Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh, vide order dated 02.08.2019, has referred a matter under Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (the Act) to be adjudicated by a larger bench of the Court. The issue involved therein was that what should be the period of limitation for filling a complaint under Sections 12 and 18 of the Act.
Section 12 of the Act prescribes that an application may be filed before the Magistrate seeking one or more reliefs provided under the Act. Section 18 of the Act provides that the Magistrate may, after hearing both the parties, pass protection orders in favor of the aggrieved person.
The Petitioner was aggrieved by the order of the Magistrate and Sessions Judge who had held him responsible under the Act and directed him to maintain his daughter, the Respondent, apart from providing her accommodation. The bone of the Petitioner's contention was that the incident complained of happened in the year 2005 while the complaint was filed in 2010 and hence the complaint was barred by limitation. Since the punishment provided under Section 31 of the Act was up to one year, the limitation for filing a complaint by virtue of Section 468 Cr.P.C. was only one year, he submitted. Section 31 of the Act prescribes penalty for breach of protection order by Respondent.
Thus, the question posed before the court was that what should be the period of limitation for filling a complaint under Sections 12 and 18 of the Act.
While addressing the issue, the court opined that the orders passed on a complaint under Section 12 of the Act were of civil nature and no limitation was provided therein for filing a complaint. "If the Act is meant to provide civil remedy then in absence of specific period of limitation having not been provided, can it be said that the complaint should be filed within a period of three years from the date of cause of action or the complaint can be filed at any time", the court examined.
Justice Singh also made reference to various precedents. He observed that the Supreme Court had, in Inderjit Singh Grewal v. State of Punjab & Anr., (2011) 12 SCC 588, agreed with the submission that in view of the provisions of Section 468 Cr.P.C., a complaint could be filed only within a period of one year from the date of incident. A similar view was also taken by the Karnataka High Court in J. Srinivas v. G. Dhanalakshmi, CP No. 2419 of 2009, stating that since the maximum punishment which was attracted for violation of an order passed under Section 12 r/w 18 of the Act was one year, the complaint should be filed within a period of one year in terms of Section 468 Cr.P.C.
However, he noted that the two previous judgments of the Allahabad High Court itself were not in consonance with the aforementioned rulings. For one, in Akhiliesh Kumar Singh & Anr. v. State of U.P. & Anr., CR No. 885 of 2015, the court of a single judge had held that since limitation of one year was provided under Section 468 Cr.P.C., it would be applicable for filing an application under Section 31 of the Act in case of breach of the protection order and not for filing the complaint under Section 12 of the Act. A similar observation was made by the High Court of Gujarat in Yogesh Anantrai Bhatt & Ors. v. State of Gujarat & Ors., 2016 SCC OnLine Guj 2398, which held that the provisions of limitation as provided under Section 468 Cr.P.C. would not be applicable in case of an application under Section 12 of the Act.
Considering the divergent views taken by various courts, Justice Singh said "I am unable to accept the view taken by the two of my learned brothers in the aforesaid two judgments of this Court that in absence of specific limitation being provided for filing complaint under Section 12 of the Act, a complaint can be filed at any point in time". He found it prudent to place the matter before the Chief Justice/Senior Judge for constituting a larger Bench for deciding the issues hereunder:
(i) Whether the provisions of Section 468 of the Cr.P.C. are applicable for filing complaint under Section 12 of the Act as seems to have been held by Supreme Court in the aforesaid-mentioned two cases?
(ii) Whether a complaint filed under Section 12 of the Act having civil consequence and, therefore, in absence of specific period of limitation being provided, the complaint should be filed within a period of three years from the date of cause of action or whether it can be filed at any point in time?
The Petitioner was represented by Advocates Atul Kumar, Niteesh Kumar and Seema Gupta and the Respondent by Govt. Advocate Sumit K. Srivastava.
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