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Review: Telangana HC Rules That Continuous Desertion and Filing of Numerous Cases by Spouse Constitutes Cruelty

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In this edition of court judgements review, we look at the Madras HC ruling that court must ensure that not only are ‘women protected, but equally that law is not misused against men’, Kerala HC’s decision that certified copy of property document is a public document, Telangana HC’s judgment that continuous desertion and filing of numerous cases by spouse constitutes cruelty, among others.

Madras HC: Court Must Ensure That Not Only are ‘Women Protected, But Equally That Law is not Misused Against Men’

In the case of Rahul Gandhi (Appellant) vs. State of Tamil Nadu (Respondent), the Madras High Court (HC) was dealing with the charges of Rape and Cheating laid against the Appellant under Sections 376 and 417 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The facts of the case were the Appellant (A1), who is a married person and has a child, had falsely promised to marry the Prosecution Witness (PW1) and had a physical relationship with her (PW1). Later, A1 had refused to marry PW1. Further, the accused A1 to A4 verbally abused PW1 and others when they went to question why A1 was unwilling to marry PW1. The trial court had convicted A1 on the charges of Rape and had sentenced him to 10 years imprisonment. This was challenged in HC by A1. 

The HC dealt with two questions, whether the consent given by PW1 to the sexual intercourse can be taken as an improper “consent” and whether A1 can be held guilty on the charges of rape levelled against him. 

The court noted that PW1 was fully aware of the fact that A1 was a married person. However, despite being fully aware of this, she had consented to alleged sexual intercourse. Therefore, the charges of cheating and rape laid against A1 do not stand. 

While holding so, the court also observed that crimes against women are on the rise in the country. But there have also been instances where the women have misused the law. Therefore, it has been observed that the courts are entrusted with the task of ensuring that not only the women are protected, but equally, the law is not misused against the innocent male folk as well.

Kerala HC: Certified copy of Property Document is a Public Document

In the case of P. B. Sourbhan (Petitioner) vs. State of Kerala, the petitioner approached HC to direct the State of Kerala to give him a certified copy of the property certificate.

The facts of the case were that the Petitioner is an accused of various crimes under several sections of IPC. During the trial of these offences, the Petitioner sought a copy of the property certificate. This was denied by Magistrate Court, citing Rule 225 of the Criminal Rules of Practice, Kerala 1982, which stipulates that copies of confidential correspondence and proceedings cannot be given except under the orders of the Court. Aggrieved by it, the petitioner approached HC. 

The Court delivered the judgment on the same day it took the matter for admission and held that the property register is not a confidential document, but falls under the category of administrative forms. Hence, the same cannot be denied in the modern era of the Right to Information and Transparency, where there can be nothing confidential about a property register maintained in a public office.

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Bombay HC: Dress Code instructions given by Educational Authority are not violative of the Constitution

In the case of Zainab Abdul Qayyum Choudhary & Ors (Petitioners) vs. Chembur Trombay Education Society & Ors (Respondents), the Bombay HC held that the issuance of instructions about dress code, forbidding the wearing of Hijab or Nakab and hence forbearance from disclosing one’s own religion, is not violative of Articles 19 (1) (a) and 25 of Constitution of India – the right to freedom of speech and expression, and practice of religion. 

The facts of the case were that the Respondent, which is an Undergraduate college authority, had issued dress code instructions to its students, stipulating that the dresses worn by students should not reveal anyone’s religion, such as wearing of Burkha, Nakab, Hijab, Cap, Badge, Stole, etc. This was challenged by 9 students. 

The court noted the instructions is for the purpose of maintaining discipline and order among students, and to prohibit the disclosure of their religions through their dresses. The court noted that in similar cases, such as Fatima Hussain judgment by Bombay HC, the full bench judgment of Karnataka HC in Reshma case, and others, such instructions have already been upheld. Accordingly, the court dismissed the petition by holding that the object of forbidding students from disclosing their religion is a step in the larger interest to make them focus on gaining knowledge and education.

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Telangana HC: Continuous Desertion and filing of Numerous Cases by Spouse constitutes Cruelty

In the case of X (Husband) vs. Y (Wife), the Telangana HC held that Divorce should be granted in cases where the marriage has crumbled beyond restoration, with the exhibition of continuous cruelty and desertion.

The facts of the case were that husband and wife were married in 2010. Within a year of marriage in 2011, after a child was born, the wife left for her parents’ house. In 2012, the wife filed a case against her husband, in which the husband and his family members were granted anticipatory bail. Later, the wife filed 5 more cases against her husband, between 2012 and 2019, though she briefly lived with him in the year 2015 and left again to her parents’ house. In 2021, the magistrate dismissed the Divorce Petition filed by the husband by noting that the wife came to live with him in 2015, and that sufficient material was not placed before it to establish cruelty and desertion, in order to obtain divorce. Aggrieved by the judgment, the Husband approached Telangana HC. 

The court noted that though “Cruelty” has not been defined under the Hindu Marriage Act, the numerous judicial judgments have held elements, such as intentional and unintentional physical cruelty, a long period of continuous separation and scant regard for the feelings and emotions of the other party, refusing to sever ties though there has been a long period of desertion, among others, have been considered as essential ingredients which constitute cruelty and become grounds for divorce. Even depriving a spouse of being on Facebook and Instagram may also amount to cruelty.

Accordingly, the court held that marriage involves the building of a shared home, brick-by-brick cemented by a continuing wish to live a life together. This is the bedrock of marriage, which breaks if the married parties decide to part ways, especially when in the cases such as the present one. In such cases, the courts have a limited role and cannot assume the role of an executioner or counsellor.

Accordingly, the court has set aside the judgment of the Magistrate and granted Divorce.

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