Claim of Maintenance by Spouse: Delay in adjudication

Claim for maintenance or support by wife

Delay in adjudication of Spouse Support or Maintenance Claim by the Family Court is not only against human rights but also against the basic embodiment of dignity of an individual.

Sustenance by dependent spouse:

The concept of sustenance does not necessarily mean to lead the life of an animal, feel like an unperson to be thrown away from grace and roam for her basic maintenance somewhere else. She is entitled in law to lead a life in the similar manner as she would have lived in the house of her husband. That is where the status and strata come into play, and that is where the obligations of the husband, in case of a wife, become a prominent one. In a proceeding of this nature, the husband cannot take subterfuges to deprive her of the benefit of living with dignity. Regard being had to the solemn pledge at the time of marriage and also in consonance with the statutory law that governs the field, it is the obligation of the husband to see that the wife does not become a destitute, a beggar. A situation is not to be maladroitly created whereunder she is compelled to resign to her fate and think of life “dust unto dust”. It is totally impermissible. In fact, it is the sacrosanct duty to render the financial support even if the husband is required to earn money with physical labour, if he is able bodied. There is no escape route unless there is an order from the Court that the wife is not entitled to get maintenance from the husband on any legally permissible grounds.

Sensitivity required from Family Judge:

The Family Judge is expected to be sensitive to the issues, for he is dealing with extremely delicate and sensitive issues pertaining to the marriage and issues ancillary thereto. When we say this, we do not mean that the Family Courts should show undue haste or impatience, but there is a distinction between impatience and to be wisely anxious and conscious about dealing with a situation. A Family Court Judge should remember that the procrastination is the greatest assassin of the lis before it. It not only gives rise to more family problems but also gradually builds unthinkable and everestine bitterness. It leads to the cold refrigeration of the hidden feelings, if still left. The delineation of the lis by the Family Judge must reveal the awareness and balance. Dilatory tactics by any of the parties has to be sternly dealt with, for the Family Court Judge has to be alive to the fact that the lis before him pertains to emotional fragmentation and delay can feed it to grow.

[Source: Bhuwan Mohan Singh v. Meena]

Analysis of Bhuwan Mohan Singh v. Meena:

Maintenance or spouse support is always a matter of acrimonious contention between the warring couple. The concept of human right introduced in this case is good but it is likely to be turned on it’s head. Here is ground reality of litigation in India:

While the constitution of India ensures equal rights and status to all the fact is the billionaires and beggars share the same street. The courts are approached by poor and rich alike. The claim of maintenance for child or spouse support is not different. Litigations drag for years, even before an interim amount is given. While for rich couple it may be alright to pay and receive huge arrears, for poor the delay means denial. It is also a fact that rich often get speedier justice than poor.

It would be appropriate if these provisions relating to child support and spouse support are properly reworked and re-legislated with the proper attention to human rights and disassociating it’s use as leverage in matrimonial litigation. If that is done, perhaps the courts would not be required to introduce human rights from back door.

This is not the first time court has emphasized expediency in such matters. The truth is that these observations fall on deaf ears in Indian Judicial System. Subordinate Judges have become insensitive to observations of expediency by Apex Courts and in the absence of any direct accountability measure, this judgement is not going to change anything. However citing this judgement with a motion for early hearing may yield results.

 

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Death Sentence and Mercy Petition: Balancing the Justice.

Death SentenceBalancing between the Death Sentence, Mercy and Speedy Justice.

Execution of death sentence by hanging: Validity.

[T]he State has discharged the heavy burden which lies upon it to prove that the method of hanging prescribed by Section 354(5) of the CrPC does not violate the guarantee right contained in Article 21 of the Constitution. The material shows that the system of hanging which is now in vogue consists of a mechanism which is easy to assemble. The preliminaries to the act of hanging are quick and simple and they are free from anything that would unnecessarily sharpen the poignancy of the prisoner’s apprehension. The chances of an accident during the course of hanging can safely be excluded. The method is a quick and certain means of executing the extreme penalty of law. It eliminates the possibility of a lingering death. Unconsciousness supervenes almost instantaneously after the process is set in motion and the death of the prisoner follows as a result of the dislocation of the cervical vertebrae. Continue reading “Death Sentence and Mercy Petition: Balancing the Justice.”

Criminal trial in India: Presence of accused on each date of hearing.

