Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 – Section 125 – Production of the ration card as a documentary proof of marital relation between the parties met the requirement of prima facie evidence in establishing the matrimonial relationship between the parties.
Respondent No. 1 produced her ration card, exhibited as Ex. PW1/8, which bears the name of the Petitioner as her husband, and as per the statement of PW-3, it was made in the year 1997. When the said card was renewed in the year 2005, the names of the children of Respondent No. 1 with her previous husband as well as Respondents No. 2 and 3 were added and both the ration cards were verified by PW-3, who is a competent authority. Such documentary evidence negates the contention of the Petitioner that the identity cards were created only after institution of the maintenance suit. There is no force in the argument of the Petitioner that Respondent No.1 was merely a tenant at his premises, since, he had not been able to produce any documents or other evidence to substantiate the contention. Moreover, the statements of the witnesses/neighbours also clarified that the parties were living as husband and wife, which in itself was sufficient to corroborate the fact that they were in a matrimonial relationship and not that of a tenant and landlord. [Paras 38 & 39]
Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 – Section 125 – Scope of.
A bare reading of the Section 125 of the Cr.P.C. suggests that the intention of the legislature while making the provision for maintenance was to ensure that a person shall oblige with his matrimonial and familial obligations of maintaining his wife and children, when they do not have sufficient means to sustain themselves. The power to adjudicate on the issue of maintenance has been given, at the first instance, to the Magistrate, who may upon being satisfied direct the concerned person to provide such maintenance/monthly allowance to his wife, children or parents. There is, therefore, a discretionary power with the Magistrate that is to be exercised while appreciating the evidence and material on record when awarding maintenance to the parties.
One of the material facts to be considered by the Court while entertaining a matter under Section 125 of the Cr.P.C., at the very first instance, is whether the parties before it share a domestic relationship and/or are legally and lawfully married to each other. This becomes a prominent factor to be investigated into, especially, when one of the parties deny any such relationship subsisting between the parties. In matrimonial matters, the question of marriage between the parties may be raised during the preliminary stage and be considered and decided to the prima facie satisfaction of the Court. This implies that before adjudicating upon the quantum of maintenance, the Court may first, in light of the provision under Section 125 of the Cr.P.C, be prima facie satisfied to the point that there exists a lawful domestic relationship between the parties, which gives rise to the obligations and duties to maintain the family members. In so far as proving the existence of a marital relationship between the parties is concerned, the burden of proof would lie on the party alleging that such marriage has been solemnized in accordance with the law applicable, be it statutory or personal. However, the extent of proof is limited to the prima facie satisfaction and the need to prove it strictly and/or beyond reasonable doubt does not arise.
The principle of prima facie evidence for establishing the existence of a marital relationship may vary with the facts and circumstances of each case. The same has to be addressed keeping in view the essentials of a valid marriage as well as the material facts of the case. There is no straight jacket formula for judging the validity of the marriage between the parties. Every case has to be judged on its own merits depending upon the conditions provided under the statutory or personal law for solemnization of marriage.
Legal standard for determining the marital status of the parties in maintenance proceedings.
Therefore, the Court, in proceedings under Section 125 of the Cr.P.C., is required to merely decide the quantum of maintenance based on the prima facie evidence regarding the marital status of the parties. If the party alleging the solemnisation of marriage has sufficient material to prima facie establish the existence of a marriage, then the husband may be directed to maintain her without going into the strict requirements of evidence. The task of deciding the marital status of the parties has been conferred with the Civil Courts and the Court under maintenance proceedings under Section 125 of the Cr.P.C. may not usurp the jurisdiction of the Civil Courts. Thus, the litmus test for determining the marital status of the parties in maintenance proceedings is prima facie satisfaction of the concerned Magistrate and nothing more. It is also pertinent to note that the abovementioned decisions bring out the fact that the proceedings under Section 125 of the Cr.P.C. are designed to reduce the vagaries of the neglected wife and children. In line with this, the Magistrate under such proceedings cannot be expected to wait for the determination of the marital status by the concerned Court. Thus, to preserve the social intent of Section 125 of the Cr.P.C., the Magistrate can render the prima facie finding about the factum of marriage, which will not be a conclusive finding for any other purpose apart from the order on maintenance. Any other interpretation would defeat the social intent of the legislation and must be avoided. [Para 33]
Section 125 of the Cr.P.C. and Revisional Jurisdiction
It is an established law that the Revisional Court need not re-assess or re-appreciate the material and evidence on record before the Trial Court. A Revisional Court is to limit its jurisdiction for adjudicating upon the material illegalities and irregularities apparent in the impugned orders. The conclusive determination of marital status in cases of maintenance under Section 125 of the Cr.P.C., shall therefore, be declared by the Civil Court and the Revisional Court shall restrain itself to the questions before it without reopening the evidence.
In cases where the Trial Court has rendered a positive finding with respect to marriage of the parties, the High Court need not substitute its views in such questions of facts especially in their revisional jurisdiction. However, when a negative finding is given, the High Court can revise and revaluate the evidence in order to protect the wife and the children from the evil consequences that might ensue due to non-payment of maintenance, if such an exercise is not undertaken. [Paras 34 & 36]
Where the parties have been living together as husband and wife, the assumption is in favour of them being legally married.
Facts of the Case
In the present matter, the objection to marriage by the Petitioner was first raised before the learned Trial Court. The Respondents produced 10 witnesses during evidence to establish their relationship with the Petitioner. By the testimony of the neighbours, it is apparent that the Petitioner and Respondent No. 1 were cohabiting in the premises in question. The examination of PW-7, PW-8 and PW-9 suggested that at several occasions they were invited and welcomed by the Petitioner and Respondent No. 1 to their house, at the abovementioned address, where the witnesses have seen them resides as a family. Witnesses, in their examination, have also stated that they were present at the time of the birth of Respondent No. 3 and were a part of the celebrations and rituals at the time of his birth. The statements of the witnesses/neighbours, clearly imply that the parties were living together for a long time and were known to be husband and wife to the people residing in their neighbourhood. Therefore, the statements of the neighbours favour the version of Respondent No.1, that there existed a marital relationship between the parties.
Case Law Reference
- Irshad Ali v. State of U.P. (2021) SCC Online All 92
- Nasir Khan v. Sarphina George, (2019) SCC Online Del 8467
- Firoz Alam v. State of Bihar, (2014) SCC Online Pat 2783
- Pyla Mutyalamma v. Pyla Suri Demudu, (2011) 12 SCC 189
- Pravati Rani Sahoo v. Bishnupada Sahoo, (2002) 10 SCC 510
- Zulekha Khatoon v. State of Bihar, (2000) SCC Online Pat 425
- Santosh v. Naresh Pal, (1998) 8 SCC 447
Case Number : Crl.Rev.P. 588/2018, Crl.M.A. 12593/2018 & Crl.M.A. 13141/2021; 28 January 2022
Coram: Hon’ble Mr. Justice Chandra Dhari Singh
Petitioner Through: Mr. Salim Malik and Ms. Shavana, Advocates; Respondent Through: Mr. Aditya Gaur, Advocate.
Case Link : https://pdf.caselaw.in/delhi/2022/01/1206/