The Bombay High Court has held that ten years after the decree of divorce has been passed, wife is entitled to reliefs under the Domestic Violence Act if she continued to cohabit with her husband(ex) post-divorce.
Justice Mangesh Patil of Aurangabad bench dismissed a criminal revision application filed by 46-year-old Atmaram Sanap who challenged two concurrent findings in proceedings initiated by his wife Sangita under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
The first was an order passed by a Magistrate dated November 2, 2017 wherein he was directed to pay Rs.12,500 per month for his first wife and second daughter. Magistrate also directed him to pay Rs.1,00,000 as compensation and Rs.2,000 as costs to Sangita.
Second was Atmaram's appeal which was dismissed by the Sessions Judge in October 2018.
According to Sangita's complaint under Section 12 of the DV Act, after their marriage on May 15, 1993 they lived in Atamaram's house in Beed district. He subjected her to physical and mental abuse and told her that he wanted to marry an educated girl but had to marry an illiterate girl.
She alleged in her complaint that he fraudulently got her to sign the divorce papers and later compelled her to give consent for the divorce by threatening to desert her and their two daughters.
Sangita stated in her complaint that the divorce was obtained to enable her to take admission to D.Ed. course under a category which provided for special seat to divorcee women. He promised her that the decree would only be on paper and the divorce was decreed on October 20, 2000. She further averred that in spite of such a decree for divorce she continued to cohabit with him in the same household along with their daughters and stayed there for a period of ten years.
Thereafter, in April 2010 he married one Sheetal Bade and brought her home. He then declared that since there was a decree of divorce, there was no relation between his first wife Sangita and him and threatened her of dire consequences if she objected.
On August 22, 2010 Sangita alleged that she was abused, beaten and driven out from the house. She then approached the police and a non-cognizable case was registered. Annoyed by the same, Atmaram assaulted her again on November 24, 2010 and another non-cognizable case was registered. Similarly, on October 15, 2011 another non-cognizable case was registered. She then alleged that even on the date of that complaint she was cohabiting in the same household with their daughters. She alleged that she was subjected to physical torture and not being provided maintenance for the education and other daily expenses of their daughters.
Atmaram denied any incident of Domestic Violence Sangita alleged to have been subjected to. He contended that after the birth of their first daughter she started quarrelling with him frequently and on her own left his company in 1997.
He argued that he made attempts to resume conjugal rights during 1997 to June 2000. But even during that period she never cohabited at a stretch for more than a month and half. He denied allegation of any fraud and contended that since she was not ready to resume cohabitation, he had no other option but to file the proceeding for divorce on the ground of desertion.
After examining Supreme Court's judgment in Juveria Abdul Majid Patni Vs. Atif Iqbal Mansoori and Another, Justice Patil noted-
"There was ample evidence before the two Courts below to come to a plausible conclusion that though the decree of divorce was obtained in the year 2000, the Applicant and the Respondent no.1 had continued to cohabit in the same household. If that was the case, she was indeed entitled to file a proceeding under Section 12 of the DV Act. Besides, assuming for the sake of arguments that the marriage stood dissolved by the decree of divorce, still, as has been held in the case of Juveria Abdul Majid Patni (supra), she would be entitled to file a proceeding under Section 12 of the DV Act in respect of the past domestic violence."
Finally, Court noted how Atmaram in his cross-examination had specifically admitted that he earns a salary of Rs.46,000 per month and also owns agricultural land. He admitted that the second daughter has been residing with Sangita and the first daughter was also residing with her mother until 2010 and it is only thereafter that the first daughter started cohabiting with him.
"He was unable to produce any receipts about having spent for the education of the second daughter and also admitted not to have provided for maintenance of the Respondent no.1. Both the Courts below having considered such evidence have decided the quantum of maintenance and the compensation. I find no sufficient and cogent reason to interfere even in respect of the quantum. There is no substance in the revision and it is liable to be dismissed."
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