10 May 2023 11:46 AM GMT
The Delhi High Court has observed that a wife can seek production of evidence or documents to prove the charge of adultery levelled by her against the husband in a divorce petition before family court and same will be in consonance with section 14 of Family Courts Act.“….when a wife seeks the help of the Court for procuring evidence which would go a long way to prove adultery on the part...
The Delhi High Court has observed that a wife can seek production of evidence or documents to prove the charge of adultery levelled by her against the husband in a divorce petition before family court and same will be in consonance with section 14 of Family Courts Act.
“….when a wife seeks the help of the Court for procuring evidence which would go a long way to prove adultery on the part of her husband, the Court must step in; this would be in consonance with Section 14 of the Family Courts Act which gives a leeway to the Court to consider evidence which may be not admissible or relevant under the Indian Evidence Act,” Justice Rekha Palli said.
Section 14 states that the family court may receive as evidence any report, statement, documents, information or any other matter which it think may assist the court to deal with a dispute, whether or not the same would be otherwise relevant or admissible under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
The court made the observation while dismissing a husband’s plea challenging two orders passed by the family court allowing the wife’s applications for seeking preservation of CCTV footage of a hotel where he was allegedly indulging in adultery with a lady, and summoning of the hotel room’s records.
The parties were married in 1998 and a girl child was born in 2000. However, last year, the wife filed a petition before the family court seeking divorce on the ground of adultery and cruelty against the husband. She further alleged that the husband also had an illegitimate child from the adulterous relationship.
It was her case that unless the information as directed by family court is brought on record, she may not be able to prove the charge against her husband.
Before the High Court, the husband’s counsel opposed the allegations of adultery and cruelty levelled against him and contended that he merely met one of his friends who along with her daughter, was at the same time, coincidently staying at the same hotel.
It was submitted that the family court could not have directed a fishing and roving enquiry so as to collect evidence for the wife.
The husband also took a plea that the divulgence of information sought by the wife would be violative of his right to privacy and also that of the lady and her minor child.
Denying relief to the husband, Justice Palli said that the wife not only placed various photographs on record showing the husband in “close proximity” with the lady friend but also provided details of the room and dates on which according to her, the legally wedded husband was staying with the lady.
“The respondent is the estranged wife of the petitioner who obviously does not has any direct evidence of her husband indulging in acts of adultery. By resort to Section 14 of the Family Courts Act, she is, only trying to seek production of evidence which she reasonably believes will prove her charge of adultery which by its very nature can be inferred only from circumstances,” the court said.
Furthermore, it observed that the wife was able to make out a prima facie case against the husband and that the information which she was seeking would be relevant for proving the charge of adultery.
Observing that the court has to necessarily strike a balance between the conflicting rights of the wife and husband, the court said:
“….I am inclined to accept the respondent’s plea. The petitioner’s claim is based solely on the right to privacy which, as held in K.S. Puttuswamy (supra) and Joseph Shine (supra) is not an absolute right; on the other hand, the respondent’s prayer is based not only on morality but also on specific rights granted under the Hindu Marriage Act and the Family Courts Act. I, therefore, have no hesitation in holding that the respondent’s right must prevail and therefore, find no reason to interfere with the impugned orders.”
The court said that the impugned orders passed by the Family Court only pertain to the production of records and do not deal with the question as to whether the record would in itself be sufficient to prove the charge of adultery against the husband.
Noting that the stage to determine the sufficiency of evidence is yet to arrive, the court said:
“The learned Family Court by way of the impugned orders has sought records which pertain only to the respondent’s husband and not to his friend or her daughter. There is, therefore, no question of their right of privacy being violated in any manner.”
Title: SA v. MA
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Del) 390
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