Court, India, Stories

Review: Odisha HC Rules That Those Trespassing Railway Tracks Are Accountable for Their Own Safety and Not Eligible for Compensation


In this edition of Court Judgements, we look at the apex court’s judgement that Stridhan is wife’s property and that husband has no control over it, that mere registration of a Hindu Marriage does not confer legitimacy to the marriage, rituals should be performed as per Hindu Marriage Act, Madhya Pradesh HC’s judgment that educational institutions are not governed under Industrial Disputes Act, and Odisha HC’s ruling that those trespassing railway tracks are accountable for their own safety and not eligible for compensation.

Supreme Court: Stridhan is wife’s property and husband has no control over it

In the case Maya Gopinathan vs. Anoop SB, the appellant and the first respondent married in 2003, both having been previously married. The appellant received 89 sovereigns of gold and Rs. 2 lakhs from her family during the wedding. However, on the wedding night, the first respondent took custody of the appellant’s jewellery, which was later alleged to have been misappropriated to settle his financial liabilities. The Family Court in 2011 ruled in favour of the appellant, finding that the respondent misappropriated her gold jewellery. They were ordered to pay Rs. 8.9 lakhs for the jewellery’s value and Rs. 2 Lakhs with 6% interest per annum. The court also granted a divorce. However, when the respondents appealed to the Kerala High Court, it partly overturned the Family Court’s decision. While it upheld the repayment of Rs 2 lakhs, it found insufficient evidence for the jewellery misappropriation claim, citing inconsistencies in the appellant’s testimony.

The woman then appealed to the Supreme Court. The Bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta held that ‘stridhan’ property, including gifts to a woman before, during, or after marriage, remains her absolute property, not shared with her husband. The husband has no authority over this property and must return it or its value in times of need. The court emphasized trust in marriage, criticizing the assumption of distrust from the start. It found the High Court’s judgment lacking, stating that the wife doesn’t need to prove how she acquired her stridhan, unlike in criminal trials, and highlighted evidence of jewellery brought to the matrimonial home as sufficient proof. 

The Supreme Court allowed the appeal and noted that despite some weaknesses in the evidence, the Bench found the appellant’s case stronger and more credible. They noted that the respondents didn’t dispute the nature, quality, or value of the gold jewellery the appellant wore at her wedding, possibly amounting to 89 sovereigns. While the value of 89 sovereigns in 2009 was Rs. 8.9 Lakhs, the Court, acknowledging rising living costs, granted the appellant relief of Rs. 25 Lakhs directing the husband to pay this amount within six months.

Supreme Court: Registration does not confer legitimacy to the marriage, rituals should be performed as per Hindu Marriage Act

The case, Dolly Rani vs. Manish Kumar Chanchal dealt with the sanctity of Hindu marriages. The parties of the case sought a divorce decree. Their marriage was registered but without performing a Hindu marriage ceremony. 

The Supreme Court Bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih held that the marriage was not valid since there was no ceremony performed. The Court clarified that while registering a Hindu marriage under Section 8 of the Hindu Marriage Act helps in proving the marriage, it doesn’t confer legitimacy if the marriage wasn’t solemnized according to Section 7 of the Act.  Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act describes the ceremonies needed for a valid Hindu marriage. It highlights that the marriage must be solemnized with proper rituals, including the saptapadi (seven steps by the couple), for it to be legally recognized. Without these ceremonies, especially saptapadi if used, the marriage won’t be considered valid under the law. Without a marriage ceremony as per Section 7, even if the conditions for a valid Hindu marriage as per the law are met, the registration alone doesn’t establish a legal Hindu marriage.

The Court emphasized the sacred nature of Hindu marriage, considering it a sacrament and the foundation of a new family based on mutual respect and partnership. It criticized the trend of young couples attempting to claim the status of husband and wife without a valid marriage ceremony under the Hindu Marriage Act, noting that such practices undermine the sanctity of marriage. The Court urged couples to understand the significance of marriage as a solemn event and not treat it as a commercial transaction. It also highlighted the provisions of the Special Marriage Act, of 1954, which allow any couple, regardless of race, caste, or creed, to legally marry without the same stringent requirements as the Hindu Marriage Act.

The Court declared the estranged couple’s marriage certificate null and void and dismissed their divorce proceedings.