Requirement of presence of accused on
each date of hearing during criminal trial

In an offence entailing punishment of more than two years, requirement of presence of accused in criminal trial, if mandatory?

Effect of changes in technology on Criminal Trial:

The situation to be considered now is whether, with the revolutionary change in technology of communication and transmission and the marked improvement in facilities for legal aid in the country, is it necessary that in all cases the accused must answer by personally remaining present in court. We clarify that this is the requirement and would be the general rule. However, if remaining present involves undue hardship and large expense, could the court not alleviate the difficulties. If the court holds the view that the situation in which he made such a plea is genuine, should the court say that he has no escape but he must undergo all the tribulations and hardships and answer such questions personally presenting himself in court. If there are other accused in the same case, and the court has already completed their questioning, should they too wait for long without their case reaching finality, or without registering further progress of their trial until their co-accused is able to attend the court personally and answer the court questions? Why should a criminal court be rendered helpless in such a situation?

Criminal trial of summons case:

The one category of offences which is specifically exempted from the rigour of Section 313(1)(b) of the Code is “summons cases”. It must be remembered that every case in which the offence triable is punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years is a “summons case”. Thus, all other offences generally belong to a different category altogether among which are included offences punishable with varying sentences from imprisonment for three years up to imprisonment for life and even right up to death penalty. Hence there are several offences in that category which are far less serious in gravity compared with grave and very grave offences. Even in cases involving less serious offences, can not the court extend a helping hand to an accused who is placed in a predicament deserving such a help?

Criminal trial in warrant case:

Section 243(1) of the Code enables the accused, who is involved in the trial of warrant case instituted on police report, to put in any written statement. When any such statement is filed the court is obliged to make it part of the record of the case. Even if such case is not instituted on police report the accused has the same right (vide Section 247). Even the accused involved in offences exclusively triable by the Court of Session can also exercise such a right to put in written statements [Section 233(2) of the Code]. It is common knowledge that most of such written statements, if not all, are prepared by the counsel of the accused. If such written statements can be treated as statements directly emanating from the accused, hook, line and sinker, why not the answers given by him in the manner set out hereinafter, in special contingencies, be afforded the same worth.

A pragmatic and humanistic approach is warranted in regard to such special exigencies. The word “shall” in clause (b) to Section 313(1) of the Code is to be interpreted as obligatory on the court and it should be complied with when it is for the benefit of the accused. But if it works to his great prejudice and disadvantage, the court should, in appropriate cases, e.g., if the accused satisfies the court that he is unable to reach the venue of the court, except by bearing huge expenditure or that he is unable to travel the long journey due to physical incapacity or some such other hardship, relieve him of such hardship and at the same time adopt a measure to comply with the requirements in Section 313 of the Code in a substantial manner.

[Source: Inspector of Customs v. Yash Pal, 2009(4) SCR 118: 2009(4) SCC 769: 2009(3) JT 577: 2009(3) SCALE 590: 2009 CrLJ 2251: 2009(2) SCC(Cr) 593: 2009(2) Crimes 108(SC): 2009(236) ELT 3. (per K.T. Thomas, J., for himself and S.N. Variava)]

However the minority opinion of court was delivered by R.P. Sethi, J. who expressed his dissenting views as:

Looking at the history of the section, the various conflicting pronouncements of the High Courts in the country and authoritative pronouncements of this Court by Three Judge Bench, the Law Commission recommended the necessity of examination of the accused personally. The recommendation of the Law Commission were accepted by the legislature. The incorporation of the provision necessitating the examination of the accused personally, undoubtedly is the reflection of a conscious decision, which the legislature took in its wisdom.
I am, therefore, convinced that Section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code does not envisage the examination of the counsel, in place of the accused and the law laid down by this court by three Judge Bench in 1969 and later on followed in 1973, does not require any reconsideration, particularly by a Bench of the same strength and of a coordinate jurisdiction.

