Category Archives: Criminal Law

Criminal Offence of – Defamation

The criminal offence of defamation under Section 499 Indian Penal Code is committed when a person makes a defamatory imputation which, as explained in Mohd. Abdulla Khan v. Prakash K., (2018) 1 SCC 615, is as under:

“To constitute an offence of defamation it requires a person to make some imputation concerning other person;

  • Such imputation must be made either
  • With intention, or
  • Knowledge, or
  • Having a reason to believe

that such an imputation will the reputation of the person against whom the imputation is made.

  • Imputation could be, by
  • Words, either spoken or written, or
  • By making signs, or
  • Visible representations
  • Imputation could be either made or published.

The difference between making of an imputation and publishing the same is:

If ‘X’ tells ‘Y’ that ‘Y’ is a criminal–‘X’ makes an imputation. If ‘X’ tells ‘Z’ that ‘Y’ is a criminal—‘X’ publishes the imputation.

The essence of publication in the context of Section 499 is the communication of defamatory imputation to persons other than the persons against whom the imputation is made. A publication, on the other hand, is made when the imputation is communicated to persons other than the persons about whom the defamatory imputation is conveyed. A person, who makes the defamatory imputation, could also publish the imputation and thus could be the maker and the publisher of a defamatory imputation. On the other hand, a person may be liable though he may not have made the statement but he publishes it. Google India Private Ltd. v. Visaka Industries, (2020) 4 SCC 162.

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Wife Living In Adultery – Not Entitled to Maintenance

 A wife is not entitled to any Maintenance Allowance from her husband if she is living in adultery or if she has refused to live with her husband without any sufficient reason or if they are living separately by mutual consent. Thus, all the circumstances contemplated by sub-section (4) of section 125, Cr. P.C. presuppose the existence of matrimonial relations. The provision would be applicable where the marriage between the parties subsists and not where it has come to an end. Taking the three circumstances individually, it will be noticed that the first circumstance on account of which a wife is not entitled to claim Maintenance Allowance from her husband is that she is living in adultery. Now, adultery is the sexual intercourse of two persons, either of whom is married to a third person. This clearly supposes the subsistence of marriage between the husband and wife and if during the subsistence of marriage, the wife lives in adultery, she cannot claim Maintenance Allowance under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Ashwani K. Lal v. Deepa Kumari Chauhan, Cr.MMO No. 358 of 2016, decided on October 31, 2019

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Making a Daughter in Law Do Domestic Work – Is Not Unusual

No family is totally devoid of clashes among members constituting it. It is common for elders to scold and sometimes abuse youngsters. Making a daughter in law to do the house hold/domestic work is also not something unusual.

In Narendra v. K. Meena, 2016 (5) KHC 180, it was held as under: “In a Hindu society, it is a pious obligation of the son to maintain the parents. If a wife makes an attempt to deviate from the normal practice and normal custom of the society, she must have some justifiable reason for that and in this case, we do not find any justifiable reason, except monetary consideration of the respondent wife. In our opinion, normally, no husband would tolerate this and no son would like to be separated from his old parents and other family members, who are also dependent upon his income. The persistent effort of the respondent wife to constrain the appellant to be separated from the family would be torturous for the husband and in our opinion, the trial court was right when it came to be conclusion that this constitutes an act of ‘cruelty’.” Ranjith P.C. V. Asha Nair P., Mat. Appl. No. 137 of 2014, decided on May 20, 2020

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‘Capable of Earning’ and ‘Actual Earning’ – Difference Between

In Arun Vats v. Pallavi Sharma, reported as 2019 SCC OnLine Del 11817 and Niharika Yadav v. Manish Kumar Yadav in Crl. Rev. Petition 755/201, decided on 18.12.2019 where, while relying upon the decision rendered in the case of Shalija v. Khobbana reported as (2018) 12 SCC 199, it was held that ‘capable of earning’ and ‘actual earning’ are entirely two different things. Merely because the wife is ‘capable of earning’ is not a sufficient reason to deny her the maintenance. It was also stated that the petitioner has qualified CTET test and is now more qualified to earn. In Swapan Kumar Banerjee v. The State of West Bengal, reported as 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1263, the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed as follows:“The next issue raised was that the wife being a qualified architect from a reputed university i.e. Jadavpur University, Calcutta would be presumed to have sufficient income. It is pertinent to mention that as far as the husband is concerned, his income through taxable returns has been brought on record which shows that he was earning a substantial amount of Rs. 13,16,585/- per year and on that basis Rs. 10,000/- per month has been awarded as monthly maintenance to the wife. No evidence has been led to show what is the income of the wife or where the wife is working. It was for the husband to lead such evidence. In the absence of any such evidence no presumption can be raised that the wife is earning sufficient amount to support herself.”  Anita v. Amit, Crl. Rev. P. 515/2018, decided on 24.02.2020

