Court: Allahabad High Court
Bench: JUSTICE P Bakshi
Bundoo vs Smt. Mahrul Nisa And Anr. On 22 September 1978
Maintenance-Revisional jurisdiction-Failure to prove factum of impotency of Husband-Dismissal of application.
1. An application was filed by Shrimati Mahrul Nisa under Section 488, Cr. P.C. claiming maintenance from her husband Bundoo. Her contention was that she lives with her husband at her house for about 1 1/2 years and during this period she discovered that he was impotent. It was a great mental shock to her, Bundoo assured her that he will get himself medically treated but to no effect, He subsequently began to bring his friends and wanted that she should have her sexual desire satisfied from them. Such a proposal was intolerable to the applicant, as such, she was subjected to beating by Bundoo in the presence of his friends. He thereafter began to ill-treat her and did not give her adequate food and clothing and ultimately turned her out of the house. The applicant was living with her parents. Her husband had neglected and failed to maintain her. On these allegations a maintenance allowance of Rs. 100 per month was claimed.
2. Bundoo admitted that he was married to Shrimati Mahrul Nisa and that the latter lived with him for about 2 1/2 years. According to his case he was physically fit and did not suffer from impotency. She had gone to her father (and he) did not send her back. He wants to sell her and tried to compel to divorce her. Bundoo denied his liability to pay maintenance to his wife.
3. The Magistrate on a consideration of the evidence on record came to the conclusion that Shrimati Mahrul Nisa failed to prove the case of impotency of her husband alleged by her. On this ground solely he dismissed her application for maintenance. Aggrieved there-by a revision was filed before the Sessions Judge, Saharanpur which has been allowed, Bundoo has been directed to pay a sum of Rs. 35 per month! as maintenance allowance to his wife. Hence this revision, I have heard counsel for the parties at great length and have also perused the impugned order.
4. The Sessions Judge re-examined the entire evidence on the record and reversed the findings of fact recorded by the trial court holding that Bundoo was impotent and incapable of satisfying the sexual needs of his wife. In his view impotency of the husband amounted to legal cruelty which must result in great mental shock and agony to the wife and therefore she was entitled to live separately from her husband and claim maintenance.
5. Before dealing with the question of law involved in this case, it must be observed that the Sessions Judge was not justified in reassessing the evidence on the record and reversing the finding of fact arrived at by the trial Court, as regards the question of impotency of the husband, I find from the perusal of judgment of the Magistrate that he has taken into consideration the entire evidence on the record led in connection with this question and he was of the opinion that Shrimati Mahrul Nisa failed to prove by convincing evidence that Bundoo was impotent. A court of revision is not entitled to reassess and reappraise the evidence on the record, unless he finds that the judgment sought to be revised suffers from any illegality or perversity. In my view, therefore, the Sessions Judge has acted illegally in the exercise of his jurisdiction in reversing the finding of fact arrived at by the trial court.
6. Coming now to the legal question involved in this case, the point for consideration is : Whether the impotency of the husband is a valid ground for granting maintenance to the wife in proceedings under Section 488 Cr. P.C. (now Section 125 Cr. P.C.). Section 488 (1) Cr. P.C. (old) ran as follows:
If any person having sufficient means neglects or refuses to maintain his wife …. the District Magistrate…. may, upon proof of such neglect or refusal, order such person to make a monthly allowance for the maintenance of his wife…. at such monthly rate, not exceeding five hundred rupees in the whole, as such Magistrate thinks fit…
Even under the new Code of Criminal Procedure, after its amendments by Act 2 of 1974, Section 125(1) reads thus:
If any person having sufficient means neglects or refuses to maintain-
(a) his wife, unable to maintain herself… a Magistrate of the first class may, upon proof of such neglect or refusal, order such person to make a monthly allowance for the maintenance of Ms wife…
Under both the old and the new Code the criterion which was laid down for entitling the wife to maintenance was ‘neglect or refusal by the husband to maintain her.’ What we have to interpret in this case is : Whether a husband who is impotent can be deemed to have neglected or refused to maintain his wife. The case of refusal is the second category with which we are not concerned at present. We have to solely divert our attention to the question of neglect of the wife by the husband.
7. In Murray’s ‘A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles’ Vol-4, August 1907 Edition at page 79, the word ‘Neglect’ means ‘the fact of disregarding, slighting, or paying no attention to, a person etc.; the fact or condition of being treated in this way.’ This definition indicates that the conception of neglect involves an element of deliberate disregarding or slighting of a person. In other words ignoring or avoiding or paying no attention to the person concerned, or treating such person in a contemptuous or disrespectful manner. In all these actions the wrong committed is intentional and deliberate with a view to running down a person who is en* titled to proper attention.
