Sunday 25 January 2015

When court should not accept statement of advocate without verification?

  We find it difficult to accept that in a highly contested matter  like
this the appellant would have instructed her counsel not to press her  claim
for maintenance.   In our view, the High Court ought not  to  have  accepted
the statement of the counsel without verification.  The  impugned  order  is
set aside.
                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                      CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.2070  OF 2014
       (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Crl.) No.6220 OF 2014)

Shalu Ojha                Vs      Prashant Ojha                                   

Citation;AIR2015 SC170
Chelameswar, J.

1.    Leave granted.

2.    This is an unfortunate case where the provisions of the Protection  of
Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 are rendered simply a pious  hope  of
the Parliament and a teasing illusion for the appellant.

3.    The appellant is a young woman who got married to  the  respondent  on
20.04.2007 in Delhi according  to  Hindu  rites  and  customs,  pursuant  to
certain information placed  by  the  respondent  on  the  website  known  as
“Sycorian Matrimonial Services Ltd.”.

4.    According to the appellant, she was  thrown  out  of  the  matrimonial
home within four months of  the  marriage  on  14.8.2007.   Thereafter,  the
respondent started pressurizing the appellant to agree  for  dissolution  of
marriage by mutual consent.  As the appellant did not agree  for  the  same,
the respondent filed a petition for divorce  being  H.M.A.  No.637  of  2007
under Section 13(1) of the Hindu Marriage Act,  1955  on  17.10.2007  before
the Additional District Judge, Tis Hazari Courts, Delhi.  The said  petition
was dismissed by  an  order  dated  03.10.2008.   Within  four  months,  the
respondent filed another petition on 08.04.2009 once again invoking  Section
13(1) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 before the Additional District  Judge,
Patiala House Courts, Delhi being H.M.A. No.215 of  2009  and  the  same  on
being transferred is pending before the Family Court, Saket  and  renumbered
as H.M.A. No.266 of 2009.

5.    On 04.06.2009, the appellant filed a complaint case No.120/4/09  under
Section 12 of the Protection of  Women  from  Domestic  Violence  Act,  2005
(hereinafter referred to as “the DV Act”).

6.    The said complaint  case  came  to  be  disposed  of  by  the  learned
Metropolitan Magistrate, New Delhi by his order dated  05.07.2012.   By  the
said order, the Magistrate granted an amount of Rs.2.5 lacs towards  monthly
maintenance of the appellant which included rental charges  for  alternative
accommodation.   The  respondent  was  made  liable  to  pay  such   monthly
maintenance from the date of filing of the petition, i.e.  from  04.06.2009.
The monthly  maintenance  was  made  payable  on  or  before  10th  of  each
succeeding month.  The learned Magistrate further directed that the  arrears
of the maintenance be cleared by 05.12.2012.

7.    Aggrieved by the above order, the respondent  carried  the  matter  in
appeal under Section 29 of the DV Act  in  Criminal  Appeal  No.23  of  2012
before the  learned  Additional  Sessions  Judge,  Rohini,  New  Delhi.   On
10.01.2013, the learned Additional Sessions Judge  while  granting  stay  of
the execution of the order  under  appeal  passed  an  order  directing  the
respondent to  pay  the  entire  arrears  of  the  maintenance  due  to  the
appellant till the presentation  of  the  appeal  within  a  period  of  two

8.    Since the respondent did not pay the arrears, the appellant  moved  an
application for execution of the order dated 10.01.2013.

9.    By an order dated 07.05.2013, Criminal Appeal No.23 of 2013  preferred
by the respondent was dismissed by  the  learned  Sessions  Judge  for  non-
compliance of the interim directions dated 10.01.2013.

10.   Aggrieved by the order dated 07.05.2013,  the  respondent  filed  Crl.
Misc. Case No.1975 of 2013 and Crl. Misc. Application No.78-34 of  2013  for
interim directions in the High Court of Delhi on 08.05.2013. The High  Court
initially declined to pass an interim order in the said  appeal.   Aggrieved
by the same the respondent approached this Court in SLP (Crl.)  No.6509-6510
of 2013 which was dismissed in limine on 13.08.2013 with a direction to  the
parties to apply for mediation.

