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Report by Rhea Mistry

In the case of Monika Sharma v. Mukesh Bhagal, the court disposed of the appeal for annulment of the marriage of Monika Sharma due to the bar of limitation.

The appellant is a graduate of Master of Science from Singhania University in Rajasthan and is not known the age, education, and occupation of the respondent. She is an officer at the Union Bank of India in Mumbai. The appellant and respondent, both are Hindus. Monika Sharma, the appellant knew the respondent since the year 2000.

In the appeal, the appellant asserted that in the year 2003 when she was pursuing her 10th-grade studies and was of 14-15 years of age, the respondent made his first physical contact under duress with her and clicked obscene photographs. The respondent had threatened her he would leak her obscene photographs if she told anyone about his actions. Monika was suffering silently as she comes from a very religious family in the State of Haryana where the Khap Panchayat is practiced.

This continued till 2008 when she moved to pursue her higher studies. When the appellant returned in 2010, the respondent threatened to defame her and her family and disfigure her by throwing acid on her if she didn’t marry him.

In 2011, when the appellant was working as a teacher at a Coaching Centre, the respondent slapped her in front of everyone just because the appellant had refused to go out with him. The appellant had secured a job as a single-window operator at a branch of Punjab National Bank located in the village Dhanora and was staying in a PG. The respondent constantly pressurized her for marrying him taking the advantage of her situation.

On December 28th, 2011, the respondent called the appellant to come out of her office, or else he would create a fiasco there. On going out of the office the respondent took the appellant’s phone, pulled her into the car, and gave a prasad to eat. The prasad was spiked and the appellant wasn’t aware of it, but, later, realized it. After eating the spiked prasad, the appellant had become helpless and a silent observer of the events unfolding with her. She remembered that on the way the respondent picked up his friends, took her to a mandir, clicked some photos, and made her sign some blank papers. And on the next day, 29th December 2011, the respondent dropped her at her office. The respondent had threatened her not to reveal the incidents or else he would harm her and her family.

In March 2012, the appellant shifted to Mumbai as she got the opportunity to work at Union Bank of India, the respondent followed her to Mumbai and harassed her continuously to come and live with him. When the appellant refused all his proposals, he again threatened to leak her photographs. In April 2012, the respondent left Mumbai after threatening the appellant that if she does not marry him, he would kill her parents in Haryana. The respondent came back to Mumbai and started extorting money from the appellant. The respondent continued his force, abuse, and harassment. His family started exerting pressure on her to marry him, so the appellant informed them about the respondent’s behavior and actions, still, the family did not pay any heed and pressured her to marry him. The appellant claimed the respondent also sexually and physically abused her once which left her mentally sick for some time.

In November 2013, gaining courage, she canceled her cards as she had given them to the respondent for use. On December 3rd, 2013, the appellant informed her parents about the incidents and the events following which the parents filed a complaint against the respondent. Upon this, the respondent filed an application for restitution of conjugal rights in the Court of Civil Judge at Bilaspur on 17th January 2014 under section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act.
This was the first time the appellant came to know that the respondent purported to be her supposed husband. The appellant had not gone forward with her complaint, but in July 2014, with her lawyer, she filed a complaint and went forward with it. A crime was registered under sections 376, 366, 354, 506 (2) of the Indian Penal Code and 9 of 25 under section 4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 against the respondent and she had filed her statement at Bilaspur.

The court stated that the appellant was suffering since 2003 when she was of 14-15 years, and when she was of 18 years in 2007, she did not file a complaint and kept silent. After 6 years, the appellant has filed her complaint. There are just her bare words and no verification from any source, including her parents, brothers, sisters, or Union Bank of
India personnel. There is also no evidence of alleged extortion of a considerable amount by manipulating her debit card, which might have easily been obtained as electronic evidence. There is also no evidence of a medical evaluation of the appellant, who claims that the respondent sexually exploited, and subjected her to unnatural intercourse.
The court said that the overall evidence is improbable, unbelievable, and unacceptable.

The judge held that once the appellant came to know that she was forcefully taken to a mandir, the force and fraud ceased to exist. If the aforementioned truth was known on December 29, 2011, the petition might have been presented within a year. Nothing stopped her, and thus the bar under sub-section-2 of Section 12 of the Act operates in the relevant facts and circumstances.

The appeal made is without any substance and stands dismissed.

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