Right of speedy justice in India

Justice delivery system in India:

Delay in justice:

Justice delivery system in India is notorious for delay. Presently no procedural changes are seen in action to change that except a little strict attitude of Supreme Court. But with very large number of pending litigation, it appears to be only nostalgic. These are observations of Supreme Court:

In a democratic body polity which is governed by a written Constitution and where Rule of Law is paramount, judiciary is regarded as sentinel on the qui vive not only to protect the Fundamental Rights of the citizens but also to see that the democratic values as enshrined in the Constitution are respected and the faith and hope of the people in the constitutional system are not atrophied. Sacrosanctity of rule of law neither recognizes a master and a slave nor does it conceive of a ruler and a subject but, in quintessentially, encapsulates and sings in glory of the values of liberty, equality and justice In accordance with law requiring the present generation to have the responsibility to sustain them with all fairness for the posterity ostracising all affectations. To maintain the sacredness of democracy, sacrifice in continuum by every member of the collective is a categorical imperative. The fundamental conception of democracy can only be preserved as a colossal and priceless treasure where virtue and values of justice rule supreme and intellectual anaemia is kept at bay by constant patience, consistent perseverance, and argus-eyed vigilance. The foundation of justice, apart from other things, rests on the speedy delineation of the lis pending in courts. It would not be an exaggeration to state that it is the primary morality of justice and ethical fulcrum of the judiciary. Its profundity lies in not allowing anything to cripple the same or to do any act which would freeze it or make it suffer from impotency. Delayed delineation of a controversy in a court of law creates a dent in the normative dispensation of justice and in the ultimate eventuate, the Bench and the Bar gradually lose their reverence, for the sense of divinity and nobility really flows from institutional serviceability. Therefore, historically, emphasis has been laid on individual institutionalism and collective institutionalism of an adjudicator while administering justice. It can be stated without any fear of contradiction that the collective collegiality can never be regarded as an alien concept to speedy dispensation of justice. That is the hallmark of duty, and that is the real measure.
…..it is clear as day that everyone involved in the system of dispensation of justice has to inspire the confidence of the common man in the effectiveness of the judicial system. Sustenance of faith has to be treated as spinal sans sympathy or indulgence. If someone considers the task to be herculean, the same has to be performed with solemnity, for faith is the ‘elan vital’ of our system.
…..Coming to the proceedings before the High Court from the date of presentation of the second appeal till the date of admission, the manner in which it has progressed is not only perplexing but also shocking. We are inclined to think that the Court should not have shown indulgence of such magnitude by adjourning the matter when the counsel for the appellant was not present. It is difficult to envision why the Court directed fresh notice to the appellant when there was nothing suggestive for passing of such an order. The matter should have been dealt with taking a recourse to the provisions in the Code of Civil Procedure. It is also astonishing that the lawyers sought adjournments in a routine manner and the court also acceded to such prayers. When the matter stood dismissed, though an application for restoration was filed, yet it was listed after a long lapse of time. Adding to the misery, the concerned official took his own time to put the file in order. From the Registrar General’s communication it is perceptible that some disciplinary action has been initiated against the erring official. That is another matter and we do not intend to say anything in that regard. But the fact that cannot be brushed aside is that there is enormous delay in dealing with the case. Had timely effort been made and due concern bestowed, it could have been avoided. There may be cases where delay may be unavoidable. We do not intend to give illustrations, for facts in the said cases shall speak for themselves. In the case at hand, as we perceive, the learned counsel sought adjournment after adjournment in a nonchalant manner and the same were granted in a routine fashion. It is the duty of the counsel as the officer of the court to assist the court in a properly prepared manner and not to seek unnecessary adjournments. Getting an adjournment is neither an art nor science. It has never been appreciated by the courts. All who are involved in the justice dispensation system, which includes the Judges, the lawyers, the judicial officers who work in courts, the law officers of the State, the Registry and the litigants, have to show dedicated diligence so that a controversy is put to rest. Shifting the blame is not the cure. Acceptance of responsibility and dealing with it like a captain in the frontier is the necessity of the time. It is worthy to state that diligence brings satisfaction. There has to be strong resolve in the mind to carry out the responsibility with devotion. A time has come when all concerned are required to abandon idleness and arouse oneself and see to it that the syndrome of delay does not erode the concept of dispensation of expeditious justice which is the constitutional command. Sagacious acceptance of the deviation and necessitous steps taken for the redressal of the same would be a bright lamp which would gradually become a laser beam. This is the expectation of the collective, and the said expectation has to become a reality. Expectations are not to remain at the stage of hope. They have to be metamorphosed to actuality. Long back, Francis Bacon, in his aphoristic style, had said:

“Hope is good breakfast, but it is bad supper”. 

[Source: Noor Mohammed vs Jetha Nand (Supreme Court of India)]