Not Providing Maintenance is Continuing Offence-Wife not Debarred from Seeking Maintenance u/Domestic Violence Act even after 3 Years

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January 07, 2019

In a recent case, the High Court of Delhi analyzed the issue of quashing of FIR/Complaint on the grounds of limitation in matrimonial offences. The Court was of the view that in such cases the victim is subjected to such cruelty repeatedly and it is more or less like a continuing offence. Thus, courts while considering the question of limitation for an offence under Section 498-A should be careful and take into consider the interests of justice.

Case name: Anthony Jose v. State of NCT f Delhi & ors.

The grounds urged for seeking quashing of FIR under Sections 498A/406/34 IPC was that the FIR was registered to wreak vengeance and that it was beyond the period of limitation as the parties separated from each other in the year 2014.

Basically, two issues were taken into consideration by the High Court of Delhi in the case. Firstly, Bar to taking cognizance after lapse of the period of limitation i.e. Section 468 of CrPC and quashing of complaint under Section 12 of the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

Section 486 of CrPC in relation to Matrimonial Offences

While deciding the aforesaid issue, the High Court referred to plethora of judgments whereby the Courts have taken a common view that though the object of Section 468 of CrPC is to put a bar of limitation on prosecutions and to prevent the parties from filing cases after a long time, such consideration cannot be extended to matrimonial offences, where the allegations are of cruelty, torture and assault by the husband or other members of the family to the complainant. It is a matter of common experience that victim is subjected to such cruelty repeatedly and it is more or less like a continuing offence. As such, courts while considering the question of limitation for an offence under Section 498-A i.e. subjecting a woman to cruelty by her husband or the relative of her husband, should judge that question, in the light of Section 473 of the Code, which requires the Court, not only to examine as to whether the delay has been properly explained, but as to whether “it is necessary to do so in the interests of justice[1].

The High Court reiterated Supreme Court’s view in Arun Vyas Vs. Anita Vyas[2], wherein it was held that the essence of the offence in Section 498-A is cruelty and is a continuing offence and on each occasion on which the respondent was subjected to cruelty a new starting point of limitation arises.

In view of the aforesaid observations, the Court in the instant case refused to quash the FIR on the grounds of limitation.

Quashing of complaint under Section 12 of Domestic Violence Act

In the instant case, application under Section 12 of the Domestic Violence Act primarily related to grant of maintenance to respondent and the minor child. In this context, the High Court opined that non- providing of maintenance is a continuous cause of action and even if for three years the respondent did not claim the maintenance for herself or for the child, the same would not debar her from seeking maintenance under Section 12 of the Domestic Violence Act and the complaint thereon cannot be dismissed being barred by limitation.

The entire case can be accessed here.

[1] (1993) 3 SCC 4 Vanka Radhamanohari Vs. Vanka Venkata Reddy

[2] (1999) 4 SCC 690