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Character Assassination of Wife – Amounts to Mental Cruelty

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Vijaykumar Ramchandra Bhate v. Neela Vijaykumar Bhate, (2003) 6 SCC 334,  had the occasion to consider the question as to whether the averments, accusations and character assassination of the wife by the appellant husband in the written statement constitutes mental cruelty for sustaining the claim for divorce under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Act. The Hon’ble Court has observed that the position of law in that regard has come to be well settled and declare that leveling disgusting accusations of unchastity and indecent familiarity with the person outside wedlock and allegations of extra marital relationship is a grave assault on the character, honour, reputation, status as well as the health of the wife. Such allegations and aspersions made in the written statement or suggested in the course of examination and by way of cross-examination would amount to worst form of insult and cruelty, sufficient by itself to substantiate cruelty in law, warranting the claim of the wife being allowed. Such unfounded accusations and character assassinations causes mental pain, agony and suffering amounting to the reformulated concept of cruelty in matrimonial law causing profound and lasting disruption and causes the wife to feel deeply hurt and reasonably apprehend that it would be dangerous for her to live with a husband who was taunting her like that and rendered the maintenance of matrimonial life impossible. Debashis Choudhury v. Nibedita Choudhury, Mat. App. 22 of 2018 decided on 24.09.2019.

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Provisions Under Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens Act and Domestic Violence Act

Some broad guidelines as set out below, can be followed by Courts in order to strike a balance between the PSC Act and the DV Act:

1. The court/tribunal has to first ascertain the nature of the relationship between the parties and the son’s/daughter’s family.

2. If the case involves eviction of a daughter in law, the court has to also ascertain whether the daughter-in-law was living as part of a joint family.

3. If the relationship is acrimonious, then the parents ought to be permitted to seek eviction of the son/daughter-in-law or daughter/son-in-law from their premises. In such circumstances, the obligation of the husband to maintain the wife would continue in terms of the principles under the DV Act.

4. If the relationship between the parents and the son are peaceful or if the parents are seen colluding with their son, then, an obligation to maintain and to provide for the shelter for the daughter-in-law would remain both upon the in-laws and the husband especially if they were living as part of a joint family. In such a situation, while parents would be entitled to seek eviction of the daughter-in-law from their property, an alternative reasonable accommodation would have to be provided to her.

5. In case the son or his family is ill-treating the parents then the parents would be entitled to seek unconditional eviction from their property so that they can live a peaceful life and also put the property to use for their generating income and for their own expenses for daily living.

6. If the son has abandoned both the parents and his own wife/children, then if the son’s family was living as part of a joint family prior to the breakdown of relationships, the parents would be entitled to seek possession from their daughter-in-law, however, for a reasonable period they would have to provide some shelter to the daughter-in-law during which time she is able to seek her remedies against her husband. Vinay Varma v. Kanika Pasricha, (2020) 1 DMC 180.

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Domestic Relationship – At Any Point of Time

The problem arises with the meaning of phrase “at any point of time”. That does not mean that living together at any stage in the past would give right to a person to become aggrieved person to claim domestic relationship. At any point of time, indicates that the aggrieved person has been continuously living in the shared household as a matter of right, but if for some reason if the aggrieved person has to leave the house temporarily and when she returns she is not allowed to enjoy her right to live in the property. Where a family member leaves the shared household to establish his or her own household, he or she cannot claim to have a right to move an application under Section 12 of the DV Act on the basis of domestic relationship. This proposition of law came up before the Delhi High Court in the case of Vijay Verma v. State (NCT) of Delhi reported in (2010) 172 DLT 660, wherein it has been observed as under:

