IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 1794 OF 2013
(Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 4782 of 2007)
K. SRINIVAS RAO Versus – APPELLANT
D.A. DEEPA – RESPONDENT
In B.S. Joshi & Ors. v. State of Haryana & Anr. 10, after referring to the above observations, this Court stated that the said observations are required to be kept in view by courts while dealing with matrimonial disputes and held that complaint involving offence under Section 498-A of the IPC can be quashed by the High Court in exercise of its powers under Section 482 of the Code if the parties settle their dispute. Even in Gian Singh v. State of Punjab & Anr.11, this Court expressed that certain offences which overwhelmingly and predominantly bear civil flavour like those arising out of matrimony, particularly relating to dowry, etc. or the family dispute and where the offender and the victim had settled all disputes between them amicably, irrespective of the fact that such offences have not been made compoundable, the High Court may quash the criminal proceedings if it feels that by not quashing the same, the ends of justice shall be defeated.
10 AIR 2003 SC 1386
11 (2012) 10 SCC 303
- We, therefore, feel that though offence punishable under Section 498-A of the IPC is not compoundable, in appropriate cases if the parties are willing and if it appears to the criminal court that there exist elements of settlement, it should direct the parties to explore the possibility of settlement through mediation. This is, obviously, not to dilute the rigour, efficacy and purport of Section 498-A of the IPC, but to locate cases where the matrimonial dispute can be nipped in bud in an equitable manner. The judges, with their expertise, must ensure that this exercise does not lead to the erring spouse using mediation process to get out of clutches of the law. During mediation, the parties can either decide to part company on mutually agreed terms or they may decide to patch up and stay together. In either case for the settlement to come through, the complaint will have to be quashed. In that event, they can approach the High Court and get the complaint quashed. If however they chose not to settle, they can proceed with the complaint. In this exercise, there is no loss to anyone. If there is settlement, the parties will be saved from the trials and tribulations of a criminal case and that will reduce the burden on the courts which will be in the larger public interest. Obviously, the High Court will quash the complaint only if after considering all circumstances it finds the settlement to be equitable and genuine. Such a course, in our opinion, will be beneficial to those who genuinely want to accord a quietus to their matrimonial disputes. We would, however, like to clarify that reduction of burden of cases on the courts will, however, be merely an incidental benefit and not the reason for sending the parties for mediation. We recognize ‘mediation’ as an effective method of alternative dispute resolution in matrimonial matters and that is the reason why we want the parties to explore the possibility of settlement through mediation in matrimonial disputes.
- We, therefore, issue directions, which the courts dealing with the matrimonial matters shall follow:
(i) In terms of Section 9 of the Family Courts Act, the Family Courts shall make all efforts to settle the matrimonial disputes through mediation. Even if the Counsellors submit a failure report, the Family Courts shall, with the consent of the parties, refer the matter to the mediation centre. In such a case, however, the Family Courts shall set a reasonable time limit for mediation centres to complete the process of mediation because otherwise the resolution of the disputes by the Family Court may get delayed. In a given case, if there is good chance of settlement, the Family Court in its discretion, can always extend the time limit.
(ii) The criminal courts dealing with the complaint under Section 498-A of the IPC should, at any stage and particularly, before they take up the complaint for hearing, refer the parties to mediation centre if they feel that there exist elements of settlement and both the parties are willing. However, they should take care to see that in this exercise, rigour, purport and efficacy of Section 498-A of the IPC is not diluted. Needless to say that the discretion to grant or not to grant bail is not in any way curtailed by this direction. It will be for the concerned court to work out the modalities taking into consideration the facts of each case.,
(iii) All mediation centres shall set up pre-litigation desks/clinics; give them wide publicity and make efforts to settle matrimonial disputes at pre-litigation stage.
- The appeal is disposed of in the aforestated terms.
(RANJANA PRAKASH DESAI)
FEBRUARY 22, 2013.