11.   Pursuant to the  said  direction,  the  respondent  filed  Crl.  Misc.
Application No.12547 of  2013  in  Crl.  Misc.  Case  No.1975  of  2013  for
direction to refer  the  matter  to  Mediation.   The  matter  was  referred
accordingly.  Eventually the mediation failed.  On receipt of  such  failure
report, the appeal was again listed before the  High  Court  on  10.09.2013.
The High Court directed the respondent to pay an amount of  Rs.10  lakhs  in
two instalments and that the execution petition filed by the  appellant  for
the recovery of the arrears be kept in abeyance.

12.   Thereafter, an application was filed by the appellant before the  High
Court seeking direction  to  the  respondent  for  the  payment  of  monthly
maintenance (current period) in  terms  of  order  dated  05.7.2012  of  the
learned  Metropolitan  Magistrate  (supra).  It  appears  that  the   matter
underwent number of adjournments but no orders have been passed by the  High

13.   In the said background, the appellant  filed  Special  Leave  Petition
(Crl.) No.2210 of 2014  in  this  Court.   The  said  petition  came  to  be
disposed of on 31.03.2014 by setting aside the interim stay granted  by  the
High Court on the execution petition filed by  the  appellant.   This  Court
categorically observed that - it is open to the petitioner  to  execute  the
order of maintenance passed  by  the  learned  Metropolitan  Magistrate  and
requested the High  Court  to  dispose  of  the  appeal  of  the  respondent

14.   Strangely,  when  the  appellant’s  application  for  the  payment  of
current maintenance in C.M. No.18869 of 2013 was listed on 27.5.2014  before
the High Court along with other connected  matters  in  Appeal  (Crl.  Misc.
Case No.1975 of 2013) preferred by the respondent, the  application  of  the
appellant was dismissed as “not  pressed”  on  representation  made  by  the
counsel appearing for  the  appellant.  The  appellant  appeared  in  person
before us and made a statement that  such  instructions  not  to  press  the
application were never given to the counsel who appeared in the  High  Court
and hence the present appeal.

15.   We have heard the appellant-in-person and  learned  counsel  appearing
on behalf of the respondent.

16.   The learned counsel appearing on  behalf  of  the  respondent  pleaded
inability to make the payment of the arrears  and  the  current  maintenance
due  to  the  appellant  in  terms  of  the  order  passed  by  the  learned
Metropolitan Magistrate on 05.07.2012 on the ground  that  the  respondent’s
annual income as can be seen from his income-tax returns for  the  last  two
years is only around Rs.2.50 lakhs per annum.

17.   The appellant submitted that the income-tax returns of the  respondent
do not reflect the true picture  of  the  income  of  the  respondent.   The
appellant pointed out the profile of the respondent placed  on  the  website
of “Sycorian Matrimonial Services Ltd.” wherein  the  respondent’s  personal
income is shown as Rs.50 lakhs to Rs.1 crore per annum  and  monthly  income
of Rs.5 lakhs. He was shown to be a Managing Director or  Director  of  four
companies, the details of which are as under:
|Sr. No.|Organization                   |Designation                |
|1      |M/s Utkarsh Art Press Pvt. Ltd.|Managing Director/Share    |
|       |                               |Holder                     |
|2      |M/s Empress Infonet Pvt. Ltd.  |Director/Share Holder      |
|3      |Hotel Urban Pind               |Director                   |
|4      |M/s Brahmani Apparel Pvt. Ltd. |Director/Share Holder      |

18.   Apart from that, the appellant  also  placed  reliance  on  a  article
published  in  weekly  magazine  Business  World  (Issue  dated  10.03.2014)
wherein some information regarding a posh restaurant  known  as  Zerruco  by
Zilli at The  Ashok,  New  Delhi  was  published.   The  article  named  the
respondent along with one Kashif Farooq as the restaurateurs.  According  to
the article, the restaurant was set up at astounding  cost  of  Rs.7  crore.
The relevant portion of the article reads as follows:
“If chef Back  has  been  feeding  American  entertainment  industry  stars.
London-based Aldo Zilli  is  well-known  for  his  celeb-patronised  Italian
bites.  He has just made his Asian foray with Zerruco by Zilli, set  in  the
partly al fresco-partly indoors space at The Ashoka New Delhi that  used  to
house Mashrabiya.  The menu is simple, fresh and Med – salads,  grills,  the
occasional show-offy “  gelato  ravioli”  but  this  is  one  of  those  big
“lifestyle restaurants” that we seem to be losing  more  recently  with  the
spurt in made-to-look-like-mom-and-pop places.

