Kishan Dutt
LAND MARK JUDGMENTS ON FAMILY LAW FOR THE YEAR 2020 -Kishan Dutt Kalaskar

LAND MARK JUDGMENTS ON FAMILY LAW FOR THE YEAR 2020 -Kishan Dutt Kalaskar

LAND MARK JUDGMENTS ON FAMILY LAW FOR THE YEAR 2020

-Kishan Dutt Kalaskar

Introduction: Property Claim - No limitation period for a divorced wife to claim property endowed with her husband. Child Custody - Be that as it may, the Court was unwilling to "throw away" the Petitioner on the ground of jurisdiction. Daughters Rights - While clarifying the concept of retroactive application vis-a-vis the 2005 amendment, the Court held that the 2005 amendment makes accessible to female successors the benefit of succession on par to that of her male counterparts’ dependent on an antecedent event, i.e., her birth. Maintenance for unmarried daughter - She can claim maintenance U/s20(3) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act if she can prove that she is unable to maintain herself. Right to Reside for Daughter- in- law -  The Court held that living off a woman in a household refers to living with some permanency.

1.) Sheela KK vs N G Suresh 

Citation: Mat Appeal No.358/209 

Date: 24th September 2020

Background of the Case: 

Kerala High Court had decided that there is no limitation period for a divorced wife to claim property endowed with her husband. Even after the marriage dissolution, the husband will be considered to hold in trust the properties endowed with him by the wife before marriage as dowry, as ruled by the full Bench of Kerala High Court. 

 

The issue before the Court:

·         Whether trust made by a wife, entrusting her property to her husband gets extinguished after the dissolution of marriage?

·         Whether the wife can invoke proceedings under section 10 of the Limitation Act, 1963, with no time limitation?

 

Observation made by the Full Bench: 

·         The Bench noticed that it is the settled law that when the wife entrusts the husband any property belonging to her, trust is made, and the husband is thus bound to return the same to his wife. Section 10 of the Limitation Act demonstrates that there is no limitation for initiating any such action, without some other statute providing for a limitation, the trustee can't take a contention that he will not return the trust property for the account of any time limitation. Therefore, when the relationship between the parties gets unsettled, the question presented is, resulting in divorce and whether the trust gets extinguished, and the divorced wife would be entitled to invoke Section 10 of the Limitation Act and would file a suit at her will anytime. In such a situation, the questions to be considered are (i) Whether a trust had been made at any time, (ii) if a trust has been made and the husband stays as a trustee, whether it gets extinguished after the dissolution of marriage or under some other conditions. 

·         Also, as per Section 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, a legal trust is made regarding dowry. 

·         The Bench further added that as per Section 77 of the Indian Trusts Act of 1882, the conditions under which a trust is extinguished are stated. Hence, except if any of the outcomes referenced u/s section 77 happens, the trust keeps working, even though there is the dissolution of marriage. 

·         The Court also noticed that when the wife endows the husband, any property belonging to with her, trust is made, and the husband will undoubtedly return to his wife. However, suppose the same isn't returned. In that case, the wife has a right to demand the same by filing a suit or filing an application before the Family Court or making other fundamental steps under the significant statutes in force. \

 

2.) Anushree Goyal v. State of Madhya Pradesh & Ors.

Case No.: WP No. 7739/2020

Date: 8th June 2020

 

Background: 

The writ had been filed by the mother of a two-year-old child born in the US. Altogether, the Petitioner's husband had gotten an ex-parte restraint order against her from the Court, compelling her to move out of her matrimonial house and return to her parents' home in Indore, India. From that point, the Petitioner's husband left their child at his parents' house in Gwalior and executed a Power of Attorney and Authorization favouring his parents to care for the child. The Petitioner had, therefore, moved the High Court, seeking custody of her son.

Maintainability:

The Respondents, i.e., the in-laws of the Petitioner, had contended that a habeas corpus petition isn't maintainable in the issue of child guardianship. Be that as it may, the Court was unwilling to "throw away" the Petitioner on the ground of jurisdiction or the ground of alternative remedy accessible under the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890. 

 

Issue: Whether a Habeas Corpus request is maintainable regarding the guardianship of a minor child?  