6. A perusal of this provision makes it clear that domestic relationship arisen in respect of an aggrieved person if the aggrieved person had lived together with the respondent in a shared household. This living together can be either soon before filing of petition or ‘at any point of time’. The problem arises with the meaning of phrase “at any point of time”. Does that mean that living together at any stage in the past would give right to a person to become aggrieved person to claim domestic relationship? I consider that “at any point of time” under the Act only means where an aggrieved person has been continuously living in the shared household as a matter of right but for some reason the aggrieved person has to leave the house temporarily and when she returns, she is not allowed to enjoy her right to live in the property. However, “at any point of time” cannot be defined as “at any point of time in the past” whether the right to live survives or not. For example if there is a joint family where father has several sons with daughters-in-law living in a house and ultimately sons, one by one or together, decide that they should live separate with their own families and they establish separate household and start living with their respective families separately at different places; can it be said that wife of each of the sons can claim a right to live in the house of father-in-law because at one point of time she along with her husband had lived in the shared household. If this meaning is given to the shared household then the whole purpose of Domestic Violence Act shall stand defeated. Where a family member leaves the shared household to establish his own household, and actually establishes his own household, he cannot claim to have a right to move an application under Section 12 of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act on the basis of domestic relationship. Domestic relationship comes to an end once the son along with his family moved out of the joint family and established his own household or when a daughter gets married and establishes her own household with her husband. Such son, daughter, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, if they have any right in the property say because of coparcenary or because of inheritance, such right can be claimed by an independent civil suit and an application under Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act cannot be filed by a person who has established his separate household and ceased to have a domestic relationship. Domestic relationship continues so long as the parties live under the same roof and enjoy living together in a shared household. Only a compelled or temporarily going out by aggrieved person shall fall in phrase ‘at any point of time’, say, wife has gone to her parents house or to a relative or some other female member has gone to live with her some relative, and, all her articles and belongings remain within the same household and she has not left the household permanently, the domestic relationship continues. However, where the living together has been given up and a separate household is established and belongings are removed, domestic relationship comes to an end and a relationship of being relatives of each other survives. This is very normal in families that a person whether, a male or a female attains self sufficiency after education or otherwise and takes a job lives in some other city or country, enjoys life there, settles home there. He cannot be said to have domestic relationship with the persons whom he left behind. His relationship that of a brother and sister, father and son, father and daughter, father and daughter-in-law etc. survives but the domestic relationship of living in a joint household would not survive & comes to an end. N.S. Lellavathi v. Dr. R. Shilpa Brunda, Cri. Revision Petition No. 1146 of 2019 decided on 11.12.2019

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Cruelty Under Section 498-A – Prosecution Has to Prove Wilful Conduct

Cruelty under Section 498A means any willful conduct which is of such nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide. It also means harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand. Therefore, the prosecution has to prove a willful conduct, which is of such nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide. No such willful conduct has been established because none of the witnesses have given evidence to have seen the Accused indulging in such willful conduct that could drive a woman to commit suicide. Moreover, if a woman is harassed, that harassment should be with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security, or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand. Therefore, the prosecution has to prove that there was any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security by the Accused. None of the witnesses have stated that there was any such demand by the Accused. Therefore, the charge under Section 498A cannot stick. State of Maharashtra v. Anil Kurkotti, (2019) 3 HLR 823.

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Acquittal – Double Presumption in Favour of Accused

There is an acquittal and therefore, there is double presumption in favour of the accused. Firstly, the presumption of innocence available to the accused under the fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence that every person shall be presumed to be innocent unless he is proved guilty by a competent court of law. Secondly, the accused having secured acquittal, the presumption of their innocence is further reinforced, reaffirmed and strengthened by the Trial Court. For acquitting accused, the Trial Court observed that the prosecution had failed to prove its case. State of Maharashtra v. Chandrakant Bhagwan Katkar, Cri. Appeal No. 677 of 2003 decided on 16.12.2019

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Voluntary Presents of Traditional Nature – Are Not Dowry

 The definition of the expression “dowry” contained in Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act cannot be confined merely to be “demand” of money, property or valuable security made at or after the performance of marriage. The legislature has in its wisdom while providing for the definition of “dowry” emphasized that any money, property or valuable security given, as a consideration for marriage, “before, at or after” the marriage would be covered by the expression “dowry” and this definition as contained in Section 2 has to be read wherever the expression “dowry” occurs in the Dowry Prohibition Act. Meaning of the expression “dowry” as commonly used and understood is different than the peculiar definition thereof under the Dowry Prohibition Act. Under Section 4, mere demand of “dowry” is sufficient to bring home the offence to an accused. Thus, any “demand” of money, property or valuable security made from the bride or her parents or other relatives by the bridegroom or his parents or other relatives or vice versa would fall within the mischief of “dowry” under the Dowry Prohibition Act where such demand is not properly referable to any legally recognized claim and is relatable only to the consideration of marriage. Marriage in this context would include a proposed marriage also, more particularly where the non-fulfilment of the “demand of dowry” leads to the ugly consequence of the marriage not taking place at all. The expression “dowry” under the Dowry Prohibition Act has to be interpreted in the sense which the statute wishes to attribute to it. The definition given in the statute is the determinative factor. The Dowry Prohibition Act is a piece of social legislation which aims to check the growing menace of the social evil of dowry and it makes punishable not only the actual receiving of dowry but also the very demand of dowry made before or at the time or after the marriage where such demand is referable to the consideration of marriage. Dowry as a quid pro quo for marriage is prohibited and not the giving of traditional presents to the bride or the bridegroom by friends and relatives. Thus, voluntary presents given at or before or after the marriage to the bride or the bridegroom, as the case may be, of a traditional nature, which are given not as a consideration for marriage but out of love, affection or regard, would not fall within the mischief of the expression “dowry” made punishable under the Dowry Prohibition Act. Reema Aggarwal v. Anupam, (2004) 3 SCC 199

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