Restaurateurs   Kashif   Farooq   and   Prashant   Ojha   known    in    the
clubbing/partying circuits have brought in Zilli as part of their  ambitious
plans to grow and get taken seriously in  the  F&B  realm.   The  restaurant
(that will turn into a lounge/club in the  evenings)  has  been  set  up  at
astounding Rs.7 crore cost.  You can look to this one  as  an  alternate  to
the “upscale, casual”, Olive-like spaces.”

19.   Before we proceed to take any decision  in  the  matter,  we  deem  it
appropriate to make a brief survey of the DV Act insofar as it  is  relevant
for the present purpose.  The preamble of the Act states that  this  is  “an
Act to provide  for  more  effective  protection  of  the  rights  of  women
guaranteed under the Constitution who are victims of violence  of  any  kind
occurring  within  the  family  and  for  matters  connected  or  incidental

20.   “Domestic violence” is defined under Section 3 as  any  act,  omission
or commission or conduct of any adult male who is or has  been  in  domestic
“Section 3. Definition of domestic violence.—For the purposes of  this  Act,
any  act,  omission  or  commission  or  conduct  of  the  respondent  shall
constitute domestic violence in case it—

harms or injures or endangers the health, safety, life, limb  or  well-being
whether mental or physical, of the aggrieved person or tends to  do  so  and
includes causing physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal  and  emotional  abuse
and economic abuse; or

harasses, harms, injures or endangers the aggrieved person with  a  view  to
coerce her or any other person related to her to meet  any  unlawful  demand
for any dowry or other property or valuable security; or

has the effect of threatening the aggrieved person or any person related  to
her by any conduct mentioned in clause (a) or clause (b); or

otherwise injures or  causes  harm,  whether  physical  or  mental,  to  the
aggrieved person.”

21.   The  expression  “domestic  relationship”  is  defined  under  Section
2(f)[1]. The expressions  “physical  abuse”,  “sexual  abuse”,  “verbal  and
emotional abuse” and “economic abuse”  are  explained  in  Explanation-1  to
Section 3.

22.    Section  12  of  the  Act  recognizes  the  right  of  an  “aggrieved
person”[2] (necessarily a woman by definition)  to  present  application  to
the Magistrate seeking one or more  reliefs  under  the  Act.   The  reliefs
provided under the Act are contained in  Sections  17  to  22.   Section  17
creates a right in favour  of  a  woman/aggrieved  person  to  reside  in  a
“shared household” defined under Section 2(s)[3].

23.   Section 18 deals with  various  orders  that  can  be  passed  by  the
Magistrate dealing  with  the  application  of  an  aggrieved  person  under
Section 12.  Section 19 provides  for  various  kinds  of  residence  orders
which a Magistrate dealing with an application under Section 12 can pass  in
favour of a woman.  Section 20 authorizes the  Magistrate  dealing  with  an
application under Section 12  to  direct  the  respondent  to  pay  monetary
relief to the aggrieved person.  Section 20 reads as follows:
“Section 20. Monetary reliefs.—(1) While disposing of an  application  under
sub-section (1) of section 12, the Magistrate may direct the  respondent  to
pay monetary relief to meet the expenses incurred  and  losses  suffered  by
the aggrieved person and any child of the aggrieved person as  a  result  of
the domestic violence and such relief may include, but is not limited to,—


the maintenance for the aggrieved person as well as her  children,  if  any,
including an order under or in addition to an  order  of  maintenance  under
section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,  1973  (2  of  1974)  or  any
other law for the time being in force.

(2).  The monetary relief granted under  this  section  shall  be  adequate,
fair and reasonable and consistent with the standard of living to which  the
aggrieved person is accustomed.

(3).  The Magistrate shall have the power to order an appropriate  lump  sum
payment or monthly payments of maintenance, as the nature and  circumstances
of the case may require.

(4).  The Magistrate shall send a copy of  the  order  for  monetary  relief
made under sub-section (1) to the parties to the application and to the  in-
charge of the police station within the local limits of  whose  jurisdiction
the respondent resides.

