News Details

After mutual divorce dispute can not be reopened

                      IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA


                       CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.741 OF 2009








RUNIKA BHARDWAJ & ORS.                                 ...RESPONDENTS




                               J U D G M E N T




1.    This appeal has been preferred against the Judgment  and  Order  dated 21st November, 2006 passed by  the  High  Court  of  Allahabad  in  Criminal Revision Case No.1159 of 2002.

2.    By the impugned  order,  the  High  Court  has  allowed  the  revision petition filed by the Respondent, set aside the order dated 30th July,  2002 passed by Judicia Magistrate,  Ghaziabad,  in  Case  No.356  of  2002  and remanded  the  matter  back  to  the  trial  Court  for  fresh  decision  in accordance with law.

3.    We have heard learned counsel for the parties.

4.    The question raised for our consideration is whether  in  exercise  of revisional jurisdiction, the High Court was justified in setting  aside  the acquittal of the appellant, having regard to the facts and circumstances  of the case.

5.    The appellant and Respondent No.1 were married on 25th January,  1996. The  appellant  belongs  to  Allahabad  where  his  parents  live  and  the respondent  belonged  to  Jabalpur  where  her  parents  are  living.    The appellant is said to be  employed  at  Delhi  in  Central  Government.   The appellant-husband filed a divorce petition on 7th July,  1997  at  Allahabad Family Court.  The wife lodged First Information Report dated 4th  November, 1997 at Ghaziabad making allegations of cruelty against the husband.   After investigation, the husband and four of his family members were  tried  under Sections 498-A, 406, 506 IPC and 3/4 of the  Dowry  Prohibition  Act  before the Judicial Magistrate, Ghaziabad, in Case No.356/2002.   The  trial  ended in acquittal of all the accused including the  appellant  vide  Order  dated 30th July, 2002.

6.     The  divorce  petition  filed  by  the  husband  was  ordered  to  be transferred to Jabalpur at the instance of the wife.  The wife also filed  a divorce petition at Jabalpur.   The husband filed Transfer Petition  (Civil) No.150 of 2004 before this Court which was disposed of on 11th March,  2005. This Court noted that since  both  the  parties  had  sought  divorce,  the marriage had broken down and the parties had agreed to a decree  of  divorce by mutual consent.  Accordingly,  this  Court  directed  the  Family  Court, Jabalpur, to take up the matter on 4th April, 2005 without entertaining  any prayer for adjournment and pass  a  decree  of  divorce.   Accordingly,  the Family Court, Jabalpur passed the decree  of  divorce  on  4th  April,  2005 after recording the statement of the parties that they  mutually  agreed  to decree  of  divorce.   The  wife  did  not  press  her  counter  claim   for maintenance.  She also did not reserve liberty for any other action  against the husband.

7.    It  may  be  mentioned  that  against  the  Order  of  the  Magistrate acquitting the appellant and his family  members,  the  Respondent-wife  had preferred Criminal Revision  No.1159  of  2002  before  the  Allahabad  High Court. The husband filed affidavit dated  4th  September,  2006  placing  on record the order of this Court and the order of the Family  Court,  Jabalpur and also mentioning that after the dissolution of marriage, the wife has re- married and in view of the order of this Court and  the Family  Court,  the revision petition ought to be dismissed.

8.    The High Court, instead of dismissing the revision  petition,  without referring to the above developments, allowed the revision  petition  by  the impugned order with the observation  that  documents  Exhibit  Ka2  and  Ka3 showed harassment,  cruelty  and  mental  torture  and  the  Magistrate  had skipped over the facts and wrongly acquitted the  appellant.   Aggrieved  by the said order, the appellant has approached this Court as  already  noticed above.

9.    The appellant appearing in  person  submitted  that  the  parties  had taken divorce by mutual consent as per agreement reached before  this  Court and thereafter, the respondent was not justified in proceeding  against  the appellant.  It was further submitted that the High Court  failed  to  advert to the settlement between the parties and also exceeded its jurisdiction  in setting aside the order of acquittal.  The Magistrate in its detailed  order duly appreciated the entire evidence and found that no case for cruelty  was made out against the appellant.  In  exercise  of  revisional  jurisdiction, the said acquittal  could  not  be  set  aside  in  absence  of  perversity.

