A single bench judge at Delhi High Court held that Shivcharan Lal Verma and Anr Vs State of Madhya Pradesh is the precedent that is binding and not the Reema Aggarwal v. Anupam And Others.
From Para 8,
8. These are undoubtedly strong words and clearly show that a person who ostensibly contracts a marriage with a woman and lives with her as husband and wife would also be covered within the meaning of the expression “husband” used in Section 498-A IPC. But the matter does not stop here. The Supreme Court, in the case of Shivcharan Lal Verma (supra), which is a decision of a three-judge bench, was of the contrary view. The facts in that case were that during the lifetime of the first wife, Shivcharan married for the second time. But after the marriage both the first wife and Shivcharan tortured the second wife as a result of which she ultimately committed suicide by burning herself. The incident occurred inside the house while Shivcharan and his first wife were in one room and the second wife was in the other. One of the questions which arose before the Supreme Court was whether the provisions under Section 498-A can at all be attracted since the marriage with the second wife itself was null and void, the same having been performed during the lifetime of the first wife. In answer to this question the Supreme Court observed that there was considerable force in the argument of the learned Counsel for the appellant that so far as conviction under Section 498-A was concerned, inasmuch as the alleged marriage with the second wife, during the subsistence of a valid marriage with the first wife, was null and void, the same cannot be sustained. The Supreme Court therefore set aside the conviction and sentence under Section 498-A IPC. Going by this a decision, it is clear that the Supreme Court was of the view that as the second marriage was null and void, Shivcharan could not be regarded as a “husband” within the meaning ascribed to it under Section 498-A IPC. Although the learned Counsel for the respondent had, as noted above, made submissions to the effect that this was not a binding precedent, I don’t see as to how this is would not constitute a binding precedent. The point in issue arose out of the facts of the case. It was specifically raised and specifically answered. The ratio of the decision is that a male partner to a null marriage cannot be covered by the expression “husband” as appearing in Section 498-A IPC. It is another thing that the Supreme Court in the case of Shivcharan Lal Verma (supra) did not discuss this question with the same degree of elaboration as in the case of Reema Aggarwal (supra). But, this by itself cannot be construed to mean that in Shivcharan lal Verma (supra), the Supreme Court did not consider the entire scope and ambit of the provisions of Section 498-A IPC. It must also be pointed out that the decision in Shivcharan Lal Verma (supra) has not been noticed in Reema Aggarwal (supra) although the latter decision is later in point of time. So, the decision in Reema Aggarwal (supra) has to be regarded as per incuriam. The second point that has to be kept in mind is that the decision in Shivcharan Lal Verma (supra) has been rendered by a bench of three honourable judges whereas the decision in the case of Reema Aggarwal (supra) is by a bench of two honourable judges. Clearly, the decision in Shivcharan Lal Verma (supra) would be binding. In this context it would be pertinent to note the observations of a Constitution Bench decision of the Supreme Court in the case of P. Ramachandra Rao v. State of Karnataka (2002) 5 SCC 578 wherein the Supreme Court observed [at para 28]:
The well settled principle of precedents which has crystallised into a rule of law is that the bench of lesser strength is bound by the view expressed by a bench of larger strength and cannot take a view in departure or in conflict there from.
Therefore the decision in Shivcharan Lal Verma (supra) will clearly take precedence over the decision in Reema Aggarwal (supra).
Indiankanoon version:Mohit Gupta and Ors vs Govt of NCT of Delhi and Anr on 16 Oct 2006 (IK ver)
Casemine version:Mohit Gupta and Ors vs Govt of NCT of Delhi and Anr on 16 Oct 2006 (CM ver)
Citations: [2007 AD DEL 1 503], [2007 DRJ 93 606], [2006 DLT 135 390], [2007 DMC 1 47], [2006 SCC ONLINE DEL 1256], [2006 JCC 3 1923], [2007 JCC 3 1923]
Index of Quash judgements is here and HMA Judgments is here.