(5).  The respondent shall pay the monetary relief granted to the  aggrieved
person within the period specified in the order under sub-section (1).

(6).  Upon the failure on the part of the  respondent  to  make  payment  in
terms of the order under sub-section (1),  the  Magistrate  may  direct  the
employer or a debtor of the respondent, to directly  pay  to  the  aggrieved
person or to deposit with the court a portion of the wages  or  salaries  or
debt due to or accrued to the credit of the respondent, which amount may  be
adjusted towards the monetary relief payable by the respondent.”

                                                         (emphasis supplied)

24.   Section 21 deals with the  jurisdiction  of  the  Magistrate  to  pass
orders relating to custody of children of the aggrieved person.  Section  22
deals with compensation orders which authorizes the Magistrate  to  pass  an
order directing the respondent to  pay  compensation  and  damages  for  the
injuries including mental torture and emotional distress caused by  the  act
of domestic violence committed by the respondent.  The Magistrate  receiving
a complaint under Section 12 is authorized under the Act to pass  anyone  of
the orders under the various provisions discussed above appropriate  to  the
facts of the complaint.

25.   Section 29 provides for an appeal to the Court of Session against  any
order passed by the Magistrate under the Act either at the instance  of  the
aggrieved person or the respondent.

26.   One important factor to be noticed in the context of the present  case
is that while Section 23 expressly confers power on the Magistrate to  grant
interim orders, there is no express provision conferring such power  on  the
Sessions Court in exercise of its appellate jurisdiction.  Section 23  reads
as follows:
“Section 23. Power  to  grant  interim  and  ex  parte  orders.—(1)  In  any
proceeding before him under this Act, the Magistrate may pass  such  interim
order as he deems just and proper.

(2)  If  the  Magistrate  is  satisfied  that  an  application  prima  facie
discloses that the respondent is committing, or  has  committed  an  act  of
domestic violence or that there is a  likelihood  that  the  respondent  may
commit an act of domestic violence, he may grant an ex parte  order  on  the
basis of the affidavit in such form, as may be prescribed, of the  aggrieved
person under section 18, section 19, section 20, section 21 or, as the  case
may be, section 22 against the respondent.”

27.   It can be seen from the DV Act that no further appeal or  revision  is
provided to the High Court or any other  Court  against  the  order  of  the
Sessions Court under Section 29.

28.   It is in the background of the abovementioned Scheme  of  the  DV  Act
this case is required to be considered.   The  appellant  made  a  complaint
under Section 12  of  the  DV  Act.   The  Magistrate  in  exercise  of  his
jurisdiction granted maintenance to the appellant.  The  Magistrate’s  legal
authority to pass such an order is traceable to Section 20(1)(d) of  the  DV

29.   Questioning the correctness of the Magistrate’s order in granting  the
maintenance of Rs.2.5 lakhs per month the respondent carried the  matter  in
appeal under Section 29 to  the  Sessions  Court  and  sought  stay  of  the
execution of the order of the Magistrate during the pendency of the  appeal.
 Whether the Sessions Court in exercise of its  jurisdiction  under  Section
29 of the Act has any power to pass interim orders staying the execution  of
the order appealed before it is a matter to be examined  in  an  appropriate
case.   We only note that there is no express grant of  power  conferred  on
the  Sessions  Court  while  such  power  is  expressly  conferred  on   the
Magistrate under Section 23.  Apart from that, the power  to  grant  interim
orders is not always inherent  in  every  Court.   Such  powers  are  either
expressly conferred or implied in  certain  circumstances.   This  Court  in
Super Cassettes  Industres  Limited  v.  Music  Broadcast  Private  Limited,
(2012) 5 SCC 488, examined this question in detail.  At any rate, we do  not
propose to decide whether the Sessions Court has the power to grant  interim
order such as the one sought by the respondent herein  during  the  pendency
of his appeal, for that issue has not been argued before us.

