriage is obviously extremely material and it amounts to fraud in obtaining consent.

            In the case of Saswati Chattopadhyay v. Avik Chattopadhyay, (2011) 3 ICC 51, the husband was not informed about the earlier marriage at the time of negotiation or at the time of solemnization of the marriage. On inquiry, the husband came to know that there had been previous marriage of the appellant with one Sudip and it was also discovered that the earlier marriage was dissolved by consent. When the matter reached to the Family Court, it came to the conclusion that there has been suppression of the relevant fact with regard to the premarital status of the appellant and such relevant fact goes to the root of the matrimonial relationship. On an appeal, the Calcutta High court endorsed the view taken by the trial court and observed that premarital status of a party is a material fact which the other party must know before imparting consent for marriage. Pradeep Kumar Maheshwari v. Smt. Anita Agarwal, 2019 (2) AWC 1369.     

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Order for – Interim Maintenance

An order under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 does not decide in any manner rights and liabilities of the parties raised in matrimonial petition. The lis in matrimonial petition continues even after disposal of the application under Section 24 of the Act, 1955 as the object of the provision is to enable the indigent, weaker spouse to resist the action of others and to maintain himself or herself, as the case may be. The maintenance awarded under Section 24 of the Act, therefore, can only be said to be an interim maintenance, which would be payable during the continuance of the substantive proceedings under the Act. However, with the termination of the said proceedings, the order under Section 24 of the Act, will lose its efficacy. That means that the said order cannot inure after termination of petition.

       Further, that no appeal shall lie against an interlocutory order under Section 19(1) of the Family Courts Act, 1984, the appeal filed against the order under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 cannot be said to be in continuation of the original proceedings. Smt. Madhu Mishra v. Prem Kumar Mishra, 2019 (1) AWC 761.

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Plea of —Undue Influence

While considering the aspect of plea of undue influence and onus probandi, in Subhas Chandr Das Mushib v. Ganga Prasad Das Mushib, AIR 1967 SC 878, it was held as under:

       “Under Section 16(1) of the Contract Act a contract is said to be induced by undue influence where the relations subsisting between the parties are such that none of the parties is in a position to dominate the will of the other and uses that position to obtain an unfair advantage over the other. This shows that the court trying a case of undue influence must consider two things to start with, namely, (1) are the relations between the donor and the donee such that the donee is in a position to dominate the will of the donor, and (2) has the donee used that position to obtain an unfair advantage over the donor?

       The three stages for consideration of a case of undue influence were expounded in Raghunath Prasad Sahu v. Sarju Prasad Sahu, AIR 1924 PC 60, in the following words:

       “In the first place the relations between the parties to each other must be such that one is in a position to dominate the will of the other. Once that position is substantiated, the second stage has been reached, viz., the issue whether the contract has been induced by undue influence. Upon the determination of this issue a third point emerges, which is that of onus probandi. If the transaction appears to be unconscionable, then the burden of proving that the contract was not induced by undue influence is to lie upon the person who was in a position to dominate the will of the other.

       Error is almost sure to arise if the order of these propositions be changed. The unconscionableness of the bargain is not the first thing to be considered. The first thing to be considered is the relations of these parties. Were they such as to put one in a position to dominate the will of the other? Jamila Beguma v. Shami Mohd., (2019) 2 SCC 727.

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