The Karnataka High Court has said that annulment of marriage cannot mean that all the items that the wife brought to the matrimonial home can be kept by the husband’s family.
A single bench of judges of Justice M Nagaprasanna refused to quash the criminal proceedings initiated by the ex-wife under section 406 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), against her ex-husband and his in-laws.
The bench said: “The undisputed fact is that Stridhana of Rs.9 lakhs was paid to the petitioner and his family and that amount withheld by them would necessarily be a subject of lawsuit against the petitioners for an offense punishable under Section 406 of the IPC and it is for the petitioners to prove themselves innocent at trial.”
The Petitioner, Ganesh Prasad Hegde and his parents had challenged the Order of March 31, 2015 whereby notice was taken by the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate in Bangalore and the Order of March 22, 2018 dismissing the petitioners’ request for discharge of the procedure. initiated by his ex-wife for offenses punishable under article 406 of the CPI.
It was argued by the petitioner that nothing remains to be paid to the respondent as it was agreed for the divorce that permanent alimony should be in full and final settlement towards the annulment of the marriage. The Bombay High Court on appeal from the Family Court had made it clear that the marriage between the 1st Applicant and the Respondent had been dissolved by mutual consent for which permanent maintenance of Rs.4/- lakhs had been paid.
The question left open related to the claim for maintenance and therefore would suggest that there can be no offense of criminal breach of trust under the order made by the Bombay High Court.
The defendant, on the other hand, argued that the permanent alimony of Rs.4 lakhs did not contain the said amount which was paid before the marriage. The applicants, after the divorce, cannot retain Stridhana who was twice awarded one Rs.4 lakhs and the other Rs.5 lakhs and argue that this amounts to a criminal breach of trust for not returning the money despite the notice issued. for them.
The bench went through the records and details of the various proceedings initiated by the parties and the marriage dissolution order issued by the Bombay High Court. He then noted, “In all the above proceedings, what can be indisputably understood is that the marriage annulment took place on the settlement between the parties for an amount of Rs.4/- lakhs.”
Relying on the judgment of the Supreme Court and other high courts on the concept of Stridhan and its preservation being an ingredient of Section 406 of the IPC, the bench said “The amount involved in the lis is Rs.9 lakhs which according to the plaintiff was paid as Stridhan in 1998. With the settlement reached between the parties seeking annulment of the marriage as permanent alimony, the amount of Rs.9, lakhs which was paid at the time the Respondent was given in marriage to the 1st Applicant was a separate and distinct Stridhana.”
He added “The marriage annulment takes place on a settlement arrived at Rs.4 lakhs to be in full and final settlement. No court forum determined that this amount included Stridhan’s Rs.9 lakhs as this was never the demand in the divorce proceedings between the parties. The settlement was entered into solely for the purpose of annulling the marriage.”
Following which, he issued the following opinion:The annulment of the marriage cannot mean that all the objects that the respondent brought to the matrimonial home can be kept by the husband’s family.“
Accordingly, he dismissed the motion.
Title of the case: GANESH PRASAD HEGDE and others against SUREKHA SHETTY
Case No: 2018 CRIMINAL PETITION No. 4544
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Kar) 210
Order date: JUNE 06, 2022
Appearance: Lawyer S.BALAKRISHNAN for the petitioners; Lawyer SHAILAJA AGARWAL, a/w Lawyer PRADEEP NAYAK, for the Respondent
Click here to read/download the order