8. In the Imperial Dictionary also the word ‘Neglect’ has been explained in the following term : ‘to disregard, to treat with no regard or attention or with too little; to treat carelessly or heedlessly; to slight; not to notice, and to forbear to treat with respect’.
9. These various shades of meanings which have been given to the word ‘Neglect’ again indicate a deliberate intention on the part of the wrong-doer to belittle or to ill-treat or to ignore needlessly, or to disrespect another person. References to the meaning of this word are also found in other Law Lexicons but it is needless to multiply the same. The citations given above very clearly and explicitly convey the idea as to what would be the ingredients of neglect.
10. The case of Shrimati Mahrul Nisa solely is that her husband was impotent and unable to satisfy her sexual needs. Assuming the factual position to be correct, I am of the opinion that a natural physical disability will not be covered by the expression ‘neglect to maintain’. It was partially the case of the petitioner that as a result of impotency Bundoo used to invite his friends so that the sexual needs of Shrimati Mahrul Nisa may be satisfied. But that part of the case has not been believed. The only consideration, therefore, which remains is : whether the inability of the husband to satisfy the physical desire of his wife would amount to neglect, within the meaning of the Code.
11. Counsel for the applicant has referred to a single Judge decision of our Court , Smt. Pancho v. Ram Prasad. In this case an observation has been made by Hon. Roy J. that continuous ill-treatment, cessation of marital intercourse, studied neglect, indifference on the part of the husband and an assertion on the part of the husband that the wife is unchaste are all factors which may undermine the health of a wife. In such cases it would not be unreasonable to hold that the wife may legitimately apprehend that if she goes to her husband there will be a repetition of such conduct which may result in a complete break down of her health. These were the cumulative circumstances which the learned Judge was taking into consideration, while determining the right of the wife to live separately from her husband. Even here it may be noticed that cessation of marital intercourse, which is mentioned above, is not the same condition as inability to indulge in sex activities due to impotency. The idea indicates that even though the husband is capable of satisfying the sexual desire of his wife he deliberately refrains to do so in order to cause her anguish and mental pain. Such is not the case here. Assuming now for the purpose of argument that Bundoo was physically incapable of satisfying the sexual desire of his wife, it cannot be said that this inability amounted intentionally to disregarding, slighting, disrespecting or carelessly and heedlessly treating his wife. In this view of the matter, I am of the opinion that the element of neglect as envisaged under Section 488 Cr. P.C., old and under Section 125 Cr. P.C. new, has not been established and Shrimati Mahrul Nisa would, therefore, not be entitled to any maintenance on this ground. Inability to cohabit with his wife may be a ground for Shrimati Mahrul Nisa to obtain divorce from her husband but it would certainly not be a ground entitling her to a separate residence and maintenance.
12. I am supported in my view by a single Judge decision by Hidayatullah, J. reported in AIR 1948 Nag 69, Emperor v. Daulat Rajbhan. The facts of that case were similar to the facts of the instant case, It was held therein as follows:
Circumstances may arise when the court may consider that it would not be proper for the wife to live with her husband and then the wife may be permitted to live separate and yet claim maintenance. All such grounds have reference to the comfort and safety of the wife. Conjugal relations are hardly relevant to the order for maintenance under Section 488. A wife is not entitled to live apart from her husband and claim maintenance on the ground that her husband is impotent and unable to perform Ms marital duties.
13. Burn, J. of the Madras High Court also appears to have taken a similar view in AIR 1933 Mad 688 (1), Arunachala Asari v. S. Anandayammal when he observed as follows:
I cannot see that Section 488, Criminal P. C.; has anything to do with ordinary conjugal rights : it deals with ‘maintenance’ only and I see no reason why maintenance should be supposed to include anything more than appropriate food, clothing and lodging.
14. In my view, therefore, the Sessions Judge has erred in law in allowing the claim of Shrimati Mahrul Nisa on the ground of impotency of her husband.
15. This revision application is accordingly allowed and Impugned order of the Sessions Judge, Saharanpur 26th September, 1974 is set aside. The order of the Resident Magistrate, Hardwar dated 31-5-1974 rejecting the application under Section 488 Cr. P.C. filed by Shrimati Mahrul Nisa is restored. The record of this case shall be sent down to the court below within three weeks from today.
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