Tag Archives: cruelty

Dowry Death – “Soon Before Her Death”

The Hon’ble Apex Court in Satvir Singh v. State of Punjab, (2001) 8 SCC 633,  examining the significance and implication of the use of the words “soon before her death” in Section 304-B, has held as under:

“Prosecution, in a case of offence under Section 304-B IPC cannot escape from the burden of proof that the harassment or cruelty was related to the demand for dowry and also that such cruelty or harassment was caused “soon before her death”. The word “dowry” in Section 304-B has to be understood as it is defined in Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.

 It is not enough that harassment or cruelty was caused to the woman with a demand for dowry at some time, if Section 304-B is to be invoked. But it should have happened “soon before her death”. The said phrase, no doubt, is an elastic expression and can refer to a period either immediately before her death or within a few days or even a few weeks before it. But the proximity to her death is the pivot indicated by that expression. The legislative object in providing such a radius of time by employing the words “soon before her death” is to emphasise the idea that her death should, in all probabilities, have been the aftermath of such cruelty or harassment. In other words, there should be a perceptible nexus between her death and the dowry-related harassment or cruelty inflicted on her. If the interval which elapsed between the infliction of such harassment or cruelty and her death is wide the court would be in a position to gauge that in all probabilities the harassment or cruelty would not have been the immediate cause of her death. It is hence for the court to decide, on the facts and circumstances of each case, whether the said interval in that particular case was sufficient to snuff its cord from the concept “soon before her death”.”

In Hira Lal v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2003) 8 SCC 80, it was held that there must be material to show that soon before her death the victim was subjected to cruelty or harassment. The prosecution has to rule out the possibility of a natural or accidental death so as to bring it within the purview of death occurring otherwise than in normal circumstances. It was held as under: “A conjoint reading of Section 113-B of the Evidence Act and Section 304-B IPC shows that there must be material to show that soon before her death the victim was subjected to cruelty or harassment. The prosecution has to rule out the possibility of a natural or accidental death so as to bring it within the purview of ‘death occurring otherwise than in normal circumstances’. The expression “soon before” is very relevant where Section 113-B of the Evidence Act and Section 304-B IPC are pressed into service. The prosecution is obliged to show that soon before the occurrence there was cruelty or harassment and only in that case presumption operates. Evidence in that regard has to be led by the prosecution. “Soon before” is a relative term and it would depend upon the circumstances of each case and no straitjacket formula can be laid down as to what would constitute a period of soon before the occurrence. It would be hazardous to indicate any fixed period, and that brings in the importance of a proximity test both for the proof of an offence of dowry death as well as for raising a presumption under Section 113-B of the Evidence Act. The expression “soon before her death” used in the substantive Section 304-B IPC and Section 113-B of the Evidence Act is present with the idea of proximity test. No definite period has been indicated and the expression “soon before” is not defined. A reference to the expression “soon before” used in Section 114 Illustration (a) of the Evidence Act is relevant. It lays down that a court may presume that a man who is in the possession of goods ‘soon after the theft, is either the thief or has received the goods knowing them to be stolen, unless he can account for their possession’. The determination of the period which can come within the term “soon before” is left to be determined by the courts, depending upon facts and circumstances of each case. Suffice, however, to indicate that the expression “soon before” would normally imply that the interval should not be much between the cruelty or harassment concerned and the death in question. There must be existence of a proximate and live link between the effect of cruelty based on dowry demand and the death concerned. If the alleged incident of cruelty is remote in time and has become stale enough not to disturb the mental equilibrium of the woman concerned, it would be of no consequence.” Mahesh Kumar v. State of Haryana, (2019) 8 SCC 128

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Section 10 of the Indian Divorce Act

In the plaint for divorce being filed under Section 10 of the Indian Divorce Act, it has to be established that the desertion has been for more than two years on the date of presentation of application for divorce. It is an admitted position that marriage between the parties has not completed two years on the date plaint for divorce was filed and therefore the question of desertion being for a period of more than two years on the date the application was made, does not arise.

      Further from a reading of Section 10(1)(x) of the Indian Divorce Act, it will be seen that not only cruelty is to be established, it is further to be shown that because of such cruelty, a reasonable apprehension has arisen in the mind of one of the parties that it would be harmful or injurious to live with the other party. Leonard Dass v. Prema Catherine Dass, 2018 (131) ALR 133.

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Order for Maintenance – Cannot be Set Aside if the Wife refuses to stay with husband

In the case of Saranan Banerjee v. State of Jharkhand, 2007 (2) AIR 82 (Jhar), it was held that an order of maintenance would not be set aside merely on the ground that wife refused to live with the husband despite decree for conjugal rights where she alleges torture and ill-treatment. It was further held as under:

       “Finally it has been submitted that since the wife is not ready to live with her husband in spite of conciliation and efforts taken by the court and also in view of the decree of restitution of conjugal rights as claimed by the husband, the wife is not entitled to maintenance at all.

       The husband had obtained a decree under section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act for restitution of conjugal rights as against the wife and in spite of conciliation and efforts she was not inclined to live with her husband on the plea that a case for the offence under Section 498-A, IPC was pending against the husband on the allegation of torture, misbehavior, demand of dowry and many other allegations and for such reason she was apprehensive at the hands of her husband. The judgment and decree under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act for restitution of conjugal rights is a decree, which cannot be executed by force. Therefore the maintenance amount awarded to the wife and her daughter cannot be sweeped and set aside only on the ground that she was not inclined to abide by the decree of the restitution of conjugal rights passed against her. Vimal Kumar Verma v. Kavita Verma, 2018 (105) ACC 394.