Reliance has been placed on Judgment of this  Court  in  Bindeshwari  Prasad Singh vs. State of Bihar[1] laying down as follows :

"12. We have  carefully  considered  the  material  on  record  and  we  are satisfied that the High  Court  was  not  justified  in  reappreciating  the evidence on record and coming  to  a  different  conclusion  in  a  revision preferred by the informant  under  Section  401  of  the  Code  of  Criminal Procedure. Sub-section (3) of Section 401 in terms provides that nothing  in Section 401 shall be deemed to authorize a High Court to convert  a  finding of acquittal into  one  of  conviction.  The  aforesaid  sub-section,  which places a limitation on the powers of the revisional  court,  prohibiting  it from converting a finding of acquittal into one  of  conviction,  is  itself indicative of the nature and extent of the  revisional  power  conferred  by Section 401 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. If the High Court  could  not convert a finding of acquittal into one of  conviction  directly,  it  could not do so indirectly by the  method  of  ordering  a  retrial.  It  is  well settled by a catena of decisions of this  Court  that  the  High  [pic]Court will ordinarily not interfere in revision with an order of acquittal  except in  exceptional  cases  where  the  interest  of  public  justice   requires interference for the correction of a manifest illegality or  the  prevention of gross miscarriage of justice. The High Court will  not  be  justified  in interfering with an order of acquittal merely because the  trial  court  has taken a wrong view of the law or has erred in appreciation of  evidence.  It is  neither  possible  nor  advisable  to  make  an   exhaustive   list   of circumstances  in  which  exercise  of  revisional   jurisdiction   may   be justified, but decisions of this Court have  laid  down  the  parameters  of exercise of revisional jurisdiction by the High Court under Section 401 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in an appeal against acquittal by a private party. (See D.  Stephens  v.  Nosibolla  [AIR (1951) SC 196],  K. Chinnaswamy Reddy v. State of A.P. [AIR (1962) SC 1788] , Akalu Ahir v. Ramdeo Ram  [(1973)  2 SCC  583],  Pakalapati   Narayana   Gajapathi   Raju   v.   Bonapalli   Peda Appadu[(1975) 4 SCC 477] and Mahendra Pratap Singh v. Sarju Singh [AIR (1968) SC 707].)


10.   Learned counsel for the respondent, on the other hand, submitted  that even though the parties had re-married after  obtaining  divorce  by  mutual consent as noticed above, the  wife  was  not  debarred  from  pursuing  the criminal case against the appellant.  He further  submitted  that  the  High Court was justified in  setting  aside  the  order  of  the  Magistrate  and remitting the matter back for a fresh decision.

11.   We have given our anxious consideration to the rival submissions.   We are satisfied that the view taken by  the  High  Court,  in  the  facts  and circumstances of the case, is not just and fair and needs to be set aside.

12.   It is clear from perusal of the impugned order of the High Court  that the development of settlement between the parties  during  pendency  of  the revision petition has not even  been  adverted  to.   Once  the  matter  was settled between the parties and the said settlement was given effect  to  in the form of divorce by mutual consent, no further dispute  survived  between the parties, though it was not so expressly recorded in the  order  of  this Court.  No liberty was reserved by the wife to continue further  proceedings against the husband.   Thus,  the  wife  was,  after  settling  the  matter, estopped from continuing the proceedings.  In any case, it is  well  settled that the scope of revisional jurisdiction of the High Court does not  extend to re-appreciation of evidence.  In  exercise  of  revisional  jurisdiction, the High Court can interfere with the acquittal only if there is  perversity in the order of acquittal.  In the present  case,  the  order  of  acquittal could not be held to be perverse.  The High Court observed that  the  demand of articles, papers  of  house  property  of  Jabalpur  and  Noida  and  the contents of Exhibits Ka2 and Ka3 amounted to harassment, cruelty and  mental torture.  This observation amounted to substitution of its view by the  High Court for the view taken by the Magistrate after due  consideration  of  all the allegations.  The  Magistrate  inter  alia  found  the  version  of  the respondent-wife to be not believable and also  found  that  the  allegations were not substantiated.  It was observed  that  the  wife  herself  admitted that the documents Exhibit Ka2 and  Ka3  were  merely  guidelines  for  good conduct and behavior expected of her and did not amount to cruelty.  It  was also admitted that there was no demand of dowry at  the  time  of  marriage. The Investigating Officer had never  visited  Jabalpur  and  the  demand  of house at Jabalpur was not  substantiated.   It  was  further  observe that criminal case filed by the wife was a counter  blast  to  the  divorce  case filed by the husband.  Version before the Court  was  improvement  over  the original  version  in  the  First  Information  Report.    She   had   given contradictory statement about the  place  where  her  husband  demanded  the house.  Thus, the Magistrate having dealt with the  matter  threadbare,  the High Court, in exercise of revisional  jurisdiction  was  not  justified  in interfering with the order of acquittal particularly when  the  parties  had reached the settlement before this Court on the basis of  which  divorce  by mutual consent was granted by the Family  Court,  Jabalpur  which  fact  was placed on record of the High Court.

13.   In view of the above, we allow this appeal,  set  aside  the  impugned order passed by the High Court and restore the order of the Magistrate.


                                               (SUDHANSU JYOTI MUKHOPADHAYA)



                                                  (ADARSH KUMAR GOEL)



DECEMBER 10, 2014

[1]    (2002) 6 SCC 650