30.   We presume (we emphasize that we only presume for the purpose of  this
appeal) that the Sessions Court does have  such  power.   If  such  a  power
exists then it can certainly be exercised by  the  Sessions  Court  on  such
terms and conditions  which  in  the  opinion  of  the  Sessions  Court  are
justified  in  the  facts  and  circumstances  of  a  given  case.   In  the
alternative, if the Sessions Court does not have the power to grant  interim
orders during the pendency of the appeal, the Sessions Court  ought  not  to
have  stayed  the  execution  of  the  maintenance  order  passed   by   the
Magistrate.   Since the respondent did  not  comply  with  such  conditional
order,  the  Sessions  Court  thought  it  fit  to   dismiss   the   appeal.
Challenging the correctness of the said dismissal,  the  respondent  carried
the matter before the High  Court  invoking  Section  482  of  the  Code  of
Criminal Procedure, 1973 and Article 227 of the Constitution.

31.   The issue before the High Court in  Crl.  MC.  No.  1975  of  2013  is
limited  i.e.  whether  the  sessions  court  could   have   dismissed   the
respondent’s appeal only on the ground that  respondent  did  not  discharge
the obligation arising out of the conditional interim order  passed  by  the
sessions court.   Necessarily the High  Court  will  have  to  go  into  the
question whether the sessions court has the power to grant interim  stay  of
the execution of the order under appeal before it.

32.   In a matter arising under  a  legislation  meant  for  protecting  the
rights of the women, the High  Court  should  have  been  slow  in  granting
interim orders, interfering with the orders by which maintenance is  granted
to the appellant.  No doubt, such interim orders are now  vacated.   In  the
process the appellant is still awaiting  the  fruits  of  maintenance  order
even after 2 years of the order.

33.   We find it difficult to accept that in a highly contested matter  like
this the appellant would have instructed her counsel not to press her  claim
for maintenance.   In our view, the High Court ought not  to  have  accepted
the statement of the counsel without verification.  The  impugned  order  is
set aside.

34.   We are of the opinion that the conduct of the respondent  is  a  gross
abuse  of  the  judicial  process.   We  do  not  see  any  reason  why  the
respondent’s petition Crl. MC No. 1975  of  2013  should  be  kept  pending.
Whatever be the decision of the High Court, one of the parties will (we  are
sure) approach this Court again  thereby  delaying  the  conclusion  of  the
litigation.  The  interests  of  justice  would  be  better  served  if  the
respondent’s appeal before the Sessions Court is heard and  disposed  of  on
merits instead of going into the residuary questions  of  the  authority  of
the appellate Court to grant interim orders or the legality of the  decision
of the Sessions Court to dismiss the appeal only on the ground of  the  non-
compliance by the respondent with the conditions of the interim  order.  The
Criminal Appeal No.23/2012 stands restored  to  the  file  of  the  Sessions

35.   We also direct that the maintenance order passed by the magistrate  be
executed forthwith in accordance with  law.    The  executing  court  should
complete the process within 8  weeks  and  report  compliance  in  the  High
Court. We make it clear that such hearing by the Sessions Court should  only
be  after  the  execution  of  the  order  of  maintenance  passed  by   the

36.   In the event of the respondent’s success  in  the  appeal,  either  in
full or part, the Sessions Court can make appropriate orders  regarding  the
payments due to be made by the respondent in the execution proceedings.
      The appeal is disposed off accordingly.

                                                          (J. Chelameswar)

                                                   (A.K. Sikri)

New Delhi;
September 18, 2014

[1]    Section 2. (f) “domestic relationship” means a  relationship  between
two persons who live or have, at any point of  time,  lived  together  in  a
shared household, when they  are  related  by  consanguinity,  marriage,  or
through a relationship in the nature of marriage,  adoption  or  are  family
members living together as a joint family.

[2]   . Section 2.(a) "aggrieved person" means any  woman  who  is,  or  has
been, in a domestic relationship with the  respondent  and  who  alleges  to
have been subjected to any act of  domestic violence by the respondent;

[3]   . Section 2(s).—  "shared  household"  means  a  household  where  the
person  aggrieved  lives  or  at  any   stage  has  lived  in   a   domestic
relationship either singly or along with the respondent and   includes  such
a household whether owned  or  tenanted  either  jointly  by  the  aggrieved
person  and the respondent, or owned  or  tenanted  by  either  of  them  in
respect of which either the  aggrieved person  or  the  respondent  or  both
jointly or singly have any right, title, interest or   equity  and  includes
such a household  which  may  belong  to  the  joint  family  of  which  the
respondent is a member,  irrespective  of  whether  the  respondent  or  the
aggrieved person has  any right, title or interest in the shared  household.


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