Read Judgment: Musstt Rehana Begum V. State Of Assam & Anr. 

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, January 28, 2022: The Supreme Court has opined that relying on the judgment of the Family Court which has jurisdiction to decide the gravamen of the offence alleged in the criminal complaint, would not be same as relying on evidentiary materials that are due for appreciation by the Trial Court. 

A Division Bench of Justice Dr. D.Y Chandrachud and Justice Bela M. Trivedi therefore observed that allowing the criminal proceeding to proceed for an offence u/s 494 & 495 of IPC would constitute an abuse of the process. 

Going by the background of the case, Musstt Rehana Begum (Appellant) alleged matrimonial abuse at the hands of the second respondent on account of her failure to fulfill his demands for dowry, pursuant to which she lodged a complaint and a criminal case u/s 498A of IPC was accordingly registered at the ‘All Women Police Station’. Later, the purported divorce given by the second respondent to the appellant was declared as null & void by the Family Court. 

Later, the second respondent lodged a complaint case alleging that the appellant had committed an offence punishable u/s 495 of IPC. On the other hand, the appellant instituted a proceeding u/s 482 of CrPC. The High Court held that “it is highly disputed” whether the appellant had entered into a marital tie with another person prior to the marriage with the complainant and whether the earlier marriage had ended in a valid divorce. Moreover, the High Court held that the appellant had not come up with a specific case that she was neither married earlier or that there was a divorce. Hence, in the view of the High Court, the allegation in the complaint involves matter of trial and a petition u/s 482 CrPC could not be entertained. 

After considering the submissions, the Top Court noted that finding of fact as between the appellant and the second respondent is that the appellant did not have a subsisting prior marriage when she married him. 

In the present case, the appellant and the second respondent were parties to the decision of the Family Court and no contentious material or disputed issues of evidence arise, added the Court. 

The Bench noted that Explanation (b) to Section 7(1) of the Family Courts Act 1984 expressly confers the Family Court with jurisdiction to determine the matrimonial status of a person. Section 7(1) of the Family Courts Act 1984 grants a Family Court with the status of a District Court and Section 7(2) confers it with jurisdiction exercisable by a Magistrate of the first class under Chapter IX of the CrPC, thus enabling to collect evidence to make such a determination. 

Hence, speaking for the Bench, Justice Chandrachud observed that as between the appellant and the second respondent the issue as to whether she had a subsisting marriage on the date on which she entered into a marriage with the second respondent is the subject matter of a conclusive finding of the Principal Judge of the Family Court which has attained finality. 

Accordingly, the Apex Court allowed the criminal petition instituted by the appellant for quashing the complaint.

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