HIMACHAL PRADESH HIGH COURT - PETITIONS U/S 482 OF CRPC NOT MAINTAINABLE FOR CHALLENGING PROCEEDINGS U/S 12 OF THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT.
In case of Sanjeev Kumar & Ors. v. Sushma Devi [Cr. Revision No.132 of 2021], the dispute arose when the Respondent instituted an application under section 12 of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (“Act”) for providing monetary relief, residence & protection order and compensation. The Respondent claimed that the marriage between her and the Petitioner was solemnized on 01.08.1999 according to Hindu rites and ceremonies and she was subjected to constant torture post-marriage, which she tolerated for many years with hope that her husband and in laws would mend their ways. Eventually, she was shunted out of her matrimonial home and had to take shelter in her paternal house. The Respondent claimed that she had no source of income and the Petitioner was not paying her any maintenance.
The Petitioner denied that the Respondent is her legally wedded wife or ever resided with him and refuted all other allegations as well. The Trial Court dismissed the application of the Respondent on the ground that she failed to prove the existence of the marriage. An appeal was filed thereafter, wherein the appellate court noted various procedural irregularities in the entire trial process. It observed that the parties were not informed of the issues that were framed, and they led their evidence without any issues being framed in the matter. Further, it was held that the trial court’s focus on determining the valid existence of the marriage was completely misplaced. Consequently, the case was remanded back.
Against the aforementioned backdrop, the Petitioner filed a criminal revision, u/s 397 read along with section 401 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (“CrPC”) before the Himachal Pradesh High Court for setting aside the judgment passed by the appellate court.
The High Court observed that it is well settled that proceedings u/s 12 of the Act, the Respondent need not necessarily establish her being married to the opposite party. Relationships in the nature of marriage will also suffice for maintainability of the application. The expression domestic relationship not only included the relationship of marriage, but also relationship in the nature of marriage. Additionally, the Court observed that on a holistic reading of the provisions of the Act, it leads to inference that proceeding before a magistrate under the Act are not criminal proceedings, but civil in nature. Provisions of criminal law will not be applicable.
It was also laid down that the remedies available under Chapter IV of the Act are civil in nature; issues should be formulated and framed in accordance with the law before directing the parties to lead the evidence; and petitions u/s 482 of CrPC are not maintainable u/s 12 of the Act.