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Matrimonial Dispute – When can a DNA Test be ordered

In the case of Bhabani Prasad Jena v. Convenor Secretary, Orissa State Commission for Women, (2010) 8 SCC 633, it was observed by the Hon’ble Apex Court that in a matter where paternity of a child is in issue before the Court, the use of DNA Test is an extremely delicate and sensitive aspect. It should not be directed by the court as a matter of course, or in a routine manner. Whenever such a request is made, the court has to consider diverse aspects including presumption under Section 112 of the Evidence Act; pros and cons of such order and the test of “eminent need”. Whether it is not possible for the Court to reach the truth without use of such test. Any order for DNA test can be given by the Court only if a strong prima facie case is made out for such a course. Satya Pal Yadav v. Smt. Sandhya Yadav, 2017 (123) ALR 860.

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Desertion vis-à-vis Wilful Separation

The offence of desertion is a course of conduct which exists independently of its duration, but as a ground for divorce it must exist for a period of at least three years immediately pending the presentation of the petition where the offence appears as a cross-charge, of the answer. Desertion as a ground of divorce differs from the statutory grounds of adultery and cruelty in that the offence founding the cause of action of desertion is not complete, but is inchoate, until the suit is constituted. Desertion is a continuing offence.
The quality of permanence is one of the essential elements which differentiates desertion from willful separation. If a spouse abandons the other spouse in a state of temporary passion, for example anger or disgust, without intending permanently to cease cohabitation, it will not amount to desertion. For the offence of desertion, so far as the deserting spouse is concerned, two essential conditions must be there namely, (1) the factum of separation, and (2) the intention to bring cohabitation permanently to an end (animus deserendi). Similarly two elements are essential so far as the deserted spouse is concerned: (1) the absence of consent, and (2) the absence of conduct giving reasonable cause to the spouse leaving the matrimonial home to form the necessary intention aforesaid. Mohan Singh Mawri v. Haripriya, 2017 (121) ALR 533.

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Divorce – False Allegations Against Husband

In the case of Maya Devi v. Jagdish Prasad, 2007 (67) ALR 129, it was held that not only the physical cruelty which can be a ground for a divorce but the mental cruelty also constituted a good ground for divorce. In the case of Sadhana Srivastava v. Sri Arvind Kumar Srivastava, 2005 (61) ALR 268, it was held that making a false allegation against the husband of having illicit relationship and extra marital affairs by wife in her written statement constitute mental cruelty of such nature that husband cannot be reasonable asked to live with wife. In such case, the husband is entitled to a decree of divorce. Similar views have been expressed by the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the case of Jai Dayal v. Shakuntala Devi, AIR 2004 Del 31 in which it has been held that leveling of false allegation by one spouse about the other having alleged illicit relations with different persons outside wedlock amounted to mental cruelty. Rajesh Dwivedi v. Additional Principal Judge, Family Court, 2015 (108) ALR 337.

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Matrimonial Cruelty – Filing of a False Criminal Case

Filing of a criminal complaint by the wife against the husband and several members of his family under Section 498-A and 307of the Indian Penal Code amounts to cruelty. This nature of cruelty, in the wake of filing of a false criminal case by either of the spouses, has been discussed in detail in K. Srinivas Rao v. D.A. Deepa, (2013) 5 SCC 226, wherein it was held as under:
“Staying together under the same roof is not a precondition for mental cruelty. Spouse can cause mental cruelty by his or her conduct even while he or she is not staying under the same roof. In a given case, while staying away, a spouse can cause mental cruelty to the other spouse by sending vulgar and defamatory letters or notices or filing complaints containing indecent allegations or by initiating number of judicial proceedings making the other spouse’s life miserable.”
If a false criminal complaint is preferred by either spouse it would invariably and indubitably constitute matrimonial cruelty, such as would entitle the other spouse to claim a divorce. K. Srinivas v. K. Sunita, (2015) 1 AWC 80.

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Continuing Offence

Section 472 CrPC provides that in case of a continuing offence, a fresh period of limitation begins to run at every moment of the time period during which the offence continues. The expression “continuing offence” has not been defined in CrPC because it is one of those expressions which does not have a fixed connotation, and therefore, the formula of universal application cannot be formulated in this respect.
According to Black’s Law Dictionary (5th Edition), ‘continuing’ means ‘enduring; not terminated by a single act or fact; subsisting for a definite period or intended to cover or apply to successive similar obligations or occurrences’. Continuing offence means ‘type of crime which is committed over a span of time’. As to period of statute of limitation in a continuing offence, the last act of the offence controls for commencement of the period. ‘A continuing offence, such that only the last act thereof within the period of the statute of limitations need be alleged in the indictment or information, is one which may consist of separate acts or a course of conduct but which arises from that singleness of thought, purpose or action which may be deemed a single impulse.’ So also a ‘continuous crime’ means ‘one consisting of a continuous series of acts, which endures after the period of consummation, as, the offence of carrying concealed weapons. In the case of instantaneous crimes, the statute of limitation begins to run with the consummation, while in the case of continuous crimes it only begins with the cessation of the criminal conduct or act.
The law on this point can be summarized to the effect that, in the case of a continuing offence, the ingredients of the offence continue i.e. endure even after the period of consummation, whereas in an instantaneous offence, the offence takes place once and for all i.e. when the same actually takes place. In such cases, there is no continuing offence, even though the damage resulting from the injury may itself continue. Udai Shankar Awasthi v. State of Uttar Pradesh and another, (2013) 2 SCC 435.

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