Madhya Pradesh HC: Educational institutions are not governed under Industrial Disputes Act

An industrial dispute was raised by a woman under Section 10 of the Industrial Disputes Act, seeking reinstatement to her previous post and salary payment from her removal date due to alleged unlawful termination by Maharishi Panini Sanskrit Evam Vedic University’s Management. The Management argued that the termination was due to the woman’s gross misconduct of sharing unauthorized information. Despite this, the Labour Court awarded reinstatement with 50% back-wages. The labour court’s decision was challenged in the case, Maharishi Panini Sanskrit Evam Vedic University vs. Kumari Rajani Verma before the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

The High Court’s single bench of Justice Anil Verma observed that the woman had worked as a daily wager from 2013 to 2016 and had worked for more than 240 days in a year. However, this did not mean that their employment would be regularized, the court held, referring to a Supreme Court judgement. Further, it noted that the Management terminated her services citing unsatisfactory work and loss of confidence, following due notice. As she was not a permanent employee, formal disciplinary proceedings were not required. Additionally, the petitioner, being an educational institution, is governed by statutes like the MP University Act, Rules, and relevant circulars regarding employee service conditions, rather than industrial regulations, it held.

The bench observed that the Labour Court did not consider all relevant aspects, so its decision was legally flawed. The High Court nullified the Labour Court’s decision and held that the termination of the woman’s services was justified due to unsatisfactory performance and loss of confidence in the Management.

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Odisha HC: Those trespassing railway tracks are accountable for their own safety and not eligible for compensation

In Hema Pradhan & another vs. Union of India & Others, the Odisha High Court dealt with two separate incidents resulting in fatalities at railway stations. In the first incident, a mentally challenged individual was fatally struck by a train near Andhari village, reported by the Station Master at Jujumura Railway Station. In the second incident, the petitioner’s son was also struck by a train at Soro railway station, resulting in his death. The petitioners approached the High Court seeking compensation from the Railway Authorities for the unnatural death of their kin under Section 124-A of the Railways Act.

The single bench of Dr Justice Sanjeeb Kumar Panigrahi observed that the deceased individuals were not passengers but trespassers who were struck by a train while on the tracks. According to Section 124 A of the Act, compensation is mandatory only for passengers in the event of an untoward incident on a railway, regardless of whether there was any wrongful act or negligence on the part of the railway administration. Those trespassing the tracks were not eligible for the same.

He added that while railways enforce safety measures, individuals trespassing on tracks are accountable for their safety. Tracks are for trains, not pedestrians, and trespassing poses grave risks like train collisions. Those trespassing knowingly assume these risks and cannot hold railways responsible for resulting accidents, he noted. The High Court also dismissed along with the case, similar eighteen petitions. 

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Telangana HC: Having disabled children is not a reason to stay in premises after the expiry of contract

The case M Rama Murthy & others vs. The Assistant Commissioner of Endowments, Hyderabad & others involve a dispute concerning property belonging to a temple in Secunderabad under the AP Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowments Act, 1987. The Assistant Commissioner of Endowments forwarded proposals submitted by the Executive Officer of the temple against the respondent, who allegedly encroached upon a house after the expiry of a lease period without renewal. The appellant is accused of converting the residential building into commercial shops, subleasing it, and not paying rent to the temple despite demands to vacate. 

The appellant challenged the Endowments Tribunal’s order to vacate the premises. He argued that he received an eviction notice in 2006, which he responded to, and had been regularly paying rent to the Temple authorities. He also mentioned having two disabled children and expressed concern that eviction would cause irreparable harm to his family.

The Telangana High Court observed that the applicants tried to deliver notices to the respondents but had to affix them on the door as the respondents were unavailable. Despite receiving termination notices, the respondents didn’t vacate the premises and instead sought renewal due to their disabled children. However, having disabled children doesn’t allow them to stay after termination, noted the High Court Bench of Justice Mathuri Girija Priyadarsini. The Bench also pointed out that under Section 83 of the AP Charitable and Hindu Religious Institution and Endowments Act, 1987, anyone staying in the premises after the lease expires would be considered an encroacher. Further, the Bench also observed that apart from legal reasons, the appellant couldn’t stay on the premises due to a notice from GHMC declaring the house unfit for habitation. The appeal was dismissed, and the Tribunal’s decision was upheld.

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About Author

A bachelor’s degree in mathematics and master’s in social science, she is driven by ardent desire to work with this unique combination to create her own path instead of following the herd. Having served a stint as the college union chairperson, she is a strategist who is also passionate about nature conservation, art and loves solving Sudoku.

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