Read Order: Rohit Chawla v. Swati

Tulip Kanth

Chandigarh, October 6, 2021: The Punjab and Haryana High Court has opined that under the provisions of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (DV Act), the definition of an ‘aggrieved person’ may be read in this context wherein an aggrieved person has been defined to mean any women, who is or has been in a domestic relationship with the respondent and who alleges to have been subjected to any act of domestic violence by the respondent.

Herein, the petitioner was aggrieved against the order passed by the Judicial Magistrate First Class, Fatehabad whereby interim maintenance had been allowed to the respondent herein on an application filed under Sections 12, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22 of the DV Act.The petitioner had been directed to pay a sum of Rs.25,000/- per month from the date of filing of petition, which order had been upheld in an appeal preferred before the Additional Sessions Judge, Fatehabad.

The facts pertained to the situation that the respondent, who has been married to Rohit Chawla i.e. the petitioner, filed an application under the aforesaid Sections of the DV Act seeking interim maintenance. It was claimed that the petitioner and his family members were not happy with the dowry articles given and made a demand of car in the shape of dowry.

The parents of the complainant had given an amount of Rs. 4 lakhs to the petitioner to purchase a car, but there was a demand for bigger car. As the respondent was unable to fulfil the demands of dowry, she was thrown out of her matrimonial home, which resulted in a petition being preferred under the DV Act. 

The said application was contested on a plea that the complainant was earlier married to one Anshuman and it was her second marriage that was performed with the petitioner herein. It was submitted that without obtaining a valid divorce, second marriage would be null and void. 

In this regard, a petition under Section 11 of the Hindu Marriage Act had already been preferred to declare the marriage as null and void, which is still pending consideration.

It was further submitted that as the marriage was not a legal one, the complainant-respondent would not be entitled to maintenance, which had been allowed by the JMIC and stood affirmed in appeal preferred before the Additional Sessions Judge. 

The  Judicial Magistrate First Class, Fatehabad allowed the interim maintenance and the Appellate Court dismissed the appeal filed by the petitioner herein, which led to the filing of the instant revision petition.

The Bench of Justice Jaishree Thakur observed that as far as the argument raised that the petition filed under the DV Act is barred by limitation, the same was not sustainable. The Bench referred to the judgment of this Court rendered in Vikas and others Vs. Usha Rani and another wherein it was held there is no limitation prescribed under the DV Act to institute claim seeking relief under Sections 17 to 22 of the DV Act.

The Court also did not find any merit in the second argument that the complainant is not a legally wedded wife, as on the date of marriage she was not divorced from her husband Anshuman.

Expounding on the law relating to protection of women from domestic violence, the Bench opined that the Act of 2005 came into existence to provide protection to those women who are or have been in a relationship with the abuser where both the parties have lived together in a ‘shared household’ and are related by consanguinity, marriage or through a relationship in the nature of marriage or adoption or are family members living together as a joint family. 

The Bench noted that under the provisions of this Act, the right to claim protection against a person on account of domestic violence (which would include injuries, which endangers the health, safety, life, limb or well-being, mental or physical, verbal, emotional and economic abuse) is not limited to a wife only. 

According to the Bench, there was no dispute that the petitioner was in a relationship as he married the complainant. The question whether the marriage would be void or not is a matter of trial. Even if it is so, there was no dispute to the fact that till the time the complainant was residing with the petitioner, she was in a “domestic relationship” with him in a “shared household.” 

Both the Trial Court and the Appellate Court had taken these factors into account while allowing interim maintenance to the complainant by keeping the salary statement of the petitioner in view. The courts below while granting interim maintenance to the tune of Rs. 25,000  per month hadalso qualified that the maintenance is subject to set off/adjustments of interim maintenance received by the respondent-complainant in the application under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act.

Dismissing the Criminal Revision Petition, the Bench held that no ground was made out to interfere with the orders passed by the Courts below.

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