The Delhi High Court has held offence of domestic violence under Section 498A IPC has to be treated as a "continuing offence".
The Court further held that the claim for maintenance was a "continuing cause of action", and wife was not barred from claim it under the Domestic Violence Act even after a period of three years.
The judgment was delivered by Justice Mukta Gupta, while dismissing a writ petition which sought to quash the FIR and DV Act proceedings as time-barred.
The petitioner contended that the FIR registered on complaint of his estranged wife in July 17 was time-barred, as they were living separately since August 2014. He relied on Section 468(2)(c), as per which the limitation period for taking cognizance of an offence which is punishable with imprisonment up to three years is three years.
The wife pointed out that she had initially filed a complaint in 2015. Later, the complaint was withdrawn on promise of settlement. When the settlement terms were not honoured, she was constrained to file the complaint again in 2017, she submitted.
Relying on SC precedent Arun Vyas Vs. Anita Vyas (1999) 4 SCC 690, the HC held that matrimonial offences are to be treated as continuing offence under Section 472 CrPC. The Court referred to Section 473 of the CrPC, which enjoins the Court to condone or ignore delay in the interests of justice. The Court referred to SC decision Vanka Radhamanohari Vs. Vanka Venkata Reddy (1993) 3 SCC 4, which held that while considering question of limitation in complaints of domestic violence, courts should examine the issue from the angle of "interest of justice" under Section 473 CrPC. Because, criminal complaints are filed in matrimonial cases as a last resort most often, the SC observed.
Therefore, the Court declined to quash FIR on ground of delay.
Maintenance Claim under DV Act Not Time Barred
The Court also rejected the second prayer of the petitioner to quash proceedings under DV Act on ground of delay.
"Non providing of maintenance is a continuous cause of action and even if for three years the respondent No.2 did not claim the maintenance for herself or for the child, the same would not debar her from seeking maintenance under Section 12 of the PWDV Act and the complaint thereon cannot be dismissed being barred by limitation", held the judgment.