 

Judgment: 

Dependence was placed on Capt. Dushyant Somal v. Sushma Somal, (1981), whereby the High Court had permitted a writ of Habeas Corpus with a direction for giving the child's custody to the Petitioner therein. In the current case, the Court saw that the child had aged about two years and the Supreme Court, keeping in view Section 6 of Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956, was of the view that the child must be in the custody of the mother. 

The Court explained that its order would not come in the way of the parties if they would want to approach the Civil Court under the Guardianship and Wards Act, 1890. The Bench additionally explained that the Civil Court would be allowed to decide the matter without being affected by the order passed by this Court to keep in view the legal provisions regarding visitation rights of father/grandparents. 

The Respondents had contended that regarding the injunction granted against the Petitioner by the Franklin Region Regular Supplications Court, Division of Homegrown Relations, Columbus, Ohio (USA), the Petitioner was not eligible for the child's care. Rejecting this contention, the Bench held that the said ex-parte injunction order in no place limits the mother to meet the child or to keep the child with her. Further, no order was placed on record, which directs the child's guardianship with the father. The Court also saw that the child was very attached to his mother, and it was remarked. 

Therefore, the Court held that the Power of Attorney and Authorization executed by the Respondent (husband) in the child's grandparents' custody was an "unheard concept" in Indian courts. Accordingly, the Court permitted the appeal and it also expressed that since the child referred to is a US resident, the US Government officials and the Association Service of Outer Issues be intimated about the order.

 

3.) Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma

CIVIL APPEAL NO. DIARY NO.32601 OF 2018

Date: 11th August 2020

Background of the case:

The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 was an exertion to codify the Hindu Law of Succession and align it with advancing thinking on the fair legacy. To accomplish the constitutional objective of gender equality, the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, was passed, giving daughters similar rights in coparcenary properties as the sons.

Notwithstanding, between the Hon'ble High Court's decisions in Prakash v. Phulavati and Danamma v. Amar, there was considerable uncertainty on whether the 2005 amendment was retrospectively applicable or prospectively applicable.

Issues before the Court:

·         Whether the amended Section 6 of the Act of 2005 requires the coparcener to be alive as 09.09.2020 for the daughter to claim rights in the coparcenary property?

·         Whether the amended Section 6 of the Act of 2005 is prospective, retrospective or retroactive?

Judgment

·         The Vineeta Sharma decision operates on the intent that Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, was to neither confer its advantages to female successors prospectively nor retrospectively, yet it was to give benefits retroactively. The legislation applies retroactively when it prescribes benefits conditional upon eligibility, which may emerge even before enacting such legislation. While clarifying the concept of retroactive application vis-a-vis the 2005 amendment, the Court held that the 2005 amendment makes accessible to female successors the benefit of succession on par to that of her male counterparts’ dependent on an antecedent event, i.e., her birth.

·         The rights can be claimed by the daughter born earlier with effect from 9th September 2005 subject to limitations prescribed in Section 6(1) regarding disposition or alienation, partition or testamentary disposition which had taken place before 20thDecember 2004.

·         The Court further held that it is not necessary for the father coparcener to be alive on 9th September 2005 as the right in coparcenary of the daughter is by birth. Notwithstanding that a preliminary decree has been passed, the daughters are to be given a share in coparcenary equal to that of a son in pending proceedings for final decree or in an appeal.

·         The SC held that the death of the predecessor coparcener, which triggers the notional parcel under Section 6 of the unamended Act, just effected the computation of the share yet not the right to claim a share since the daughter secures the status of a coparcener after her birth, through the 2005 amendment, her entitlement to claim a share under Section 6 of the Amended Act, according to the Vineeta Sharma judgment, is free of a notional partition in case of her predecessor coparcener's death before the 2005 amendment.

·         Additionally, it was held that a plea of oral partition cannot be accepted as the statutorily recognized mode of partition unless in exceptional cases wherein theplea of oral partition is supported by public documents and partition is demonstrated in the same manner as if it had been affected by a decree of a court, it may be accepted. A plea of partition based on oral evidence alone cannot be accepted and is to be rejected out rightly.

4) Abhilasha v. Parkash

Citation: 2020 SCCOnline SC 736

Date: 15th September 2020

Background:

The wife and children of the respondent had filed a suit for maintenance u/s 125 CrPC before the Magistrate wherein the Magistrate allowed maintenance subject to the condition that the Appellant herein will b=entitled to maintenance until she attains majority. This order was challenged before the High Court, but the same was dismissed. Aggrieved by the order of the High Court, the Appellant herein approached the Supreme Court, stating that even though she had attained majority but since she is unmarried, she is entitled to claim maintenance from her father. She further argued that according to S.20 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, a person has an obligation to maintain his unmarried daughter.

Issues before the Court:

(i)                 Whether the Appellant, who although had attained majority and is still unmarried, is entitled to claim maintenance from her father in proceedings u/s 125 CrPC although she is not suffering from any physical or mental abnormality/injury?

(ii)                Whether the orders passed by Judicial Magistrate as well as learned Revisional Court limiting the claim of the Appellant to claim maintenance till she attains majority should be set aside with a direction to the respondent to continue to give maintenance till the time she remains unmarried?

Judgement:

·         The Court held that a daughter who has attained majority and is unmarried is not entitled to claim maintenance from her father u/s 125 CrPC if she is not suffering from any mental or physical abnormality. However, she can claim maintenance u/s 20(3) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act if she can prove that she is unable to maintain herself.

·         The Court further held that S.20 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act casts a statutory obligation upon a Hindu man to maintain his unmarried daughter who is unable to maintain herself. This is her absolute right recognized under personal law and can be enforced against her father.

·         It was observed that the Family Court having jurisdiction to decide a case under S.125 CrPC and S.20 of Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, can exercise jurisdiction under both the Acts and, in an appropriate case, can grant maintenance to unmarried daughter to avoid multiplicity of cases.  

5) Satish Chander Ahuja v. Sneha Ahuja

Citation: 2020 SCC Online SC 841

Date: 15th October 2020

Background:

In the present case, one Satish Chander Ahuja filed a suit against his daughter in law, Sneha Ahuja, seeking a permanent injunction and for recovery of damages. The daughter in law had obtained an order directing the Appellant not to alienate the property or dispossess her without the approval of the Court under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act. The Appellant contended that the status of occupation of the respondent during the subsistence of marriage with his son could be said to be permissive in nature, and she is not entitled to claim a right of residence against the father-in-law who has no obligation to maintain her during the lifetime of her husband. Whereas the respondent argued that the suit property is a shared household within the meaning of S.2(s) of the Domestic Violence Act and as such she has a right to reside in the shared household. 

The Appellant relied on the Supreme Court's judgment in S.R. Batra v. Taruna Batra and stated that the suit property is in his name, and the husband does not have any share in the said property. The suit property is also not a joint family property.

Issues before the Court:

·         Whether shared household within the meaning of Section 2(s) of the Domestic Violence Act can be read to mean that shared household can only be that household which is household of a joint family or in which husband of the aggrieved person has a share?

·         Whether judgment in S.R. Batra and Anr. v. Taruna Batra has not correctly interpreted the provision of Section 2(s) of the Act and does not lay down accurate law?

Judgement:

·         The Supreme Court overturned its judgement in SR Batra v. Taruna Batra and held that a wife has a right to claim residence in a shared household owned by the relatives of the husband.

·         While interpreting the definition of shared household under the Act, the Court observed that "it is not the requirement of law that aggrieved person may either own the premises jointly or singly or by tenanting it jointly or singly. The household may belong to a joint family of which the respondent is a member irrespective of whether the respondent or the aggrieved person has any right, title or interest in  the shared household; and the shared household may either be owned or tenanted by the respondent singly or jointly."

·         The Court observed that the interpretation in the SR Batra case is too narrow and defeats the Act's purpose, and thus, does not lay down the correct position of law.

·         The Court held that living off a woman in a household refers to living with some permanency. In ascertaining whether the parties intended to treat the premises as a shared household or not, the intention of the parties and the nature of living have to be looked at.

Conclusion: The Hon’ble Supreme Court upheld the  opinion of the  High Court in set aside the decree of the Trial Court and remanding back  the matter for fresh adjudication.

*****

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